I began my academic life studying psychology and criminology, receiving my BA from the University of Westminster in 1992, and my love of these two subjects has continued ever since. I stayed on at Westminster to study part-time for a PhD in the role of motion cues in face recognition, which was awarded in 1997, whilst working in an applied cognition research group with Richard Kemp and Nicola Brace. My early work with Richard and Nicky focused on conducting experiments in order to address applied questions, most frequently questions generated by the criminal justice system, and this has remained the focus of my research to this day. Early research included looking at the potential for masking the identity of vulnerable witnesses when giving evidence in court and for combating fraud by including facial images on credit cards.
In the late 1990's, our research became dominated by the development of two technologies, computerised facial composite systems (particularly the E-FIT system) and video identification parades. We worked closely with several police forces, the National Training Centre for scientific support and the company that developed E-FIT to develop new methods for the construction and presentation of facial composite images. Together with our PhD students Clifford Clark, Carina Paine and Jim Turner, our research led to new versions of E-FIT and to the development of new guidelines from the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers. Following a grant from the EPSRC that supported a collaboration with Chris Solomon from the Visual Imaging Group at the University of Kent, we also helped developed the next generation facial synthesis system now marketed as EFIT-V.
Working closely with the Imaging Unit of the West Yorkshire Police, and supported by two grants from the Home Office, we conducted lab and field experiments to develop video identification parades and test their reliability. In 2003, the Codes of Practice governing the conduct of visual identification procedures in England and Wales as part of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act were changed to promote the use of video parades, which are now the gold standard and most commonly used technique in the UK.
Since joining The Open University in 2000 I have co-founded, and deputy directed, an interdisciplinary research centre in criminology (ICCCR), designed and directed one postgraduate and three undergraduate degrees, been Head of the Psychology Department, Associate Dean for Research and worked on psychology modules at every level. I also wrote and presented an OU/BBC 2 series called 'Eyewitness' and in 2014 produced the OU's first psychology MOOC (massive open online course) on the FutureLearn platform.