This proposal is concerned with the complex and contested application of emerging understandings within neuroscience to issues of law and social policy, with a focus on young adults in the criminal justice system, including those with neurodevelopmental difficulties. The last 30 years have seen remarkable advances in the range of neurosciences. The application of these advances to a wide range of legal and social policy concerns is clear, though also controversial and potentially problematic. The fellowship has three objectives: to facilitate multidisciplinary debate regarding the challenges and possibilities in the application of neuroscience to social policy; to consider the explanations apparent in emerging understandings of neuromaturation of patterns of offending behaviour amongst young adults; and to explore the implications of these emerging understandings for policy and practice within the criminal justice system. The fellowship provides an opportunity for a social policy academic with significant experience researching criminal justice policy and practice to be based in the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute: the preeminent child health research organisation in Australia, recognised globally for its research in neurodevelopment and adolescent health. Under expert supervision, the applicant will review existing neuroscience and associated research, addressing its application to law and social policy, and undertake secondary analysis of longitudinal quantitative survey and neuroimaging data to develop indicators of neurodevelopment applicable to understandings of offending. This will facilitate interdisciplinary debate through a series of workshops engaging policymakers and practitioners, followed by two empirical studies critically exploring current approaches to assessment and intervention. The return phase will enable comparative empirical work, allowing consideration to the potential impact of neuroscience in two highly varied criminal justice systems.
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