Research on issues of violence receives recognition

Melanie-Angela Neuilly, associate professor of criminology, is among 14 researchers who recently received a Distinguished Scholar Award for 2024 from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.

The Distinguished Scholar Awards are granted to individuals in the natural and social sciences whose work will result in creating understanding around the causes, manifestations, and control of violence and aggression.

“This award is an incredible honor. It positions my work at the forefront of violence research, in line with impressive peers,” Neuilly said. “For someone whose research is typically on the margins of my discipline of criminology, this acknowledgment is quite validating.”

Neuilly’s research focuses on elucidating how different death certification processes influence the quality of mortality statistics. Over time, she has discovered many intricacies of the death certification process in various cultural and organizational contexts. This has broadened her interest in the overlaps between types of deaths, including homicides and suicides.

She is using the Distinguished Scholar Award to support a research project in France this spring. With colleagues at the Université de Rennes Medical School, she is sampling death certificates from 2016 through 2019 through the French National Healthcare Data System to explore the potential impact of a death certificate change implemented in 2018. This change better directed the requirement for medicolegal investigations for certain types of deaths.

Neuilly hypothesizes that the 2018 change triggered an increase in the proportion of deaths investigated, thus leading to a more accurate death classification. Her research project presents a unique opportunity to see if the increased investigations have resulted in improved mortality statistic accuracy.

She ultimately hopes her work will help lead to more resources and better training for death certifiers. This could in turn facilitate more accurate mortality statistics, which would be useful in better violence and suicide prevention programs.

In addition to her research, Neuilly teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on criminological theory, criminal justice study abroad, homicide and violent crime, and research methods within the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Her other research pertains to various aspects of the death certification process, general population biases in death determination, the common predictors between homicides and suicides, as well as the impact of justice system involvement on premature deaths.

By Christina Mancebo, College of Arts and Sciences, for WSU Insider.