U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Webinar Transcript: NIJ FY23 Center for Enhancing Research Capacity at Minority Serving Institutions Webinar Transcript

Deadline Notice

The deadline to complete and application under this funding opportunity has passed. 

This webinar will provide an overview of the NIJ FY23 Center for Enhancing Research Capacity at Minority Serving Institutions, in which NIJ seeks proposals for funding the development, operation, and management of the Center to Enhance Research Capacity (CERC) at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). 


STACY LEE: Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us for the National Institute of Justice’s FY23 Center for Enhancing Research Capacity at Minority Serving Institutions solicitation webinar. At this time, it’s my pleasure to introduce Dr. Angela Moore, Senior Science Advisor at the National Institute of Justice.

DR. ANGELA MOORE: Thank you, Stacy. And thanks, everyone, for joining us today for this webinar on NIJ’s Fiscal Year ’23 Center for Enhancing Research Capacity or CERC at Minority Serving Institutions, MSI. What we would like to do today is first to hear from our illustrious Director, Dr. Nancy La Vigne, who has some welcoming remarks. Then, we will provide an overview of NIJ, talk about the solicitation purpose and its goals, the application process, and NIJ’s review process. We’ll give some information on support and resources that can assist you in developing your application, and then we’ll have time for Q&A at the end of the webinar. Nancy…

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Thank you, Dr. Moore. And thanks also to Tina Crossland who'll be joining us in a few minutes and thank you to Stacy Lee, our host for this webinar. And thanks to all of you, looks like 120 attendees who have signed up for this webinar. That warms my heart because this is a solicitation that has been long in the planning stages and I think it's an important contribution to the field. I'm keenly aware that applying for research grants at NIJ is a fiercely competitive process. It's also clear that people who have been successful in receiving NIJ awards are usually successful because they've already received NIJ awards. So you've got that kind of chicken and egg, like how can I be a principal investigator when I have no experience being a principal investigator? How can I win an NIJ award when I don't know what that recipe is for a winning proposal?

There are a lot of MSIs and particularly HBCUs that are more teaching institutions and don't have the support and the infrastructure to be as competitive in this space. This is very important to me because I think that we really need to do more to support diversity in the STEM sciences in general and as they pertain to criminal justice specifically. And there's a lot of different ways to do that, but one through point that I think is in NIJ's sweet spot is the fact that we fund research and that we know that when we do fund research, when we give grants for research, those grants also support research assistants. They give opportunities to students to learn the research process. They give opportunities to doctoral students to serve as project assistants or even project managers on specific tasks. They give them that opportunity to see what it takes to write a successful proposal and to make good on the grant once it's received. So that's the purpose of this solicitation. I’m really excited that we're able to offer this and I can't wait to see what comes of it because I think it's going to be very important for leveling the playing field. As you listen to the specifics of the solicitation and ask questions of Angela and Tina, I want to just ground this with some higher-level priorities that we have at NIJ that, if you've heard me speak before, maybe you can tune out, but I hope you don't because I think it applies to this solicitation as well.

One that I've been hammering away at this notion of inclusive research. What is inclusive research? It's research that engages with the people closest to the issue or problem under study. And in the case of this particular solicitation, I think it's important to recognize that not all MSIs are the same. Some are big, some are small, some are teaching universities, some are in urban areas, some are in rural areas. Some represent mostly Latinx students, others are diverse in all its forms, and so thinking about being competitive and responding to the solicitation means also being inclusive around all the various people who could benefit from the center that we're seeking to stand up. Now, when we talk about inclusive research, I want to be clear that that doesn't mean that it's solely qualitative research and it's very important that this entity support an array of research topics and methodologies spanning from full-on qualitative, to quantitative, and importantly, mixed methods.

A lot of the research opportunities that NIJ offers up and particularly those in the last 18 months or so have also been very careful to talk about how research is influenced by both racial equity and inequity. So, approaching the work through a racial equity lens is really important.

I’d also like to lift up the importance of evaluation research that has a strong action research component to it. I think that's important in this context because we're trying to develop a center that can support MSIs to be more competitive in our space and in other funding spaces as well. We fund a lot of evaluations. So, making sure that people understand what it means to develop an evaluation methodology that includes an action research feedback loop that collects information on fidelity as they go and brings that information back to help improve the evaluation as it's unfolding. It's very important because that helps improve whatever the topic of the evaluation is as well.

I also really feel very strongly that we should support interdisciplinary research. That's another thing to keep in mind with this solicitation. You'll note that we weren't talking about any one topic within the very broad criminal justice legal research realm, right? There's so many topics out there. One thing that's really unique and interesting about the CJ space is that it invites expertise from a wide array of disciplines with the social sciences, behavioral sciences, and the hard sciences. So that's another thing to consider.

With that, I will stop, and I think I'm turning it back over to Angela and she's going to walk through the components of the solicitation. Thank you.

DR. ANGELA MOORE: Thanks, Nancy. We really appreciate you taking the time to welcome everyone and to ground this solicitation in the overall work of the Institute. For those of you who may not be so familiar with NIJ, I just want to provide a brief overview of who we are and how we are structured. The National Institute of Justice, or NIJ, is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the US Department of Justice. Our goal is basically to enhance knowledge of crime and justice through science. So, in short, we strive to strengthen science to advance justice. In terms of how NIJ is structured, we have nine offices through which we accomplish our work. We just heard from our Director. Our Office of Communications is essential to disseminating our work, among other things. Our Office of Operations ensures we have the funds and the proper mechanisms to accomplish our work. Our Office of Grants Management ensures that our research awards get processed, among other things.

We then have five science offices through which we accomplish our work. The Office of Crime Prevention and Youth Justice houses the bulk of our juvenile justice work, along with other topics such as hate crime. Our Office of Criminal Justice Systems includes policing, courts, corrections, and reentry research. The Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences is, as the name indicates, and it includes DNA research and our National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The Office of Technology and Standards consists of developing and testing tools and technologies used by law enforcement along with zero spatial and artificial intelligence research. Last but certainly not least, our Office on Violence and Victimization Prevention includes gun violence, community crime prevention, and violence against women and family violence research and evaluation.

Now, let’s get into the specifics of this solicitation. So what’s the purpose? Why have we released this solicitation? One, we want to help build and enhance research infrastructure at MSIs. This aim can include assessing infrastructure support, which could be looking at research capacity. It can also involve strategic planning. It can also entail strengthening skills and readiness to apply for funding, including faculty, student, and staff training. And it also includes research grants administration.

Our second purpose is to encourage interdisciplinary collaborations. These collaborations might include long-term partnerships around the social and behavioral sciences and other STEM criminal and juvenile justice research programs. It also might entail a collaboration within a single MSI or multiple MSIs and other research-intensive organizations.

Third, we want to enable and support research and development. We aim to establish a proficient and diverse workforce that’s well-resourced and trained to develop, implement, or expand active research programs. These efforts may include strategic, proactive capacity-building activities designed to facilitate individual faculty members, teams of researchers, and research administration in obtaining extramural research funding. Ultimately, we want MSIs to be able to develop and win research funding.

And certainly, last but not least, we need to strengthen sustainability and continuity. We want to assist MSIs in developing, enabling, expanding, and sustaining their research and development enterprise. So, we anticipate that this Center will provide national-scale, high-quality training and technical assistance to increase research productivity and outcomes at MSIs to support world-class research and enhance the MSI’s capacity to engage with industry and build collaborations. Also, we hope the Center will develop and cultivate a program promoting mentorship and sponsorship that will result in a robust social and behavioral science and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM workforce. Ultimately, if we achieve our goals through this Center, we will enhance the competitiveness of MSI research institutions and organizations, increase the long-term growth of research funding to investigators at MSIs, and we will grow the pool of MSI researchers using science to address challenges relevant to criminal and juvenile justice policy and practice in the US.

What are we expecting the awardee to provide as a result of this work? First, there will be a variety of different meetings. NIJ will host a project startup meeting, which is critical for us and the awardee, to discuss the overview of the project tasks, the timeline, the partners, protocols, etc. We want to ensure that the awardee starts strong and can hit the ground running. Also, the awardee will host monthly meetings with NIJ. Those meetings will inform us of the progress and address any possible challenges. We want to make sure we are on track and that if anything comes up, we’re dealing with it as quickly as possible in real-time.

Other deliverables include an outreach plan. This plan will be devised from a diversity of MSIs that provides insight into the challenges and barriers they have faced to securing research funding from a variety of levels, including federal, state, and non-governmental organizations. This information can be gathered from site visits, listening sessions, and meetings with relevant stakeholders. That outreach plan should be guided by what the awardee learns from the participating MSIs. Also, a needs assessment of participating MSIs. And that should build on the four primary purposes of the solicitation. Again, that’s building and enhancing the research infrastructure, encouraging research collaborations, enabling and supporting research and development, and strengthening sustainability and continuity.

Also, we expect training and technical assistance, or TTA, with a  capacity-building strategy developed in consultation with the MSIs. And lastly, we also want training, technical assistance delivery, and performance measures. The plan must describe how the applicant will execute the work and measure what has been accomplished. In addition to these deliverables, there are the standard grant reporting requirements. These include semi-annual progress reports and quarterly financial reports. It also includes a final report on the program detailing everything that has occurred as it relates to the Center, service delivery, participant feedback, lessons learned, and so on, including everything that was done to meet the solicitation goals and objectives. The outline for that will be developed in consultation with NIJ and then any datasets that result from this award, as well as any scholarly and other products that were created by the awardee. And with that, I will now turn the presentation over to my colleague and friend and my partner in crime prevention, Ms. Christine Crossland, who also goes by Tina.

CHRISTINE CROSSLAND: Thank you, Angela. Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us today. I’m going to talk you through the application submission process and hopefully give you some key tricks and tips as far as what is expected with your application. First, you must make sure that all the required elements are provided when you make your submission. And what do I mean by that? That means that there are four key essential elements, including your proposal narrative, that is, the 30 pages that will encompass the main body of your technical approach to accomplishing the task that we’ve outlined in the solicitation. It also includes the budget and the budget narrative, as well as the curriculum vitae and resumes of key personnel, such as all investigators.

Then, of course, some required forms must be submitted with your submission. It is important to remember that there is a two-part application submission process when applying for this funding. It first encompasses submitting registration information using Grants.gov. And it’s essential to remember the date we have provided in the notice of funding opportunity, which is midnight on December 4. Hopefully, nobody’s working at midnight, but we do realize that that does happen. But it’s crucial that if you miss the Grants.gov deadline, you won’t be able to submit an application in JustGrants by the deadline date of December 18. So, as you’re developing your application, it’s vital that whoever will be submitting the materials is also aware that they must meet these deadlines. I would strongly encourage you to start the process well before the deadlines provided.

One reason to start registration early is that you have to be registered in the System for Award Management or SAM. SAM registration must be renewed and validated every 12 months. So, actively find out if your organization’s SAM registration is current. If it needs to be renewed, or if it has expired, you will need to restart the process, which can take some considerable time. I recommend starting your grants.gov registration process at least 72 hours before the deadline. When it’s time to submit your complete application, you’ll be uploading files using the JustGrants System. The proposal submission deadline is December 18. You’ll notice the 8:59 PM Eastern Time slightly differs from what’s required for the Grants.gov deadline. I will say that it can be very time-consuming to upload the documents in the JustGrants System. So again, it’s something that I would start well in advance of the deadline. And when I say that, I mean weeks ahead of the deadline, especially when inputting the budget and uploading all required and recommended attachments.

Now, I want to provide some basic information about what happens after the deadline occurs. NIJ staff will immediately start reviewing all the applications received. During that time, we do a basic minimum review to determine that all critical elements of the application have been provided--the project narrative, the budget, and the budget narrative, which includes all the calculations. It also must comprise the resumes and CVs of all key personnel. Unfortunately, if any of those items are not provided, the application will be rejected, and the applicant will be notified. Once the basic minimum review has been completed, those applications that meet the requirements will be moved forward for peer review.

The peer reviewers for this solicitation will be federal staff across the federal government who will provide expert review of these applications. They will provide independent narratives and scores and eventually be brought to a consensus meeting. In addition to the external federal staff review, NIJ staff will conduct their own review and carry out briefings with NIJ leadership. The information from external and internal reviewers will assist the NIJ Director in making her funding decisions.

Getting back to the importance of the application, starting on page 18, you’ll notice that we’ve provided very detailed information on what we require applicants to describe in their proposals. I would highly recommend that you use the bulleted items that we have under each program narrative section to develop your application. For instance, under the statement of the problem, worth 20% of your overall score, the application should describe how MSIs will be served. We’ll also want to know the process for facilitating these efforts, including what you will be doing and what the challenges and barriers are to fulfilling these activities and accomplishing your goals.

The second evaluation criteria will assess your project design and implementation. I will emphasize that this has the highest weight of all the evaluation criteria at 45%. You should spend significant time and space within your application discussing your technical approach. This section is where we’re interested in what you propose to do and what methods you offer to accomplish the goals and objectives outlined in the solicitation. What is your technical approach for working with MSIs, key partners, and stakeholders, and how will you implement these activities? So it’s imperative you provide a detailed description of those activities.

We’re also interested in the different types of inventory and modes of TTA delivery and how you will accomplish all these various tasks. So, by all means, spend the necessary time in that section to cover the requirements. Capabilities and competencies are worth 20% of the overall score. Again, we must be able to see not only within the project narrative but also documented in the budget narrative when it talks about the roles and responsibilities of the key personnel that will be managing and implementing the work of the Center. It would be vital to make sure that major tasks and deliverables are thoroughly described. Who’s going to be responsible for each of the activities? Who’s managing different staff? What is the substantive expertise and experience of those that are being proposed? It’s also important that CVs or resumes demonstrate that expertise and that they are capable of the proposed positions.

The potential impact section of your proposal is worth 10% of the overall score. It’s crucial that you can articulate in your application what you will accomplish. I always like to remind applicants that you should make it easy for the reviewer to see the impact by linking everything together. Reviewers should not have to infer the impact.

Finally, the budget (to include budget narrative) is worth 5% of the overall score. All costs must be described in detail, with calculations and rationale. The budget narrative should include more detailed information regarding personnel and what their roles and responsibilities will be at the Center.

So, let’s talk about some tips for the proposal itself. We strongly recommend that you leave a lot of ample time before submission to review just for basic spelling and grammar. I always like to rely on at least two or three people who have not read any proposal drafts to read a near-final draft. When you’ve been reading something for a long time, you start skimming and skipping text, which results in errors going uncorrected. It can be very challenging for peer reviewers if the writing itself is not done well. Grammar and spelling should be flawless.

Similarly, it is difficult to understand the proposal narrative discussion when it does not follow the program narrative outline provided in the solicitation. The outline crosswalks to the evaluation criteria, which guides reviewers’ comments and scores.

And, of course, your proposal has to be submitted on time. Again, whatever your timeline is for working with your sponsored office or administrative staff who will be uploading the application, always add a big cushion of time so that you can make sure that your application is submitted on time. We’re fully aware that the deadline of December 18th will coincide with the end of the semester when most universities will be getting ready to shut down for the holidays. So I emphasize again, please start the process early. We want to make sure everyone who wants to participate in this process can apply by the deadline.

It’s also important that letters of support and commitment are provided, which means they need to be signed. That means they must have a wet, digital, or electronic signature. If it’s not signed, it won’t be considered valid. Those letters of support and commitment should also detail what the entity or individuals are supporting or committing to the project.

As far as eligibility to be able to apply, again, I’m going to circle back to what we talked about earlier about making sure that you’re registered in the System for Award Management so you’ll be able to submit your application. Since registration can take quite a bit of time, start early and verify that your current account is active and does not need to be renewed or reinitiated.

As a general rule, we will only fund responsive applications. Unresponsive applications mean that the application doesn’t have anything to do with what’s stated in the solicitation or the application did not provide the basic minimum requirements. Applications to purchase equipment and materials irrelevant to the Center will be considered unallowable costs, and the same applies to training and direct services.

Now, we’re going to get to some frequently asked questions.

What do we anticipate as far as the number of awards? We anticipate at least one award, which is up to the discretion of the NIJ Director, but that is our plan of at least one award.

What is the amount of the award and the period of performance? $1M has been made available to stand up the Center, and we’re expecting a period of performance of up to five years.

NIJ may, in certain cases, provide additional funding in future years to awards made under this solicitation through continuation awards. NIJ will consider, among other factors, NIJ’s strategic priorities, a recipient’s overall management of the award, and the award-funded work’s progress, when making continuation award decisions.

What is the timing of the award and non-award notification? The solicitation deadline is December 18. The basic minimum and peer review phases collectively take at least three months. We expect an award or decision to be made at the beginning of summer 2024, with notifications to all applicants about the award decision immediately following the official notification to the winning applicant. The expected start date could be as early as September 1, 2024.

There were some questions that have been provided to us in advance of today’s webinar that we’re going to answer.

Are foreign entities eligible to apply? The answer is no. However, if you’re a foreign national working at a university or college in the United States, you can be part of that application. It’s always important to remember that the official applicant is the entity that’s submitting the application, which is usually the university, college, or research firm. It’s not the individuals that are listed as co-investigators and so forth.

What are the required forms that need to be submitted for this particular application? In this particular case, Institutional Review Board (IRB) forms are not required, just acknowledgment that if research is part of the proposal, it will complete all necessary IRB reviews and approvals.

Are there constraints on proposed budget profiles? For example, can early years be more heavily loaded for initialization with lower amounts allocated to the later years of the performance period? The answer is there are no constraints. The budget should be presented as necessary to standup the Center and the work proposed.

How is proprietary information disclosed in a proposed mission handled? Everyone involved in the peer review process signs non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. Applicants are encouraged to mark all proprietary information in their proposal. For example, you can add a proprietary statement clause at the bottom of the Cover page of the program narrative, as well as in other locations (footnote of the proposal narrative, appendices) that contain proprietary information.

What role might students play in the Center? And is student support an allowable cost? Yes, they can be included. In fact, that would be encouraged.

For additional support with the application process and this solicitation, we do want to make sure that everybody feels like they have ample time to reach out. And again, we’ll remind you of the two deadlines (Grants.gov December 4, 2023 and JustGrants December 18, 2023). If an applicant fails to submit in Grants.gov, they will be unable to apply in JustGrants.

If there’s questions about the solicitation itself, it’s important that you reach out to the Office of Justice Programs Response Center at 800-851-3420, 301-240-6310 (TTY for hearing-impaired callers only), or [email protected]. The OJP Response Center operates from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. eastern time (ET) Monday–Friday, and 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET on the solicitation close date. The response Center will contact us to respond to questions and inquiries that will be made available to you.

If you have problems submitting your Grants.gov registration, we have the information provided for contacting them. Again, please make sure that your SAM registration is up to date. And you’re ready for that registration to occur by the deadline.

For technical assistance with submitting the SF-424 and a SF-LLL in Grants.gov, contact the Grants.gov Customer Support Hotline at 800-518-4726, 606-545-5035, Grants.gov Customer Support, or [email protected]. The Grants.gov Support Hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except on federal holidays.

And there’s also a separate resource there for JustGrants system.

For technical assistance with submitting the full application in JustGrants, contact the JustGrants Service Desk at 833-872-5175 or [email protected]. The JustGrants Service Desk operates 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET Monday–Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sunday, and Federal holidays.

We also have some recommended resources that you may want to review, including the Office of Justice Programs Funding Resource Center. It’s a large document that provides a lot of detailed information about the different forms and information required as part of the application process, including the financial guide, which will be really important when developing your budget.

It’s important to look at the NIJ Funding Frequently Asked Questions website that we have available.

The slides from today’s webinar will be made available, as well the transcripts and the answers to the questions that we provide today. We’ll have that posted so that the public will be able to see all of this information.

ANGELA MOORE: Great. Thanks, Tina. I’ve been going through the Q&A and the chat. I’m going to start with the Q&A and then move over to questions done in the chat.

When will slides be released to attendees? The slides and the transcript of this webinar will be posted on the NIJ website. It will be in the same place as the solicitation, so stay tuned for that posting. Our fabulous communications folks will update our webpage as soon as possible.

Is there an expectation that the Center would be working with some specific number of MSIs? Would the scope be national or regional? The awardee has to determine how many MSIs it can work with based on the budget it provides. We do have an expectation of this being national. And it doesn’t mean we expect the Center to cover all MSIs. That’s not possible. However, information ultimately from the Center should be made available through publications and other means on a national level. So, we are not specifying the number of MSIs the Center will work with. That is up to the awardee.

The requirements for datasets and publications is unclear. Could you please clarify? So, I’ll start by saying what’s required regarding the final report and other publications listed on page 11 of the solicitation. Please read that carefully. I’ll also say if you are obtaining data from any of the MSIs, that information may need to be archived. The information must be anonymized before archiving. More details about the types of data to be archived and how that occurs can be found on NIJ's website (see https://nij.ojp.gov/funding/data-archiving).

There may be publications from lessons learned. Also, there might be publications about reaching underserved communities, enhancing research infrastructure and processes, etc. It is up to the applicant to decide what publications they will develop, publish, and disseminate.

Is this focused only on MSIs or can individual researchers also compete? We have indicated on page 12 of the solicitation that priority consideration will be given to an MSI as the lead applicant. So, while we are not precluding an individual researcher from competing, applicants should keep these considerations in mind.

Is this solicitation limited to academic institutions? Or may private organizations, companies apply as well? Yes. Private organizations and companies may apply. Pages 1 to 2 of the solicitation talk about eligibility. So please make sure you review the solicitation.

To put a finer point on the answers to those two most recent questions, individuals might be a subawardee to an MSI, who is the prime, or non-academic institutions could be a sub to an MSI. That might give you a leg up, given that we will prioritize MSI applicants.

If we intend on hiring faculty to support the Center, do we need to have identified the individual ahead of the proposal? Or can we plan to do this during the initial years of the program? As part of the peer review process, it would be highly advantageous to have that information. If you do not have an individual(s) in mind, draft position descriptions with the capabilities and competencies to be sought for select positions (e.g., position description with required qualifications). By including this information, peer reviewers can assess whether you have adequately accounted for experience and expertise. At the same time, I know it’s hard to bring somebody on if you don’t already have the funding. And so that’s where I think having a commitment letter from someone you have identified is essential. The letter of commitment should say that they are willing to commit to the project should you get this award, and they will do x, y, and z on the project. That’s important to provide in your application material.

So I’m at a research Center embedded within a legal civil rights nonprofit, the Urban League. Are we allowed, eligible to apply?”Based upon the criteria indicated on pages 1 to 2 of the solicitation, you would be eligible to apply.

When partnering with an MSI, is the focus on institutions that have been federally designated as an MSI? For instance, there are institutions that are majority minority, but not yet federally designated since such a category doesn’t yet exist. Please refer to how we footnoted MSIs in the solicitation (page 38). When determining who is an MSI, we will follow the guidance in the solicitation as described. The solicitation specifies the criteria.

We had to take a lot of care with the MSI definition. And there’s no perfect definition. We were advised to choose the most credible one and stick with it.

Would you consider minority serving non-profit institutions to be MSIs under the same designation as MSI colleges and universities? The answer to the last question applies here. So look at the solicitation and see what we’ve indicated.

Is this solicitation limited to academic institutions or may private organizations company apply as well? Yes, private entities can apply. Again, for eligibility, please see pages 1 to 2 of the solicitation.

What is the expect amount of the award? For this solicitation, we have designated up to $1 million for this work. But, again, the budget should be determined by the funds necessary to establish the Center and execute the activities described in the proposal. So that is the maximum amount at this time.

What is the number of awards expected? We anticipate one award.

Can you describe partnerships between one culturally specific organization and an MSI?” Like, offering training and opportunities for faculty and students. The solicitation says priority will be given to proposals that include 40% or more of the budget to a culturally specific organization. An MSI is a culturally specific organization, but they may also partner with an organization in the community that helps support Center training and technical assistance around inclusive research processes or community-based participatory research, or, you know, fill in the blanks. There are a lot of different ways that you can include culturally specific organizations in your application.

If you’re applying with an MSI as primary, can you still apply for 60% as a subrecipient to start development of infrastructure? A subrecipient could be budgeted for up to 50% of the overall budget, however the risks involved in oversight and accountability are high, which may negatively impact an application as being competitive.

How should we handle increasing research capacity by hiring new faculty? It’s unclear how to highlight this with the CV of the individual if it’s not determined yet. I think that’s a misinterpretation of our vision for the Center. We’re not asking the winning applicant to spend the money hiring new researchers to be researchers. We’re asking the winning applicant to develop an infrastructure that supports expanding the pool of competitive, well-trained researchers better positioned to seek research funds. So, it’s not a hiring opportunity, although you need to hire staff to do the training and technical assistance, if that makes sense.

Is an HBCU considered a culturally specific organization? Yes.

We had intended on making a small part of our submission based on hiring a new faculty member. We did not see that this was precluded in the budget items allowed. It depends on the role of that faculty member. If the position of that faculty member is to support this Center, then that’s absolutely appropriate. If it’s just to add staff, then it probably won’t make you very competitive.

If we are primarily focusing on capacity building, would it suffice to demonstrate that the researchers in the structure engage in research relevant to criminal and juvenile justice policy? As stated on page 8 of the solicitation, through the work of the Center, it is expected that MSIs will build or expand upon collaborations and activities which, together or separately, will build capacity to secure research and development funding to address better the challenges of promoting public safety and an equitable justice system for all.

The goal of this Center is to enhance the research capacity infrastructure at MSI. So, it’s not about the awardee, as it is about who the awardee serves. I hope that makes sense.

It’s essentially funding the grantee to provide a service to the field. So again, it’s not designed to benefit that grantee, per se. However, it may benefit the applicant via new networks and relationships and will cover the salaries of the Center staff conducting the work.

Is there a page limit for the letters of support? No, there is not. The letters of support should be included in the appendices.

Is the $1 million per year or $1 million for the total period of the award? It’s $1 million for the total period of the award.

When we envisioned the most appropriate host institution for the Center, we considered MSIs that already have their own infrastructure capacity and are helping to build infrastructure for other MSIs. Or, part of the goal of the award for the awarded MSI is to build out its infrastructure before being able to serve as a support for other MSIs. For example, in years one to three, the award is directed toward enhancing the capacity of the primary MSI before supporting other MSIs.

There are any number of winning proposals that would be competitive. Our vision is that some MSIs have the infrastructure and capacity and are very successful in the space. We want to use that expertise to share with other MSIs nationwide to help them build similar capacity to create a more competitive playing field. So, we think you’d be at a competitive disadvantage if you’re proposing first to build the capacity internally and then share that capacity down the road. The most successful applicant, and it need not be one, could be a consortium with capacity in a lot of different areas and has a strategy for how to build that capacity with others.

Can the amount be dispersed at any rate over the performance period? You should have sufficient funds at any given time to complete the work that you indicated during a particular time period. So, if you are doing a significant amount of work in, say, years three and four, and you wouldn’t want to draw down all the funds in year one or something like that. So, it should be related to the work you’re doing and the time you’re completing it.

It’s imperative to crosswalk when you’re reviewing your application. Your project narrative should crosswalk to your budget. So, you’re telling us what you’re doing, how you’ll do it, what you hope to accomplish, and what you’ll deliver. And that should be evident based on your budget as presented for each year of the award. And whether it’s a two-, three-year, or a four- or five-year budget, it all comes back to what you’re proposing. Remember that we’re crosswalking all the submission materials, and that’s what our reviewers will be looking at, too. They’re going to be paying attention to everything you say you will accomplish. And it would help if you treated your proposals as a contract. Whatever is in the proposal is what you will be held accountable for and required to deliver at the end of the project period. If your program narrative doesn’t match your budget and timeline, it will be considered a significant weakness in peer review.

If an applicant has a programming idea that works in concert with others, would pieces of each proposal be funded or would only one applicant be funded outright versus splitting up funding requests among multiple applicants? The goal of the solicitation is to develop a Center. And so, we’re looking for one proposal to support that aim that includes all the necessary elements to do this work. It is not our intent to fund pieces of proposals.

And with that, we will stop here. Again, we’d like to thank you all for joining us for this webinar. Thank you for being interested in NIJ’s work. We do hope that many of you will apply, and we look forward to hopefully soon supporting a Center to do this work.

Thank you and you all have a good rest of the day.

STACY LEE: This will end today’s presentation.

Date Published: November 13, 2023