Centre for the Study of Missing Persons

Research and Knowledge Transfer

Our members of staff have an established track record in providing research and knowledge transfer services to a range of organisations, including:

  • CEOP (National Crime Agency)
  • International Centre of Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC)
  • Missing Children Europe
  • Missing People
  • Police forces across the UK
  • Police National Search Centre
  • SCAS
  • Association of Lowland Search and Rescue (ALSAR)
  • UK Missing Persons Unit (National Crime Agency)

They have a wide range of expertise, which includes the following:

  • Geography of missing persons
  • Cost of missing persons investigation
  • Mental health and criminal justice
  • Psychology and criminal justice
  • Risk assessment
  • Children at risk and in trouble (home, school, community)
  • Adults with dementia who go missing
  • Inter-agency work with children and young people at risk or in trouble
  • Exclusion and disaffection from school
  • Looked after children, child abuse and the child protection system
  • Youth justice
  • Violence in childhood (e.g. exploitation, trafficking and child abduction)
  • Search and rescue

Forensic Identification

The Forensic Innovation Centre (FIC) at the University of Portsmouth has an on-going partnership with Hampshire Constabulary Scientific Services and is linked, through the Forensic science, Investigation, Technology Innovation Network (FIT-IN), to many forensic stakeholders and partners nationally and internationally. The partnership with Hampshire Constabulary has seen the relocation of business units to the University campus, strengthening each organisations capability in applied research, teaching and knowledge transfer activities. We have an interdisciplinary array of researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders working together in:

  • Crime Scene Examination / Management / Co-ordination
  • Forensic Science
  • Advances in Forensic Science
  • Forensic Archaeology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Forensic Entomology
  • Use of 3D scene and evidence recording and adaptations to virtual  and augmented Reality
  • Fire Scene Investigation
  • Firearms Investigation
  • The Impact of Technology on Policing
  • Pervasive Computing
  • Human Factors Methods

For more information about the Forensic Innovation Centre (FIC) please contact Dr. Paul Smith

Research Activities

Our staff is involved with a variety of research projects in this area, collaborating with various agencies and organisations in the UK.

Funded Research Projects and Consultancy

  • Evaluation of Child Rescue Alert system (2018, funded by the National Crime Agency)(£5,000 allocated to the University of Portsmouth)
  • The effectiveness, awareness and decision making of security staff in the context of preventing stranger child abduction. Project is funded by FHSS Research Project Funding 2016-2019. (£5,000)
  • Wellbeing of Police officers and staff dealing with missing persons cases. The project was funded via Erasmus+ trainee programme, which paid for two Portuguese students who worked as research assistants for four months.
  • Scoping research on the impact of missing children publicity appeals (2016, funded by the EU DAPHNE programme) (Total budget is 6,590€. £3,300 allocated for the University of Portsmouth). Collaboration with Missing Children Europe and Dr. Penny Woolnough, University of Abertay.
  • Protecting Vulnerable Persons and Reducing Demand of Police Time and Resources using Assistive Technology. Police Innovation fund (2016-2017). Collaborating with West Yorkshire and Hertfordshire Police forces. Police Innovation Fund (Total budget is £160,715)(£3,300 allocated for the University of Portsmouth).
  • Exercise Unified Response (EUR). Evaluating objective 4: Test management of information about missing persons involved in the disaster. (2016)(University of Portsmouth received £12,000 for evaluation of exercise).
  • The usefulness of child alert systems in the Netherlands, United Kingdom (UK), Czech Republic and Poland (2016)(£1,939). Funded by AMBER Alert Europe.
  • Minimizing violence through quality control: Monitoring & evaluating 116000 hotlines to prevent, support and protect missing children (2014-2015, funded by EU DAPHNE programme) (Total budget of project is 472,427€. £3,000 received by University of Portsmouth)
  • Metropolitan Police Force- Evaluation of remote debrief of missing children (2015) (Overall budget for project was under £20,000)(£5,400 allocated to the University of Portsmouth).
  • Carers role in the search for missing people living with dementia- Project funded by the FHSS Strategic Funding Scheme (Study was completed in September 2015) (£40,000).
  • SUMMIT - Safeguarding Unaccompanied Migrant Minors from Going Missing by Identifying Best Practices and Training Actors on Interagency Cooperation. (2014-2016) funded by EU DAPHNE programme) (Total budget of project is 267,663€. £9,000 received by University of Portsmouth)
  • Assessment of ‘absent’ (2013, funded by ACPO) (£5,000 allocated to the University of Portsmouth)

Recent publications

View recent publications by members in Pure, our insitutional repository: 


The Centre offers students opportunities to learn more about this subject area at different levels of study.


Missing Persons: Issues and Investigation- Level 5 (year 2) option module- For our campus based students we now offer an optional module that runs for the first term of the academic year. The module is the first of its kind offered to students in the UK, and includes input not only from our academic staff, but from our contacts in practice.


A stand-alone Short Course- The distance learning course is worth 30 academic credits at postgraduate level. The course is run for three and a half months and includes online assessments in the form of an essay and portfolio, which is marked. The course is first of its kind worldwide and is suitable for practitioners and members of the public with an interest in the field.

An option module- For our distance learning Masters students we now offer an option module which runs in the second teaching term of the academic year. The content is identical to the short course.

PhD/ Professional doctorate- We now offer the opportunity to do a higher level degree with our dedicated supervisors.