Dr Penny Woolnough

Senior Lecturer

School School of Social and Health Sciences

Department Division of Psychology

Contact info

+44 (0)1382 30 8638

Biography

I am a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology and Associate Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research with specific responsibility for the Evidence and Investigation Network. 

With a former police colleague I pioneered the development of behavioural profiling of missing persons and my research findings are used by all UK police forces, the RAF, Maritime Coastguard Agency and international agencies.

As an HCPC Registered Forensic Psychologist I act as Expert Advisor to the police and have provided operational support to over 100 high profile missing person cases around the world. I train Senior Investigating Officers and have worked with the Scottish Government to develop the first National Framework in Scotland for Missing Persons.

Before joining Abertay, I spent 14 years as Senior Research Officer and Head of the Grampian Police Research Unit (now Police Scotland). Working directly with the police I have cultivated my own research interests predominantly within the remits of forensic and investigative psychology.

I am specifically interested in the investigation of crime, missing persons, the policing of vulnerable people, and stress and policing. I am particularly passionate about translating research into practice which is pervasive throughout my work.

I am passionate about translating research into practice and my research has received numerous awards – including the ESRC Award for Outstanding Impact in Society – and extensive national and local media coverage over many years.

 

Former Programme Leader for BSc Psychology with Forensic Biology

Module Tutor:

  • Investigative Psychology and Law: Applying Psychology from Scene to Court Room
  • Forensic Psychology: Understanding Offender Behaviour
  • Workplace Review: : Designing a Psychological Intervention to solve a Real-World Issue

Supervision of BSc, MSc and PhD students.

Team teaching:

  • PSY103 Evidence Based Thinking
  • PSY301 Applied Psychology
  • ELE020 Forensic Investigation
  • ELE025 Criminal Minds
  • SPS404 Student Negotiated Learning

 

I am an applied psychologist with a background in social and cognitive psychology. As Senior Research Officer and head of the Grampian Police Research Unit (now Police Scotland) for 14 years, my role involved the management of two members of qualified social science research staff as well as police officer and student attachments. I was responsible for designing and conducting a range of impactful quantitative and qualitative research projects (e.g., Force Stress Audit; Police Mental Health Awareness Review and Strategy Development; National Uniform Evaluation).

Working directly with the police I have cultivated my own research interests predominantly within the remits of forensic and investigative psychology. I am specifically interested in the investigation of crime, missing persons, the policing of vulnerable people, and stress and policing. I am particularly passionate about translating research into practice which is pervasive throughout my work. 

I am currently undertaking/supervising research on:

  • Geographies of missing
  • Repeat missing adults
  • Suicide and missing
  • Police use of social media in missing person investigations
  • Geographies of police search
  • Mental health and missing
  • Interprofessional education.
  • Behavioural profiling of missing persons
  • Recruitment and retention of Authorised Firearms Officers

Woolnough, P., Magar, E., and Gibb, G. (2019). Distinguishing suicides of people reported missing from those not reported missing: retrospective: Scottish cohort study. British Journal of Psychiatry (Open). http://dx.doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2018.82.

Joseph, S., Klein, S., McKluskey, S., Woolnough, P., and Diack, L. (2018) Inter-agency Adult Support and Protection Practice: A Realistic Evaluation with Police, Health and Social Care Professionals. Journal of Integrated Care. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICA-06-2018-0041

Taylor. C., Woolnough, P. and Dickens, G (2018). Adult Missing Persons: A Concept Analysis. Psychology, Crime and Law. https://doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2018.1529230

Drivsholm, M., Moralis, D., Shalev-Greene, K and Woolnough, P. (2017). Once missing, never forgotten? Missing Children Europe, Brussels, Belgium.

Stevenson, O., Parr., H. and Woolnough, P. (2017). Missing women: policing absence. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 42 (2), 220-232.

Stevenson, O. and Woolnough, P. (2016) ‘Geographies of Missing People: Improving Police Knowledge and Response to Missing Persons’, in Morewitz, S. J.and Sturdy-Colls, C. (Eds). Handbook of Missing Persons: An Interdisciplinary Study. Springer: San Francisco.

Woolnough, P. S., Alys, L. and Pakes, F. (2016) ‘Mental health issues and missing adults’, in K. Shalev-Greene and L. Alys (eds.) Missing Persons: A Handbook of Research. London: Ashgate.

Woolnough, P. S., Stevenson, O. Parr, H and Fyfe, N. (2016) ‘Geographies of missing adults’, in K. Shalev-Greene and L. Alys (eds.) Missing Persons: A Handbook of Research. London: Ashgate.

Woolnough, P. S. and Gibb, G. J. (2016) ‘Geographies of missing children’ in K. Shalev-Greene and L. Alys (eds.) Missing Persons: A Handbook of Research. London: Ashgate.

Bonny, E., Almond, L. and Woolnough, P. (2016). Adult missing persons: Can an investigative framework be generated using behavioural themes? Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling. 13(3), 296-312.

Parr, H., Stevenson, O. and Woolnough, P (2016). Searching for missing people: families living with ambiguous absence. Emotion, Space and Society, 19, 66-75.

Fyfe, N., Parr, H., Stevenson O. and Woolnough, P. (2015). To the end of the world: Space, place, and missing Persons Investigations. Policing, 9(3), 275-283.

Parr, H., Stevenson, O., Fyfe, N. and Woolnough, P. (2015). Living absence: the strange geographies of missing people. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(2), 191-208.

Fyfe, N, Stevenson, O. and Woolnough, P. (2015) Missing persons: the processes and challenges of police investigation. Policing and Society , 25(4), 409-425.

Woolnough, P., Stevenson, O. and Parr, H. (2015). Investigating missing persons: learning from interviews with families. Journal of Homicide and Major Crime Investigation, 10(1), 1-13.

Joseph, S., Diack, L., Heyman, I., Klein, S, McCluskey, S. and Woolnough, P. (2015) Interagency Adult Support and Protection Practice of Police and Health and Social Care Professionals: A Realistic Evaluation Approach. SIPR Research Summary No. 19. Scottish Institute for Policing Research.

Woolnough, P., Stevenson, O. and Parr, H. (2015). Investigating missing persons: learning from interviews with missing persons. Journal of Homicide and Major Crime Investigation, 9 (2), 14-25.

Stevenson, O., Woolnough, P. and Parr, H. (2014). Geographies of Missing People: Improving Police Education and Response to Missing Persons. Scottish Institute for Policing Research, Annual Report 2013.

Woolnough, P, Stevenson, O., Parr, H. and Fyfe, N. (2014). Missing partnerships. Police Professional. Verdant Media: Aylesbury. Published Wednesday 12th March. Police Professional, edition number 396, 13/03/2014 (ISSN 2041-8809).

Gibb, G.J. & Woolnough, P. S. (2007) Missing Persons: Understanding, Planning, Responding. A Guide for Police Officers. Aberdeen, Grampian Police.

More Information

Funding

09/17-08/20 (Clarke, C. (PI), Wilkinson, H., and Woolnough P. PhD studentship to commence September 2017 - Alzheimers Society 22/04/2016 (Ref. 2178). Staying Safe 'Going Out': Enacted Narrative Research – dementia and missing (£72,921 awarded to Edinburgh University).

Moir, A. and Woolnough P. Carnegie Trust Vacation Scholarship Grant (awarded 20/04/2017). Experiential Avoidance and Missing Persons (£1,500 awarded).

Hamilton, J. (PI) and Woolnough P. Carnegie Trust Vacation Scholarship Grant (awarded 18/04/2016). Evaluation of social media usage for missing person investigations by Police Scotland. (£1,350 awarded).

Woolnough, P. (PI) and Dickens, G. Abertay University R-LINCS PhD studentship (awarded September 2015) – Multiple missing: behavioural consistency in repeat missing adults (full studentship awarded - £55,500).

06/13-05/14 (£28,858, Scottish Institute for Policing Research) 'Interagency adult support and protection practice of police and health and social care professionals: A realistic evaluation approach'. Co-investigator with: Dr Sundari Joseph, Professor Susan Klein, Mrs Inga Heyman, Dr Lesley Diack (all Robert Gordon University) and, Detective Inspector Samantha McCluskey and Inspector Craig Menzies (both Police Scotland).

02/11-02/14 (£420,485, Economic & Social Research Council) 'Geographies of missing people: processes, experiences, responses'. Co-investigator with Dr Hester Parr (Glasgow University) and Professor Nick Fyfe (Dundee University).  RES-062-23-2492

2010 (£2,000, Scottish Institute for Policing Research) 'Tell us what happened? An analysis of police missing person cancellation forms'. (Principal Investigator).

2009 (£3,000, Scottish Institute for Policing Research) 'Exploring the Impact of Education Initiatives upon Young Driver Behaviour'. Co-investigator with Hayley Kelly (Grampian Police).

Esteem

2015 - ESRC Impact Prize Winner: Outstanding Impact in Society
2013 - Scottish Policing Awards: Scottish Institute for Policing Research Applied Policing Research Award
2009 - International Association of Chiefs of Police: Excellence in Law Enforcement Research  Award.
2009 - Scottish Policing Awards: Outstanding Contribution Award - Service Response.
2009 - Grampian Police: Force Excellence Award - Learning.
2009 - Women's Development Forum: Excellence in Performance Award.

Knowledge Exchange

I have a very strong track record of working closely with practitioners and translating research into practice and policy. I have pioneered the development of behavioural profiling of missing persons and my research findings are used by all UK police forces, the RAF, Maritime Coastguard Agency and international agencies. ESRC funded research on the geographies of missing is currently forming the basis for national police e-learning tools.

A Registered Forensic Psychologist and Expert Advisor to the National Crime Agency, I have provided operational support to over 100 high profile missing person cases around the world. I am a member of an invited member of an Interpol Working Group and been invited by the Scottish Government to help develop a National Strategy for Missing Persons. My award winning research has received extensive national and local media coverage over many years.

Current:

  • Associate Director, Scottish Institute for Policing Research (2016-present)
  • Police Scotland National Missing Person Strategy Group (2014-present)
  • Scottish Institute for Policing Research Evidence and Investigation Network Steering Group (2007-present).
  • Interpol Specialist Crimes Against Children Working Group (2007-present).

Past:

  • Scottish Government Multi-Agency Missing Person Strategy Group (2014-2017)
  • International Academy of Investigative Psychology Recognition of Excellence Committee (2009).
  • Aberdeen University Business Committee (2002-2004).

 

Outreach

I have organised and chaired several international symposia and workshops. This involved selecting and inviting speakers, collating abstracts, arranging venues, and securing external funding/support. Meetings include:

  • Addressing the future research challenges in forensics: a joint SIPR/SPA Forensic Services sandpit. West Park Conference Centre, Dundee (11th September, 2018). Co-organiser and event chair.
  • SIPR Evidence & Investigation Network Symposium: Applied Cognitive Psychology in Forensic Settings. Dundee University (5th June 2018). Co-organiser and event chair. 
  • Third International Conference on Missing Children and Adults, 14-16 June 2017, Abertay University. Conference Chair.
  • An evaluation of interagency adult support and protection practice of police and health and social care professionals in Scotland. Awareness Event on Public Protection, 25th February, 2016, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.
  • SIPR International Policing Conference. Edinburgh (26th November 2015). Organisation of sessions on missing persons.
  • Economic & Social Research Council / Scottish Institute for Policing Research one-day seminar 'Missing persons in a European context: research, practitioner and policy perspectives'. Scotland Europa, Brussels: 17th May 2013. 
  • Workshop on the 'geographies of missing persons', in collaboration with the Center for Evidence Based Crime Policy, George Mason University, Washington DC, USA: 9th April 2013.

Recent invited presentations

Woolnough, P. (2017). Psychopathology of Missing. National Missing Persons Conference. Australia, 15-16 November, 2017. (Keynote speaker).

Woolnough, P. and Parr, H. (2013) Geographies of missing people: Processes, experiences, responses. Sharing innovative practice: A Workshop featuring the winners of the Scottish Policing Awards 2013. Wednesday, 2nd October 2013, Scottish Police College, Tulliallan.

Woolnough, P. S. (2013) Spatial and social profiling for missing persons investigations. Joint Center for Evidence Based Crime Policy - Scottish Institute for Policing Research Symposium, Washington DC (April).

Fife, N., Stevenson, O., Parr, H. and Woolnough, P. (2012) The Police response to reports of Missing Persons - research on current practice, FBI European Chapter Personal Development session, Brussels, (September).

Fife, N. and Woolnough, P. (2012) 'Geographies of Missing People: processes, experiences and responses'. Joint Annual Missing Persons Conference, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry (April).

Fyfe, N., Stevenson, O., Parr, H and Woolnough, P. (2012) 'Geographies of Missing People: processes, experiences, responses'. National Compact User Group Meeting, Hull, (February).
Woolnough, P. S. and Bonny, E. (2011) Cancellation forms. Scottish Institute for Policing Research seminar on missing persons, Scottish Police College, Tulliallan (June).

Fyfe, N., Parr, H., Woolnough, P. and Stevenson, O. (2011) 'Geographies of Missing People: processes, experiences, responses'. Scottish Institute for Policing Research seminar on missing persons, Scottish Police College, Tulliallan (June).

Woolnough, P. S. (2010) Missing persons: practitioner research to national practice. Scottish Institute for Policing Research Annual Conference, Dundee, (September).

Woolnough, P.S. (2010) 'Missing children: statistically assessing the risks'. Interpol Crimes Against Children Working Group, Interpol, Lyons, France (September).

Woolnough, P. S. & Gibb, G. J. (2010) Using Behavioural Profiling to inform risk assessment and response. Chooselife Annual Summit, Aberdeen (February).

Woolnough, P.S. (2009) 'Missing or abducted: using data to drive risk assessment, search efforts and Child Rescue Alerts'. Interpol Crimes Against Children Working Group, Interpol, Lyons, France (November).

Woolnough, P.S. (2008) 'Missing Persons: Understanding, Planning & Responding'. Invited talk, Applied Forensic & Investigative Psychology as a Practical Tool for Law Enforcement, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland (September).

Gibb, G. J. & Woolnough, P. S. (2005) 'Profiling the Behaviour of Missing Children'. EU AGIS Conference, An Garda Siochana, Dublin, Ireland (April).

Woolnough, P.S. & Gibb, G.J. (2003). 'Finding Missing Persons through Behavioural Profiling'. European Law Enforcement Missing Persons Conference, Bad Breisig, Germany (November). 

Gibb, G.J. & Woolnough, P.S. (2002). Urban and Rural Missing Persons: Behavioural Profiles. Annual National Mountain Rescue Conference, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh (September).

Recent conference presentations

Taylor, C., Woolnough, P. and Dickens, G. (2017). Being a ‘Missing Person’: A Concept Analysis. 3rd International Conference on Missing Children and Adults. Dundee, 14-16 June 2017.

Taylor, C., Woolnough, P. and Dickens, G. (2017). Missing Behaviour: The Development of a Missing Interest and Proclivity Scale. 3rd International Conference on Missing Children and Adults. Dundee, 14-16 June 2017.

Andriuskeviciute, D., Gabbert, F., Caso, A., Apps, J. and Woolnough P. (2017).  Examining the Efficacy of a Self-Administered Report Form in Missing Persons. 3rd International Conference on Missing Children and Adults. Dundee, 14-16 June 2017.

Joseph, S., Diack, L., Klein, S., Heyman, H., McCluskey, S. and Woolnough, P. (2013) Interagency Adult Support and Protection Practice of Police and Health and Social Care Professionals: A Realistic Evaluation Approach. Poster presentation to Scottish Institute for Policing Research Annual International Policing Conference, Edinburgh (14th November).

Parr, H., Stevenson, O., Woolnough, P. and Fyfe, N. (2013) Geographies of missing people. 1st International Conference on Missing Children and Adults, Portsmouth (June).

Holmes, L., Woolnough, P., Gibb, G., Lee, R., and Crawford, M. (2013) Mental health and missing. 1st International Conference on Missing Children and Adults, Portsmouth (June).

Woolnough, P. S. (2013) Missing an opportunity: exploring the importance of mental health in cases of missing persons. Scottish Mental Health Nursing Research Conference, Aberdeen (May).

Stevenson, O. and Woolnough, P. (2013) Police Response to Missing Persons. Society for Evidence Based Policing Annual Conference, Edinburgh (February).

Stevenson, O., Parr, H., Fife, N. and Woolnough, P. (2012) 'The misper' and policing geographies of missingness, RGS-IBG Conference, Edinburgh (July).

Stevenson, O., Parr, H., Fyfe, N. and Woolnough, P. (2012) 'The misper: police case files and writing geographies of missingness and search'. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, New York (February).

Woolnough, P.S. and Gibb, G.J. (2010) Development of a behavioural profiling methodology for police risk assessment and response to missing persons. Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference, Kent (June).

Woolnough, P.S. & Gibb, G.J., (2007). Searching for suicide: Using Behavioural Profiling for Missing Person Risk Assessment and Response. SIREN Annual Conference 2007, Glasgow (September). 

Harrison, M., Gibb, G.J. & Woolnough, P.S. (2004). 'Emerging Search Technologies: What's new in the UK?'. US National Search & Rescue Conference, Lansdowne, Virginia, USA (June).

Gibb, G.J., Woolnough, P.S. & Harrison, M. (2004). The Crystal Ball is Dead! Predictive Behavioral Profiles for Urban Search & Rescue. National Search & Rescue Conference, Lansdowne, Virginia, USA (June).

 

My research has received extensive national & local media coverage, including:

• Police Professional, 'Missing Partnerships', 12/03/14.
• Herald Scotland, 'Relatives of missing need more help', 19/12/13.
• BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland, 19/12/13.
• Aberdeen Evening Express, 'Cops call in researcher to probe force racism claims', 02/09/13.
• Police Oracle, 'Research to probe treatment of officer transferees', 01/09/13.
• Police Oracle, 'Scotland: Researchers to examine BME misconduct probes', 22/08/13.
• Holyrood magazine, 'Police Scotland to assess link between ethnicity and misconduct issues', 16/08/13.
• Police Professional, 'Mapping the missing: understanding runaway adults', 18/07/13.
• Metro, 'Missing people need sympathy on their return', 20/06/13.
• Dundee Courier, 'Why do they go?', 20/06/13.
• BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland, 19/06/13.
• The Independent, 'Missing adults hide - but they don't run far', 16/06/13.
• Aberdeen Evening Express, ‘Psychologist digs into the minds of missing people’, 03/01/2013.
• The Scottish Sun, ‘Unlocking the truth behind the missing’, 14/12/12.
• STV Magazine, 19/09/12.
• STV Scotland, 17/09/12.
• The Guardian, 'Campaign to unlock secrets of people who go missing', 17/09/12.
• Radio5 live Drive Time, 17/09/12.
• BBC Radio Wales, 17/09/12.
• BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland, 04/07/12.
• BBC Radio Tees, 08/02/12.
• The Evening Times, 04/07/12.
• The Dundee Courier, 07/02/11.
• BBC Radio Scotland (Aberdeen), 'news bulletin interview', 07/02/2011.
• Northsound Radio, 'news bulletin interview', 06/02/2011.
• STV Local, 05/02/11.
• The Dundee Courier, 'University research hopes to improve understanding of missing person issues', 05/02/11.
• Halifax Courier, 'Experts study missing person cases', 04/02/2011.
• Herald Scotland, 04/02/11.
• Press & Journal, 'Grampian Police in awards haul', news article  22/10/09
• The Herald, 'Scottish policeman's system for finding missing children will be used across UK', 04/05/09.
• STV North Tonight, 'Missing feature', 17/04/09.
• BBC Radio Scotland, 'Mountain rescue in the City', 25/02/09.
• The Herald, 'New system helps pinpoint location of missing persons', 08/04/05.
• The Scotsman, 'Scots police lead world with system to help trace the missing', 08/04/05. 
• Northsound Radio, 'news bulletin interview', 06/05/05
• Aberdeen Evening Express, 'New way to help in searches', 06/04/05.
• Press & Journal, 'New approach to missing people', 06/04/05.
• STV Frontline, 'Missing', 2005
• BBC Radio Scotland, 'news bulletin interview', 2005.
• Press & Journal, 'Revolutionary database offers hope in missing person cases', 31/12/04.

Meet the rest of the team

Dr Sheila Cunningham

Dr Sheila Cunningham

Division of Psychology | Senior Lecturer

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Ms Noelle McAra

Ms Noelle McAra

Division of Psychology | Lecturer

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