Welcome to Ria Ivandić

We welcome Dr Ria Ivandić, a Departmental Lecturer in Political Economy and Researcher at the Centre for Economic Performance (London School of Economics and Political Science).

Ria is one of the investigators on a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded research project, 'Outreach to Domestic Abuse Victims in Times of Quarantine’. She has worked on a number of policy-oriented analysis and research projects for institutions such as the Home Office, All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), the National Crime Agency, and many more. Her work has been cited in newspapers including the Guardian, The Telegraph and the Independent, and in parliamentary debates on policies around domestic abuse.

Tell us about your research.

My research aims to answer some of our world’s difficult questions: What motivates some people to vote in elections, while others do not? Why do some individuals make the decision to commit domestic abuse or hate crime?

I strive to answer these and other questions through the use of real-world data – applying novel quantitative methods and making use of large datasets that record behaviours at an individual-level across time.

My research aims to support the development of effective, evidence-based policy to address these problems, and to bring about positive change for victims.

What led you to this area of research?

About a decade ago, before starting my PhD, I was fascinated by the growing body of research on rising income inequality. I wondered why politics wasn’t addressing this adequately – and why the policies designed to mitigate it were rarely seen in political campaigns and had little electoral support. This led me to become interested in Political Economy (which I now lecture), which attempts to understand how politics and economics influence and shape each other.

In my PhD, I focused particularly on the question of whether and why individuals turn out to vote in elections; what motivates low voter turnout; and why, in a prosperous country like the UK, a rich citizen is almost twice as likely to vote as a poor citizen. This is an area of research I am still working on.

After my PhD, while working at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, I started developing a research agenda around hate crime and domestic abuse. I consider these to be among the most pressing issues of our times, yet they remain relatively under-researched, despite being experienced by a large proportion of women and ethnic minorities.

These topics of research fall under the ‘economics of crime’. This considers what factors trigger individuals to commit violence, through thinking about the perceived benefits and costs of their decision making.

While this approach can seem overly theoretical, it does allow us to understand how individuals make bad decisions that lead them to commit violence. By understanding the origin of their choices, we can work towards prevention through the design of policies.

How have your research findings been put into practice by individuals and policymakers?

One out of three women in the United Kingdom suffer domestic abuse, according to the Office of National Statistics – but only 10% percent of these women report their abuse. We found that, during the first lockdown in the UK, the number of domestic incidents reported to the police rose, yet there was concern that the increase in actual incidents may have been higher as well. This is because of the difficulty – and potential danger – for the victim in contacting the police while in lockdown with their abuser. 

The first set of our findings indicated that there was indeed a significant share of underreporting during lockdown. To mitigate this, we designed, implemented and started to evaluate two social media campaigns to promote two alternative channels of reporting - Silent Solution and Live Chat, funded by the UKRI.

Silent Solution is a system currently in place that allows victims who are unable to speak but need police assistance to call the police and alert them of their situation using the phone keypad and location tracking. Live Chat also allows individuals to contact the police in a non-verbal manner and can be easily camouflaged as ordinary social media. These channels of reporting (until now, little known and therefore rarely used) allow domestic-violence victims a safe option for contacting the police without putting themselves in more danger.

We believe that, to date, around 3.5 million women have received information alerting them to these alternative channels of reporting domestic abuse. While this is an ongoing research project (results will be published in the coming months) preliminary findings show that social media can be an effective engagement tool to communicate with potential victims. Moreover, there is certainly demand and need for a more diverse set of channels of reporting abuse and seeking out help and advice than previously existed.

What does success look like in your research area?

Success comes from a mix of things: inspiring interactions with students through teaching, having policy impact across my research topics – and of course, publishing in highly ranked journals. An equally gratifying success comes from receiving an email from a student who enjoyed my teaching or students who get in touch years later to update me on how a topic we covered inspired them to pursue a certain career.

However, as described above, when approaching a research question, for me it’s crucial to see it has the potential to address a certain problem through policy. Seeing that my research has contributed to policymaking is very rewarding.

This year, through our extensive work on domestic abuse, we had the opportunity to shape and influence the debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill in the House of Commons and House of Lords with the aim of helping improve domestic abuse policy.

When the draft legislation was first introduced to Parliament, our research group at LSE sent a briefing to MPs detailing our research and showing where policy improvements could be made. This was followed by a series of productive individual meetings with influential MPs and members of the House of Lords and, following this, we were asked to contribute to the government’s upcoming Domestic Abuse Strategy. This will ensure our findings are properly captured in the Home Office’s future work.

When the Domestic Abuse Bill arrived in the House of Lords to be debated just after Christmas, we sent briefings detailing how our research could improve the legislation to every politician registered to speak. Finally, we worked with members of the House of Lords to draft small but important amendments to the Bill that will encourage better use of technology and data.

What’s the most important thing for the general public to understand about your research?

That the availability of detailed data in recent decades has really transformed our ability as researchers to understand society, to study how people make choices, and how they can be inspired to make better choices – such as entering education or the labour market, or making the choice not to commit a crime. This is very exciting.

Secondly, I believe it’s important for the public to understand how widespread domestic abuse is – and how stigmatised. With one in three women in the United Kingdom suffering domestic abuse, I believe we can all help – by being active listeners, teaching a new set of gender norms and empowering victims to report abuse. 

What are your plans for your area of teaching in the Department?

I am looking forward to translating my research areas and love for evidence-based policymaking to the development of a series of courses in the Political Economy programme throughout the coming years.

One of the day courses planned for the next academic year is titled ‘Communicating with Data: How to Think Like an Empirical Researcher’. This course explores how recent technological advances and the availability of data have put evidence at the heart of policymaking. Students will learn how to understand, find patterns and communicate effectively with data. This has become an ever more crucial tool in the post-pandemic world.

I’m also teaching Research Methods as part of the Diplomatic Studies Programme which is as much a class in methodology as it is in critical thinking and understanding academic research.

Discover more about Ria and her research on her academic profile page.

Learn more:

Published 11 August 2021