Conducting research in Ara Poutama Aotearoa

Requesting research access

Ara Poutama Aotearoa supports a wide variety of research and values evidence-based insights and practice.

People who wish to carry out research with our staff, people we manage, at our facilities or using our data require approval from the Research and Evaluation Steering Committee (RESC) to proceed.

All approaches, expressions of interest and applications regarding research (both internal and external research) should be made through RESC. This centralised approach applies to all centres and facilities.

Applicants are requested not to approach individual sites or individual correctional staff members with their research proposal.

RESC does not consider requests by individuals for non-research purposes.

Official Information requests can be made under the Official Information Act.

Research and Evaluation Steering Committee (RESC)

Research access requests are considered by the Research and Evaluation Steering Committee (RESC) at Ara Poutama Aotearoa.

RESC is composed of Ara Poutama Aotearoa staff and key personnel with specialist and/or research knowledge. The Committee is chaired by the General Manager, Research and Analysis. In cases where additional knowledge or skills are required to aid the decision-making process, RESC will consult with relevant internal and external specialists as required. When reviewing proposals, RESC forefronts our kaitiaki responsibilities (including both ethics and safety responsibilities) and identifies any risks associated with the research.

RESC meets four times a year to assess Full Research Applications (see RESC meeting dates 2023). If approved, RESC reviews and monitors the progress of approved research projects and receives and reviews research outputs prior to publication.

Who can apply?

Applying for research access is open to New Zealand-based researchers or international researchers with a New Zealand-based affiliation. This includes:

  • university-based researchers
  • post-graduate research students
  • international researchers
  • Ara Poutama Aotearoa staff undertaking research as part of their academic studies
  • researchers employed by government agencies (other than Ara Poutama Aotearoa)
  • commercial researchers.

The approval process for research applications

There is a two-step process for research applications. All research applicants must complete a Preliminary Research Application. If the application is supported in principle the applicant will then be asked to complete and submit a Full Research Application.

Preliminary Research Applications

This early application is intended to provide a timely indication to researchers of the feasibility of their research.

Considerations at this stage will include:

  • The practical feasibility of the project
  • Availability of data
  • The potential benefit of the research to the Department
  • The Department’s duty of care towards those under its management which includes protection from projects which might cause harm, on-going stress, or inconvenience, or do not sufficiently contribute to knowledge about issues relevant to the Department.
  • We encourage research aligned with the values and intent of Hōkai Rangi: Ara Poutama Aotearoa Strategy 2019-2024 and other Department priorities, as well as research in the public interest
  • Appropriate methodology and likely quality of outputs
  • Overlap or replication of existing Department research
  • The suitability of the applicant to carry out the research, for example, conflict of interest concerns.

NOTE: Preliminary applications can be submitted online at any time but should be submitted at least five weeks before a Full RESC meeting. This is to allow time for feasible projects to be developed into a Full Research Applications in time for RESC meetings.

Download the Preliminary Research Application DOCX, 347.1 KB

Full Research Applications

NOTE: RESC will only consider Full Research Applications that have been approved at Step 1.

Considerations at this stage will include:

  • The research application template has been completed in full, with all relevant information supplied (including information sheets and consent forms, question schedules)
  • The research application has been peer reviewed, prior to submission, by a supervisor or relevant member of staff if not attached to a university
  • The research method is sound
  • The researcher has the appropriate qualifications and/or support to conduct the research
  • The findings from the research are likely to have value to Ara Poutama Aotearoa, the research participants and/or is of high value in the wider public sphere
  • The research’s alignment with the values and intent of Hōkai Rangi: Ara Poutama Aotearoa Strategy 2019-2024, or is in an area where knowledge is currently lacking, or the research is in the public interest
  • The proposed research demonstrates an understanding of the sensitivity of the access, and issues of privacy, security of data, consent and impact issues are adequately addressed.
  • The risks from the research do not outweigh the expected benefits and the research is likely to generate benefits for the participants.  Evaluation of the benefits of research must distinguish between direct benefits for the individuals who participate in the study, expected benefits for the community in which the study will take place and potential contribution to knowledge more broadly.
  • The level of impact and resource demand on staff from Ara Poutama Aotearoa is commensurate with the benefits
  • The research will not compromise, or duplicate research already being undertaken by Ara Poutama Aotearoa.

Download the Full Research Application DOCX, 348.6 KB

NOTE:  RESC is not an ethics committee. Before submission, research applications must have full ethics committee approval from a recognised ethics committee or be in the process of obtaining approval.

The decision timeline

Summary of the approval process and timelines:

Preliminary Research Application

This may be submitted online at any time and will be reviewed by two RESC members. The Committee will decide if the proposal will be:

  • Approved to move to a Full Research Application
  • Declined

Researchers (and their supervisor if it is a student’s research project) will be notified by email within two weeks of submitting the application if the application should proceed to full application and provide them with the date of the next RESC meeting and deadline for submissions.

Feedback from the review may provide advice to researchers about how they might adjust or improve their research proposal to allow the researcher to benefit from preliminary advice and potentially enhance the likelihood of approval of a Full Research Application. For example, adjustments may need to be made to ensure that the project could be accommodated and is potentially able to be supported. Invitation to submit a Full Research Application does not constitute or guarantee final RESC approval.

If the preliminary application is declined the researcher (and their supervisor if it is a student’s research project) will be notified by email with the main reasons for the decline. Applicants whose proposals are declined may be invited to reformulate their proposal and re-submit.

Full Research Application

RESC sits four times a year. Dates for meetings and deadlines for applications are detailed further down the page.

Full Research Applications will be considered by the RESC which meets four times a year. The committee will decide if the research proposal will be:

  • Approved
  • Approved with amendments (approval granted subject to specific amendments to the proposal, additional information being provided, or approval granted from the relevant business/site)
  • Resubmitted with amendments (the applicant is required to provide additional information or make amendments to the proposal)
  • A new application is required
  • Declined

Researchers (and their supervisor if it is a student’s research project) will be notified of RESC’s decision by email as soon as practicable (usually 2-3 weeks following the committee meeting).

When an application is not approved by RESC, the applicant may submit a new application for consideration at a future committee meeting, but the reasons for non-approval must be substantially addressed.

Data requests

We will aim to respond to data requests as soon as possible. Please note that internal Departmental demands will take priority.

Data requests can be made in the Full Research Application but will not be processed until final approval for the research proposal is given.

How to apply

Preliminary Research Application DOCX, 347.1 KB

Full Research Application DOCX, 348.6 KB
Full Research Application should only be submitted when the Preliminary Research Application has been approved.

Applications must be emailed to
Hard copies by mail will not be accepted.

RESC meeting dates 2024

Meeting Date
Application Closing Date
Thursday 21 March 2024
5pm - Wednesday 13 March 2024
Thursday 2 May 2024
5pm - Wednesday 24 April 2024
Thursday 25 July 2024
5pm - Wednesday 17 July 2024
Thursday 10 October 2024
5pm - Wednesday 2 October 2024

In exceptional circumstances, an application may be considered by RESC at an out-of-cycle meeting, but this is at the discretion of the Chair.

After a research application is approved

Research Agreement and Conflict of Interest

When approval is given for a research application the researcher will be sent a formal Research Agreement to be signed by the researcher and their university (if appropriate) which sets out the responsibilities and obligations that apply in the process of conducting their research. The Research Agreement also covers any conflicts of interest and how they will be managed. The Research Agreement will be signed by the General Manager, Research and Analysis, on behalf of Ara Poutama Aotearoa.

Access to prisons/probation sites

When a research application is approved, the operational area of the Department in which the proposed research project is to be conducted will also be advised of the outcome and of any conditions imposed by RESC.

Final approval for researchers to enter custodial sites and/or probation and parole offices, as well as the timing of the research is at the discretion of individual Prison Directors (custodial) and Service Centre managers (probation and parole). Final approval is given by the Chief Custodial Officer. Access by the researcher will be dependent on the ability of facilities to accommodate the researcher at a given time. Circumstances may vary at these facilities from time to time and when they do, the researcher may need to be flexible about where and how the research may be conducted.

Ministry of Justice Clearance

Before a researcher can enter any prison site, they will be required to undergo a Criminal Conviction Check. They will be provided with a form to enable Ara Poutama Aotearoa to request this check. The clearance remains valid for two years.

Specified Visitor Application

Researchers requiring access to prisoners need to complete a “Specified Visitor Application Form’. If approval is given by the Prison Director and Chief Custodial Officer, an approval letter will be sent to the researcher advising them on their key contact person at the prison site and the conditions that need to be followed for access to the prison. The key contact will provide support and guidance to researchers to ensure compliance with local departmental policies, procedures and guidelines as well as assist with access to offenders for interviews, focus groups or surveys.

Recording Devices

Researchers wanting to take a recording device into the prison must complete the relevant form: “Authority to use electronic devices in prison”.

Reporting obligations and review of findings by RESC

Researchers are required to provide their final research document Ara Poutama Aotearoa before any research findings are distributed.

As part of the research agreement, where a research project has been approved, researchers are required, when the report on their research is completed, to submit the final draft for review.  This should occur in advance of the report being finalised for submission to the academic examiners, although with agreement between the Department and the student, these processes can occur concurrently.

The reviewers will consider the report content with particular attention to the following:

  • factual inaccuracies concerning the Department, its policies, or operations
  • that the research reporting is supported by the evidence
  • findings with potential relevance for improving the Department’s policies or operations.

Where factual inaccuracies are identified, or where the research reporting is not found to be supported by the evidence, this feedback will be conveyed to the author, and require (in the case of inaccuracies) or request (in the case of reporting unsupported by the evidence) changes or modifications.  The research document should also display a disclaimer stating that the research document does not represent the views of the Department. The revised version of the report must then be resubmitted before approval is given.

Once a report has been approved, drafts of manuscripts submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals, and presentations intended for delivery in any public or professional forum, must also be submitted in advance to the RESC. Occasionally drafts of manuscripts are submitted for publication, or presentations are prepared for delivery in public or professional forums, prior to the draft thesis being submitted to the Department.  In this case the process as applies to the final report applies also.

Drafts should be emailed to at least 20 working days prior to any proposed distribution.

Priority areas for research

The following are priority areas of interest for the Department, but we also welcome other research topics which are in the public interest.

  • Addressing Māori over-representation
  • Barriers to treatment and successful reintegration
  • Remand/bail experiences
  • The drop in the number of young people entering prison
  • Violent and sexual offending (including women and violence)
  • Gangs
  • Probation and Community sentences
  • Neuro-cognitive strengths and challenges
  • Addiction and mental health
  • Returning offenders (501s)
  • Desistance in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Wellbeing in and beyond prisons