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Transcript: Graduate Research Fellowship Solicitation Webinar, 2023

FY 2023 Awards Made!

View the full list of FY23 awards.

STACY LEE: Good morning and welcome to today's webinar, “Graduate Research Fellowship at the National Institute of Justice,” hosted by the National Institute of Justice.  

At this time, it's my pleasure to introduce Dr. Gregory Dutton, Program Manager with the National Institute of Justice. Greg.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Thank you. Welcome. Thank you for attending.  I also want to thank you for being patient with the rescheduling of the webinar. We knew it would be more informative with the solicitation open. I manage programs in Forensic Science Research and Development, and I'll be presenting today with my colleague, Joe Heaps. Also standing by is Eric Martin with NIJ. We're especially happy to have with us today, the Director of NIJ, Dr. Nancy La Vigne. 

NANCY LA VIGNE: Thank you so much. Greetings, thank you for joining us as we present this webinar on NIJ's Graduate Research Fellowship program. I'm Nancy La Vigne. I've been in the role of Director of NIJ since May of last year. I realized that NIJ covers a wide array of topics. I didn't come in with priorities specific to subject matters, but rather priorities around how I feel research should be done and the research we should be sponsoring here at NIJ. There are five main areas I like to focus on. One is focusing on research that is rigorous but also inclusive of the people that are closest to the problem being studied. That could include people with lived experience in the criminal justice system but also practitioners.  

I also want to promote research that views topics through what I call an equity lens. Not just racial equity but equity of all kinds. That means recognizing the history that racial discrimination has played in the justice system for decades as well as understanding that some of the data we use and some of the processes that we study have baked in biases. Including our own research processes. We need to be mindful of those issues so we can do what we can to mitigate them. We should infuse research with a strong implementation science to it. Making sure evaluations include evaluations of the fidelity of which programs are implemented but also ensuring that the findings are disseminated so they can lead to change on the ground. I share all of those priorities with you because you'll see them embedded in our forthcoming research solicitations and they're embodied in the Graduate Research Fellowship program, what we're here to talk about today.  

We call it the GRF program and it's one of NIJ's longest-running programs. The goal is to increase the pool of researchers that can meet the challenge of crime and justice in the United States. We do that by supporting doctorate students whose research is interested in these topics. We welcome all manner of disciplines. The forensic sciences, natural sciences, as well as social sciences across a lot of domains because we know that the criminal justice system touches upon all kinds of populations and topics. So we want to be as inclusive as possible.  

Now, the GRF program has a long history. It's one of our oldest programs, we've had almost 200 GRF fellows since the program got started in 2012. They're about equally distributed, half in the social sciences and half in the natural sciences. GRF fellows have gone on to successful careers after grad school. Some becoming academic researchers, others in nonprofit institutes, lab professors, and others become government scientists. One of them, Maria Garcia, has been on team NIJ for many years.  

We take great pride in this program. It's a really important part of NIJ and what we do and how we invest in the future scholars and the future of the field. When I joined NIJ in May of last year, I was dismayed to know that last year was the second year in a row that we didn't offer GRF as a funding opportunity. It was one of my priorities to change that. We know it's important to all of you because we receive a large volume of inquiries, we know there's great demand for this program. We're here to learn more about the program. I'm going to turn the mic back over to Greg. Thank you all for your interest in this program and we look forward to seeing your application. Greg.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Thank you, Director. We appreciate you taking the time to kick off GRF. Now that we have the big picture, we're going to get into the details. Today, these are the goals of our webinar.  

For anyone not already familiar with NIJ GRF, we'll start with an overview and describe how the fellowship works and go over recent updates, and then we'll go over how to get started if you'd like to apply.  

If you noticed the QR code, it sends you to the GRF program page. Please use the QR code if you can to link page traffic to the webinar. If you can't do that, go to NIJ.gov/GRF. There is a link to the solicitation text, frequently asked questions, past and present fellows, and NIJ guidance for applicants.  If you're able to, go to the GRF program page as we talk today. So many of you may not have been familiar with NIJ before. As Dr. Nancy La Vigne said, NIJ is the National Institute of Justice of the DOJ. NIJ is under the Office of Justice Programs. If you hear us refer to OJP, that's what that means.   

As we also heard from our Director, NIJ has long supported a graduate research program. In recent years, there were two parallel tracks—social and behavioral sciences—and a separate STEM track for the hard sciences. In 2020, we removed the program distinctions and moved to a single program. The program was not offered in 2021 or 2022, which I know many of you are well aware of. But we're pleased it is back this year with the support of the NIJ Director. I will now turn it over to Joe to talk about recent activity and recent fellows. Joe.  

JOSEPH HEAPS: Thank you, Greg. Since 2012, NIJ has funded 180 fellows from over 60 institutions. About twenty-four new fellows have been selected each year. Ph.D. candidates in engineering as well as life, social, and physical sciences. The students proposed dissertation research has relevance to preventing and controlling crime and/or ensuring the fair and impartial criminal justice in the United States.  

The following slides show examples of recent fellows with their dissertation topics and what they're doing today. I encourage you to take note of our Director's words and take note of the wide variety of dissertation topics and schools that have been a part of NIJ's GRF program. For example, a John Jay fellow’s studies of police-civilian interaction.  

A Michigan State fellow's work on in-school shootings. A Northeastern fellow's work in crime in online space. A Michigan State fellow's work in identification of deceased border crossers. A Georgetown fellow’s work in violence in adolescent. A University of Utah fellow's work in fingernails, and a George Washington University fellow's work in forensic markers. I will now turn the presentation back to Greg.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Thank you, Joe. The program is open to applications once annually through a funding opportunity (NIJ calls these solicitations). The 2023 GRF solicitation is now open and accepting applications. The GRF program page has a link to the solicitation if you haven't already seen it.  

The solicitation text is where you'll find all of the specific details and application requirements and terms. I encourage you to download that soon and read it carefully.  

The scale of the program for 2023 will be similar to recent years. We expect to award about 20 new fellows and the programs terms are similar. Which we plan to discuss today.  

Here is a look at the timeline for the program this year. The solicitation is now open, and complete applications are due by May 2nd. NIJ has a two-step application process. That’s why you see the two deadlines. We’ll go over that later in the webinar.  

After applications are received, they go through a review process in June and July, and awards are typically made in September. Awards are expected to be announced by September 30th. The earliest that a fellowship could start is January 1, 2024. Keep this in mind when you contemplate whether to apply this year and when to expect your fellowship to begin.  

The program has a few eligibility requirements because we want to cast a wide net.  

The first, the student needs to be enrolled in a Ph.D. program in any science or engineering field, and their dissertation topic must have demonstrated relevance to criminal or juvenile justice, which has been added this year. The student can be at any stage in their graduate career. But the funding is meant to support the student during research, writing, and defense phases. The institution must be in the U.S. and is the official applicant and applies on behalf of the student. The student and university need to work together to submit an application.  

There are six critical application elements that are required. Any application missing any of these won't go forward for further review. That is happening less with our new application system. It verifies whether or not you've submitted all of the required elements.  

See the solicitation for the requirements and make sure to work with your university to assemble these documents by the deadline.  

There are other application elements that aren't required as part of the application package, but they will help reviewers and NIJ assess your application, and not providing them with the application can make your application weaker and delay the release of fellowship funds. It's in your best interest to include them if you can.  

Note that the Human Subjects Protection and Privacy forms are needed even if it those issues aren't applicable to your project. You just declare that your project does not include human subjects. See the solicitation for the other elements that may apply.  

Some other issues that are important. Dissertation topic approval is not required at the time of application. Human subjects, if you have human subjects, IRB approval is not required at the time of application, but if you have them when you apply, great, submit them. They're not required at the time of application, but if you receive a fellowship, these are required before funds are available.  

In addition to the GRF program page and FAQs, there's another great resource for all applicants and grantees under NIJ programs. This is where you can read NIJ requirements.  There are links in the solicitation and program page to this page. (see webinar slides) 

What are the terms of the fellowship?  It provides up to $55,500 a year for up to three years, this includes $40,500 annually for student salary, up to $12,000 annually for cost of education allowance, up to $3,000 annually for research expenses. The intent is to give the student the financial support to allow them to give their full effort to the dissertation.  

Next, we'll discuss some of the specific allowable cost items under these budget categories. We want to make sure that the budget makes the best use of funds to support the student and their research.  

The first budget category is salary and fringe. This can only support the student fellow and can include fringe or separate health insurance. We recommend that the full amount be requested.  

The second budget allowance is for cost of education. This can include tuition, fees, university administration costs at the discretion of the university. If the university elects not to use the entire allowance, the remainder could be used under the research expenses category.  

The third budget allowance, up to $3,000 a year for research expenses, these are cost items that directly support the student's research or scholarly professional activities. It includes a number of allowable items.  

Undergraduate research assistance is bolded here because it's been newly added. We realize this is a common expense in student research.  

The research expenses is a unique allowance that other fellowship programs may not provide.  

This might give you the opportunity to purchase samples that you otherwise wouldn't have access to or travel to present your work at conferences. Other allowable costs may be permitted if they support the goals of the program. You will need to work with the university to help write this part of the budget.  

A few other terms for these fellowship awards. These are onetime awards that cannot be supplemented with additional funds.  The total amount you require needs to be requested up front. There's no competitive advantage to lowballing. There are a few annual requirements. Annual process reports. Verification of continued enrollment in your program, and a letter from your Committee Chair confirming you're making adequate progress. The final deliverable for the grant is a copy of your defended thesis.  We encourage public archiving online at NIJ's literature archive or your university's repository or ProQuest.  

If you're contemplating applying, these are the first steps you can take. Review the solicitation itself. That's the official document with the specific requirements to verify that you're eligible.  

Contact your university office of sponsored programs or a similar office that helps university people apply for external research funding. To let them know you intend to apply and ask for help submitting. Every university has an office like this dedicated to helping people apply for federal grants. They may call it Office of Sponsored Programs, Sponsored Research, or something like that. Find yours and get in touch. Start putting together all of the elements of the application. The biggest piece is the Proposal Narrative. Also ask for a letter of support from your chair or advisor early.  They won't be able to submit that independently, they'll need to give it to the university OSP to include with the application package. Make sure they don't wait until the last minute. Get your enrollment verification and transcripts, both graduate and undergraduate.  

Now for the application submission process itself. The university must submit the application for you. Students cannot apply as individuals. So you'll need to give them many of the application documents. 


NIJ has a two-step submission process. This is an issue more for the university than for the student. The first step is submission of the SF424. That deadline is April 25th. The second step is the submission of the complete application at JustGrants. That deadline is May 2nd. In order to meet these deadlines, your university OSP will have their own internal deadlines for when they need these documents from you. Get in touch with them and find out when they'll need everything.  

So let's say you've assembled and submitted an application, what happens next?  The first thing we do after all of the applications are received is an internal NIJ review for eligibility and for the critical application elements.  

All proposals that meet the basic minimum requirements and are determined to be responsive to the solicitation will move to external peer review. For GRF that would basically mean “Is the proposal relevant to criminal or juvenile justice?”.  

Any application missing critical elements will be rejected without further review. We hate to see that happen so work with your OSP to make sure they have everything needed.  

Next, we convene panels of external reviewers to review the proposals. These are academic faculty with experience mentoring grad students. Your designation of your degree program and the contents of your proposal help us assign your application to the appropriate panel. Knowing what the reviewers will focus on can help you in the development of your proposal. These are the Review Criteria that are detailed in the solicitation.  

What are they?  These are the four criteria. See the solicitation for the details of what the reviewers are instructed to consider under each of these criteria. New for 2023 is Budget as a scored category, this is now required for all solicitations. Weighted at five percent. GRF has very specific specifications for budget.  

New is a priority for Minority Serving Institutions, or MSIs. Applications from these will be given special consideration. If you're not sure if your institution meets this category, see the list.  

How does this all come together in determining the outcome of an application?  I'd like to emphasize that peer review is by far the most important factor. When you write your proposal, think about the Review Criteria the reviewers will be using so you present the strongest possible proposal. The NIJ Director makes the final award decisions, she'll take several factors into consideration. New fellows are notified by September 30th and unsuccessful applicants shortly after in October.  

Some tips to help you put together a successful proposal, take a look at past fellow's abstracts to get a sense of what has been successful in the past.  

Make sure the relevance to criminal justice is clearly stated. If this is missing, the application risks being rejected.  

Preliminary results if you have them.  

And as always, ask others to read and review before you submit. Everybody benefits from constructive criticism and editing. The writing should be yours, but feedback can help with the final product. Visit the GRF program FAQs to see if any questions come up that might be relevant to you. We'll be posting new questions and answers there. If you know a group of students that may be interested in the program, we have a printable program flyer. The link will be posted on the program page and with these slides posted after the webinar. Here are resources for information about the program and this year's solicitation. We also invite you to look at the slides and transcript of the webinar after it's posted. If you don't find your answers in the FAQs contact the OJP Response Center ([email protected] or 800-851-3420). That concludes the presentation part of the webinar, now we'll turn to the Q and A portion to take your questions.  

GREGORY DUTTON: We asked for questions before the webinar and we'll start with those. “Has NIJ received appropriated funds to support awards in FY23?  Is there a likelihood this solicitation will be canceled?”  That's an understandable question considering what happened last year. The funds to support GRF have been appropriated and we don't envision any circumstance under which it would be canceled this year, and I think the statement from the NIJ Director we heard also speaks to her support of the program.  

Next. “Since applicant institutions are encouraged to submit the SF-424 and SF-LLL to Grants.gov as early as possible, what information must the doctorate student solidify?”  Only a descriptive title and the total requested funding amount?  Thanks for this question. I reached out to the JustGrants Help Desk. They say of the two forms, the SFLLL is the most important to get. It's a lobbying declaration form. That's the important one to get right as it's sent over as is and cannot be changed. That lobbying form doesn't have proposal specific information, it's just about the institution. The SF-424 is used to fill in some parts of the JustGrants application, the second step, like project title and amount requested. But those can be edited, the title and requested amount, by the user as they submit the full application. Those can be edited later. 


Next question. “Does the link received by application submitted to JustGrants expire? In other words, is there any reason not to complete step one in Grants.gov immediately?” I reached out to the Help Desk and they say there's no reason why you shouldn't complete this portion as soon as possible. As long as you use the correct email and are a valid member of your organization, the link will stay valid for the length of the application open period.  

And the last question that we got ahead of time, I'm going to paraphrase the question.  

I'm currently a doctoral candidate and have been a full-time student for the entirety of my time in the program and will be in the remainder, but this specific semester I'm only enrolled part time to reduce by tuition obligation during fieldwork. I saw full-time status is required but want to see if there are possible exceptions.  

The answer is, this has come up before and there's an entry in the FAQ page that applies to this.  

Here is what it says:  The question on the FAQ says may an institution apply on behalf of the student who is enrolled in a qualifying program part time at the time of submission but who will be enrolled full time beginning the academic term in which the fellowship activity was proposed to begin?  The answer is yes. Under such circumstances, the institution must submit an official letter stating that the student will be enrolled full time beginning the academic term the fellowship is proposed to begin.  

NIJ will put a condition on the award withholding funds until full-time enrollment is initiated. I hope that answers the questions that were submitted before, and I'll now ask Stacy to tee up some questions from the chat.  

STACY LEE: “Is it possible to submit more than one support letter?  For example, computer science faculty advisor and another faculty I've been working with for the NIJ GRF application.”  

GREGORY DUTTON: It's possible and you're welcome to submit letters of support. The letter from your Committee Chair or advisor is required, but if you have something else you think might be relevant and won't tax the time of the reviewers, then you can certainly include it.  

STACY LEE: “Are international students under J1 Visa eligible?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: International students are eligible. NIJ GRF grants go to the university rather than the student. So if the university sponsors you, there's no requirement of the student citizenship, but we require that the university be a U.S. institution. Next question. 

STACY LEE: “Do you feel confident that the fellowship will be offered in coming years, 2024, 2025, or do you recommend students prioritize applying this year?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I can understand that question considering what happened the last couple of years. You know, outside of the last two years the program had been offered for many years running. I see the Director has come on.  

NANCY LA VIGNE: Hi. There're no guarantees ever in terms of the funding that we have to work with here at NIJ. But I can assure you that as long as I'm Director, we will continue to offer it every year and we will make tough calls, maybe cutting other solicitations to ensure that we're investing in this one.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Thank you.  

STACY LEE: “If the university is the official applicant and applies on behalf of the student, can the university sponsor only one student, or can multiple students from a single university receive awards?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yes. So only the student whose proposal in the application can be funded. The university is welcome to submit applications for more than one student, but they would be separate applications.  

STACY LEE: "My dissertation looks at the relationship between challenges in illegal drug markets in the U.S. and the structure of organized crime in Mexico. Is it relevant to criminal justice?  Does this topic follow with the GRF scope?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I don't know that I can comment on a specific proposal and its relevance, but I would say, if you can make the case in your proposal that the research is relevant to criminal or juvenile justice in the U.S., it would be welcome. I think that's up to you to determine. Read the solicitation carefully and it's up to you to determine whether or not it's relevant.  

STACY LEE: The next question is possibly going to be the same answer. “Can the topic be related to the impact of incarceration on family?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: Yeah, again, specific topics I can't really comment on. But as long as you make the case that there's relevance to U.S. criminal or juvenile justice, it would be eligible. Again, we can't make that determination until we see the whole application and proposal, but if you have doubts, you might show it to someone else that you trust and ask them, “Does this sound relevant?  We're not looking to exclude proposals. We want to have a broad pool of applicants; we're not looking to reject any on this account, but I would say share it with someone you trust and ask them if they think it's reasonable that it's relevant.  

STACY LEE: “If you request funding for three years but graduate in two, what happens to the rest of the funding?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: Great question. That happens all of the time. So the fellowship funding has to stop once you defend, the month that you defend. It would just go back to the Treasury. You would close the grant at that point and the rest would go back to the Treasury.  

STACY LEE: “Did he say that it is acceptable to be funded in other ways for salary benefits in addition to this fellowship?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: That may be something that I think would be helpful to go to the FAQs on NIJ.gov. There are a couple of questions there that talk about whether or not a fellow can hold outside employment while they're on the fellowship. So look there for specific answers. We don't have specific requirements for that. The one thing that we do seek to avoid is duplicate federal funding. So one thing that you need to disclose when you apply is if you're being supported by another fellowship, or if you're applying for another fellowship, we certainly don't want the government paying twice for the same thing. But take a look at the FAQs for more information about that question. 


STACY LEE: “From our budget, are indirect costs to the university something we need to plan for?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: That could be part of the $12,000 cost of education allowance. That's up to the university to use that however they choose. It might be indirect or other administrative costs, tuition.  That's up to them. I think that's outside of the scope of what the student can decide. That $12,000 is for the university.  

STACY LEE: “I am a fourth year Ph.D. candidate. Should I have my program completed within a year before my graduation? What happens if I fail to complete the program within the duration?  Can I continue afterwards?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: Certainly you can. Timelines for graduation are often unpredictable. Propose a timeline that you think is reasonable and doable. If things change, we can extend the fellowship period without additional funds, but that's not a problem. That happens, we can't expect you to defend exactly when you proposed at the beginning.  

STACY LEE: “Do we need to submit community college transcripts as well?  I transferred to a four-year university from community college.”  

GREGORY DUTTON: You could include it, but I think if you had the transcripts from the four-year university, that would be sufficient. It's up to you.  

STACY LEE: “How many students are usually awarded under this solicitation by year?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yeah. So before the last two years we were running about 24, 25 new fellows a year, and we’ve got a similar number now. So we’re offering more under the fellowship, so we can't award as many. We're expecting about 20. That's what it's been running.  

STACY LEE: Next question. “I completed by Ph.D. Am I ineligible?” 


GREGORY DUTTON: If you've already defended, then you're not eligible.  

STACY LEE: “Majority of the past fellows shown were social sciences. Is there a preference for social science over hard science?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: There's not a preference. We want to have balance. The reason there are more that we showed because was early in the program history there happened to be many more fellows awarded in the social sciences. I think others in the natural sciences and engineers didn't know about the program. We're striving for balance.  

STACY LEE: “Are there restrictions for domestic use of funding?  Can there be international travel?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: There could be international travel. There are some specific DOJ policies about international travel. So you could include that on a budget, if it was related to dissemination of your research at an appropriate conference, or could be maybe data acquisition or something. But you could include it in your budget, but international travel would require notification of your grant manager. There are specifics, but it's not necessarily out right prohibited.  

STACY LEE: “Who is considered the PI, student or advisor?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: We encourage the student to be indicated as PI if the university allows it. Some universities don't allow students to be PIs. So if they allow it, student. Otherwise, advisor would be fine.  

STACY LEE: Then this one I think you answered part of it. “How many do you award each year, and then it says how many applicants do you generally have?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yeah. Great question. So we've been getting a pretty good volume of applications for GRF. The success rate of applicants in recent years has been around 20 percent. We expect this year for it to be somewhere probably between 15 and 20 percent based on the application volume we've received in the past. It's competitive but, I think the NSF GRF program has success rates below 10 percent.  

STACY LEE: “What is the one-time award if the fellowship support can be ongoing for three years?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I meant that you need to request the total amount of money that you expect to use over the course of the fellowship at the beginning. Basically, you would say, “I expect to take three years, therefore I'm going to request three years' worth at the outset.” You can't request one year and then come back and say I'm not defended yet, I need another six months or a year's worth of funding. We can't add money to the grant. 


STACY LEE: “How is the GRF program different from the research assistantship program?” 


GREGORY: Great question. GRF is for supporting students in their research at their home institution. The NIJ research assistantship program, or RAP, is for bringing graduate students to NIJ to work here with NIJ staff. That's the difference.  

STACY LEE: “I am a police officer and doctorate student. How do I complete the budget for student salary?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Oh, interesting.  Well, if you don't need to request the salary, maybe you wouldn't need to. You do need to be enrolled full time during the fellowship. So, , I don't know if maintaining employment there is possible while you're full time doing your research. But it is a good question.  

But I mean, we don't require the full salary amount to be requested if it's not needed and if you don't need it—again, I can't comment necessarily on a specific case. But if you have more specific questions, maybe you can send them in as an inquiry and we can help answer those.  

STACY LEE: “What is a typical timeline a graduate student should apply for funding?  During the second or third year?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: It's up to you.  This program can support you during your active research phase. You can apply at any time. You can apply just as you're getting into the program, your first year, year and a half might be classes and such. You might not have started your dissertation research yet.  

So the fellowship would be on hold, basically, until you show us that your topic has been approved and you're ready to start the research phase. It depends on your own personal timeline. And we get applicants in all stages. Some that are really near the very end and some that are just beginning.  

STACY LEE: “Could students be awarded both an NIJ fellowship and assistantship?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I don't know of that happening. For the research assistantship you would be at NIJ. You would be doing stuff here that would not be your dissertation research. You couldn't be doing them both simultaneously. If you took leave from your home institution program to come and do an NIJ research assistantship, then we could put the GRF grant on hold. So I don't see how you can do them both simultaneously, but perhaps you can have two and put one on hold while the other is done.  

STACY LEE: “Were there any past fellows from a computer science background?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Joe, do you want to take that one?   

JOSEPH HEAPS: Absolutely. The answer is yes. For example, Rutgers and Georgia Tech. We are Very interested in seeing applications from the computer science discipline. 


STACY LEE: “Can students graduating in May 2024 apply and be funded?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: They could. Again, the earliest that fellowship funding can kick in is January 1, 2024. If you have all of your ducks in a row in terms of human subjects and privacy if those are applicable. It could happen, but warning if you don't have all of the requirements fulfilled, the money might not be available until sometime later as you get them fulfilled. It is possible.  

STACY LEE: “Does the three-year funding include post-doctoral research activities?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Nope. It's only for up to the point that you defend your Ph.D. At that point, funding has to stop.  

STACY LEE: Somebody asking just for a clarification. “Can unused funds from the $12,000 cost of education be put toward research expenses, usually up to $3,000?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yes, it can. That's up to the university. If they don't elect to use all of that $12,000, the remainder of it could be used under the research expenses category, but that's up to the university. We have had a couple of universities who did that. That's up to them.  

STACY LEE: “Do the letters of support from organizations require the student applicant's name?  Or can they have the PI's name?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Oh, letters of support from outside… 

STACY LEE: Mmhmm. It says my school requires a faculty member to serve as PI even for a study by doctoral students. 


GREGORY DUTTON: I can see that that would happen. I think that would be okay.  

STACY LEE: “What types of methodologies will be prioritized?  Are additional funds from other entities allowed?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: The first question, sorry?   

STACY LEE: It says, “What types of methodologies will be prioritized?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: So I don't think we have a specific prioritization. And then the second part was? 

STACY LEE: “Are funds from other entities allowed?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: They certainly could be. We're just concerned with supporting the student and the specific things they might request, but a larger project might have other things going on. You would want to describe that, probably, in your proposal.  

STACY LEE: “If you are early in your dissertation process, can the topics change and you still receive funding?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: It could, you would just need to let NIJ know and we would review your new topic to make sure that it's still relevant to criminal justice or juvenile justice. That it's within the scope of the program.  

It could change. You would just need to let us know and let us review it. If it strays outside of our mission space, then the fellowship might need to be closed. But that would be your choice if you want to switch to something that's far enough outside. Just let us know and we'll review it.  

STACY LEE: “Under the application elements, what is a privacy certificate?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Oh, there are specific requirements about research that involves private information about individuals and how to protect that. So it's something that isn't necessarily relevant to everyone's research. You do need to submit the form. If your project has nothing to do with personal information, you still need to submit the form saying there is no personal information collected.  

STACY LEE: “Is the request to use incentive form required if stipend doesn't come from the solicitation award?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: —if your project involves human subjects and they're being given incentives—I think this is what this question refers to—we need to review that. The question is, if those incentives are not being paid out of this grant, do you need to report that?  You do, because it's part of the whole IRB package and approval, which gets reviewed by NIJ.  

So that would still be part of your—the package that you give from the IRB and human subjects, it could come from outside, but you still need to disclose that your subjects are being compensated.  

STACY LEE: “For the final deliverables, do these need to be completed within the same year of the fellowship?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Not necessarily. Again, grad school is unpredictable and several years ahead you can't predict when you're going to defend, and we understand that. If there's a delay, we can work with you on that. We can't expect that you give us a dissertation on the date that you propose three years prior.  

STACY LEE: “Have you had statisticians apply successfully to the program previously?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yes. The specifics I can't comment on, but we've had people in statistics programs as GRF fellows. As long as your project has relevance to criminal or juvenile justice, absolutely.  

STACY LEE: “What is the latest date that fellows can begin to use their fellowship funds?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: Latest date. Typically, grant funds need to be used within five years of the initial award date. I'd say within five years is the latest.  

STACY LEE: “If I heard correctly, a student's dissertation proposal must be approved before the fellowship begins. Is this ABD status?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I should be clear on that. The topic needs to be approved for the fellowship money to start flowing. You can apply for and be awarded a fellowship before you're ABD, but the money would be on hold until you show us that your topic has been approved.  

You can apply as long as you're in the program, before your ABD, but the fellowship funds wouldn't be available until your topic is approved.  

STACY LEE: “Can the fellowship fund qualitative research?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: My colleague Eric Martin, are you there?  

ERIC MARTIN: Yes, it can.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Yes, thank you, Eric.  

STACY LEE: “Can you please explain the difference between the Grants.gov deadline and the JustGrants deadline?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yes, Grants.gov deadline is an issue for the university. They have to submit federal grant documents that say we intend to apply for this funding. That's a university deadline. That needs to be done a week before the whole application package comes in so that we can verify they're an eligible applicant before the second stage in JustGrants where all of the application materials are submitted.  

STACY LEE: “Are we able to submit a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement along with the other non-required but recommended portions of the application?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: You can certainly submit that. Again, not required. But anything that you think helps make the case for your proposal, you can include. I would say, also try to think about your reviewers, respect your reviewer's time, you don't want to hit them with too much, but if you think it's relevant, you can include it.  

STACY LEE: “Does this fellowship support computational work such as modeling, simulation, and artificial intelligence?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Certainly could if you show a relevance to criminal or juvenile justice.  

STACY LEE: “Because of cancelling the last two years, one of my graduate students is fairly far along. Are there negative consequences for not using the entire award if successful?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: There's not. I would say, if you really know that you're only going to take a certain amount of time, you might just request that, but there's no problem with defending earlier than you anticipate and closing the grant and letting the rest of the money come back to the Treasury. No problem with that.  

STACY LEE: “Is the Human Subject Protection form completed by the IRB at the applicant's institution or by the student applicant?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I think that it needs to be filled out by the PI. So again, the Human Subject’s Protection form would be filled out by the PI. If the university allows the student to be the PI, they would fill that out. If they don't, it would be whoever is declared the PI for the project.  

STACY LEE: “What are the components of a successful proposal as far as the deliverables are concerned?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Deliverables. Defense of your dissertation. Really, the goal of the program is to help students get to the successful defense and contemplation of their program.  So, you do a research dissertation project that's relevant to criminal justice and defend and we consider that a successful fellowship.  

STACY LEE: “Are Ph.D. candidates prioritized over Ph.D. students?”  

GREGORY DUTTON: I think this gets to the question someone spoke in terms of if you're ABD, all but dissertation or not, no, there's no prioritization there. Students from all stages of their graduate programs are welcome to apply.  

STACY LEE: Someone wants to check if research on therapies for victims of domestic violence would fall under the criminal justice topic.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Again, I can't comment on specific topics. I suspect that it may. But if it's not clear, that may be something that you can submit an inquiry and we could try to get a better response on that.  

STACY LEE: “You mentioned that if the full $12,000 for tuition support isn't requested by the institution, some of the funds can be used for research. Does that mean our research budget can exceed $3,000 if the full tuition amount isn't requested?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: That's right. In that case, if the university doesn't want to use the whole $12,000, the rest could go to research expenses, but it's up to the university.  

STACY LEE: “Are NIJ RAPs encouraged to apply and how does this influence the budget?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I think if you're in a Ph.D. program and your dissertation is relevant, you're welcome to apply. If you were an NIJ research associate, I don't see that you can do both of them simultaneously, but you can certainly apply for GRF.  

STACY LEE: “How would a certificate of confidentiality be eligible for the privacy certificate?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Good question. I encourage you to go to the NIJ privacy page. Some of the links I showed before, the NIJ guidance for applicants and grantees, has some human subjects and privacy information that's very detailed. That would, I think, answer your question. I believe there is a specific privacy certificate that NIJ requires. So you may need to fill that out and if it's appropriate, attach some additional information. But I would encourage you to go to the NIJ privacy page to find out the details.  

STACY LEE: “Is part-time and full-time status determined by your institution?”   


STACY LEE: “Can you comment on the kinds of NIJ resources that past fellows have tapped into to enrich their research?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Good question. Boy, off the top of my head, I don't know. We certainly try to invite GRF fellows to meetings to present their work. So we've done that in the past at Pittcon for chemistry and biology related GRF fellows. We're going to have GRFs invited to the NIJ research conference this year. We'll have a poster session and GRFs will be invited to come together and present their work and meet other researchers. I would say it mostly happens at scientific meetings.  

STACY LEE: “Is it possible to request funding for less than 12 months, for example, 6 or 9 months, if we're planning to graduate.”  

GREGORY DUTTON: Definitely. Just request what you expect to need.  

STACY LEE: “Do you recommend a letter of recommendation from our advisor or a former employer with NIJ experience?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: The letter of support that we require is from your Committee Chair or advisor. If you want to attach a letter of support from someone else, it's not required and again, if you think it's relevant and it won't tax the reviewer's time getting too many documents to read, you're welcome to attach. But the one from your Committee Chair or advisor is required.  

STACY LEE: “If the application is submitted before the deadline, is it possible that it will be reviewed to give the student applicant an opportunity to revise and resubmit?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Unfortunately, no. We can't get into the applications until the due date. So, you have time once your university starts assembling the application package to make sure everything is there before the deadline, but once the deadline passes, there's no opportunity to revise or include something that wasn't included.  

STACY LEE: “Are the folks at the OJP Response Center willing to talk to applicants about their ideas?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: The OJP Response Center won't be able to answer those questions. They will essentially need to pass them to us to try to answer, but I'm going to say we can't comment specifically on responsiveness of specific topics. Even if you do send that question to them. It's up to you to take a look at the solicitation and how we define responsiveness, relevance to criminal or juvenile justice, and determine for yourself if it fits. You might find value in showing it to someone else and ask them is it reasonable to conclude this is relevant. We're not looking to exclude people. So we cast a broad net, but it's up to you to decide if your work has criminal or juvenile justice relevance and you decide to apply.  

STACY LEE: “If you receive a fellowship, are you eligible to apply for other NIJ grants and solicitations?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Sure. Absolutely. And we have had GRF fellows that have gone on to become PIs to other NIJ grants.  

STACY LEE: “Is there a defined structure for the Proposal Narrative outside of the weighted categories?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Oh, no, not necessarily. I think if you look at the solicitation and what we suggest for the program narrative, it mostly follows the Review Criteria to make sure that you at least address the criteria that reviewers are going to be looking for. See what we have in the solicitation. The most important thing is that you convey a coherent, convincing proposal for your reviewers. We don't have a specific format for the Proposal Narrative. 

STACY LEE: The second part of the question. “Are there a preferred number of objectives?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: No. Whatever is appropriate for your work.  

STACY LEE: “If our student’s area of study focuses more on forensic investigative genetics, are they still eligible to apply?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: There are some restrictions on how forensic investigative genetics can be used by law enforcement, but there's not an issue here. Because it's research. They're not going to be doing an Institutional Review Board (IRB). So it's up to you to determine if it's relevant, but there are no restrictions on research into forensic investigative genetics for NIJ.  

STACY LEE: “Does the requirement for undergrad transcripts require all transcripts or the one that you graduated from?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I would say at minimum the one that you graduated from. If there's more you think should be included, then include it.  

STACY. LEE: “If your topic is not related to the U.S. criminal justice system, will it not be considered?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yeah. It needs to have a demonstrated relevance to criminal or juvenile justice in the United States.  

If it's outside of that, then that's correct, it would not be eligible. But that can be broad. It's up to you to decide if you can show a relevance.  

STACY LEE: “Could you say more about MSI priorities and how they're considered when reviewing a proposal?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yeah, I showed that peer review is the primary factor that goes into award recommendations and decisions, but the NIJ Director ultimately makes award decisions, and the MSI priority is one additional factor they can consider. There are other things mentioned in the solicitation that can be factors. Look at the solicitation to see how it's described. But I can confidently say peer review score is the primary factor.  

STACY LEE: “If we have community partners, can we submit a letter of support from the community partner, or must the letter only be from academic mentors?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: We require the one letter of support from your Committee Chair or advisor but if your project is a collaboration with an outside group and you think it could be valuable to the reviewers to see that you have a relationship with them, then you might want to include it. If you think it could be included, then include it, but the one letter of support from the Committee Chair or advisor is the one that's required. Anything else it up to you.  

STACY LEE: “Education cost is $12,000 per year. What if the tuition is more than $12,000 per year?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: That would be up to the university to decide if they are willing to support you. Talk to your university and ask them the answer to that question.  

STACY LEE: This question relates to final deliverables. “Do all of the scholarly products need to be available or can some of them be forthcoming after graduation?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: It could be the case that you're publishing after the fellowship period. Not a problem.  

STACY LEE: “Is international income acceptable?  Would that income be a conflict with this fellowship?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I don't think it necessarily would. Again, look at the FAQs. Because we have some that specifically talk about what we call "outside employment."  It isn't necessarily prohibited, but if it's something that is taking so much time that you're not able to work on your dissertation, then it may be an issue. But I would say go to the FAQs to see the answers there and if you have further questions after, submit an inquiry.  

STACY LEE: “Is there a GPA requirement for the application?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: No. There's not. The reason that we ask for the transcripts is so that the reviewers can get a sense of the courses you've taken and how you've done. No, there's no specific GPA requirement.  

STACY LEE: “Is there a minimum amount of time that the fellowship funds can be used?  For example, if someone will be in their final year of their program next year and funds are not given until January, would having six months left in their program be too short to fund?”  

GREGORY DUTTON: It's up to you to decide, with the understanding that the money could come as early as January 1st but could be delayed for these other factors, human subjects being the one that often can delay things. It's up to you to determine that. But there's no minimum.  

STACY LEE: “Do you require official sealed transcripts?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Unofficial is fine.  

STACY LEE: “Are there restrictions on publishing funded research before the funding?” 


GREGORY DUTTON: That's up to you. Some people prefer to keep things under wraps until they defend but that's up to you. We always want to see the work that our fellows and all of our researchers do be accessible to the public, but if there's a need to put an embargo on releasing some results, we're fine with that.  

STACY LEE: “If we attend a minority serving institution, should we clearly state this?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: You can but it's not required. We have those lists and we're going to be matching up applicants with the lists. There's no need to, but you could.  

STACY LEE: “Since I've completed by Ph.D., are there any other projects that I can support?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: You wouldn't be eligible for GRF but there are other NIJ funding opportunities you might be interested in. I would go to NIJ.gov and look at funding and you'll see open and forthcoming solicitations that will have other funding opportunities that you may be eligible for. Go there and see.  

STACY LEE: “Does this GRF require us to travel to the NIJ office during the fellowship?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: No, it doesn't.  

STACY LEE: “I am unsure about my Ph.D. defense timeline. Is it better to budget for longer?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yeah. If you're unsure, then you might want to tend toward the longer request. I think people who are short timers who really know when they can expect, they might request a shorter period, but if you're unsure then probably go for the longer period just to make sure.  

STACY LEE: “Does NIJ have a specific topic preference this year?” 

GREGORY DUTTON: No, we don't. We cast a wide net.  We want lots of great proposals that cover everything within NIJ's mission for GRF. It's exciting, when we get the applications in is the best day of the year when we get to see all of these amazing proposals across all kinds of topics. There are no specific topic areas. We'd like to see everything that is relevant to criminal and juvenile justice.  

STACY LEE: “Does the amount requested affect the chance of being accepted by the GRF program?  For example, does a lower total requested, would that be a preference?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: No. It really has no bearing.  You should just request what you need.  

That total has no bearing on your chances of being selected or not.  

STACY LEE: “Are there income limitations for the GRF?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Again, that might go to the question of is outside income allowed. And again, I'm going to say it's not necessarily prohibited but go to the FAQs to see the questions that have come up in the past and if your questions aren't answered there, submit an inquiry.  

STACY LEE: “Do all of the applications receive feedback if they're not accepted?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Yes, we return the reviewer comments for everyone, whether or not they're selected. Usually that happens in October. The new fellows are announced by the end of September, and by October we try to return all of the reviewer comments to everyone.  

If you apply and don't get reviewer comments within the month of October, please let us know. The comments will go back to the official contacts on the application. Sometimes there's poor communication and it might not get to the PI or the student. But if you don't get it within October, let us know.  

STACY LEE: “Can a student hold a teaching assistantship at their home institution as well as GRF?”  


GREGORY DUTTON: It depends. The intent of the program is to give people the financial wherewithal to focus on the dissertation and not have to do outside things. Generally, we would not encourage that. But you also might want to talk to your university. They might have policies of their own as to holding a teaching assistantship while you hold a fellowship. Ask your university. Look at our FAQs.  

STACY LEE: “Are people compared against others at a similar level in their grad programs?  First years to first years?  ABD to others who are ABD?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Not necessarily. The reviewers can rate according to the Review Criteria, I think, proposals at any stage. Maybe you're at an advanced stage where you have preliminary results you can include; it can be helpful but doesn't necessarily give you a big advantage. It's the quality of the idea and the way that you present it to reviewers. Everyone is reviewed equivalently no matter what stage they are. And we end up awarding people across the range of degree program stages. We award plenty of people who are final year and also those who haven't even started their research phase yet and need to wait for topic approval.  

STACY LEE: “If one's dissertation supervisor was awarded an NIJ grant on topic that you now work as your Ph.D., can the student still put in an application for funding for the same topic or would you call this a duplication?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: That's not necessarily duplication, and I think we have a question on that in the FAQs because this has come up. It wouldn't necessarily be duplication, but in that case, we would ask you to let us know about that other grant and maybe the parameters of where this proposal fits in within that line of research. But it’s not necessarily considered duplication.  

STACY LEE: “Does the student or the university register on the System for Award Management (SAM)?” 


GREGORY DUTTON: The university. The student is not applying as an individual. It's the university who does all of that SAM registration, and the good thing is that universities are often applying for federal funding all of the time, so they're probably already registered.  

STACY LEE: “If the committee is not officially approved, should we still include who will be included in the application?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: You certainly could, if you think it could be helpful to the reviewers you can include that.  

STACY LEE: “Is there an expectation that the accepted proposals be revised to incorporate suggestions that the reviewers may have before commencing data collection?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: If you're awarded and we return the reviewer comments, should you feel like you need to change your project to take into account the comments?  No. We return those just for your reference, for guidance. You might find some good ideas in there, but you're not expected to do that. If you get the grant, it means that we want you to execute the project that you proposed as you proposed it.  

STACY LEE: “Is there any downside to requesting a full three years?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: No. There's no downside. Again, it doesn't give you an advantage to lowball, and if you don't know how long it's going to take, you might want to request three. If you know it's not going to be three, don't request it. There's not necessarily any downside.  

STACY LEE: “If we have four years of funding to through our institution that includes a TA position, could we apply and defer funding until the next year is complete?”   

GREGORY DUTTON: Sure. I think that is saying could you request the GRF funding to kick in a year later because you're already fully supported before that. Yeah, that would be fine. Then you would just put that in your timeline and incorporate that into your request for funding and for when. Not a problem.  

STACY LEE: “Can the project proposed comprise an online survey sent to participants via a link (as a opposed to a study protocol conducted in person)??”   

GREGORY DUTTON: I think it could. If that's how your study is defined and approved by an IRB, then it could be online, but it still would require IRB approval.  

STACY LEE: One person is asking if you can remind them of the six critical items necessary for the application.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Nice. Go to the solicitation and make sure but it's program narrative, budget, verification of current enrollment, letter of support from your dissertation—your Committee Chair or advisor, CVs or resumes or bio sketches, and what is the last one?  Budget, did I say budget?   

JOSEPH HEAPS: Should we put the slide up?   

STACY LEE: Sure.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Transcripts. Got it. Again, those are in the solicitation. And the good thing is now that the way that the application system works, there's a dedicated slot in the application for each of those. It won't let you finalize the application until you have something submitted in each of those.  

GREGORY DUTTON: “Will there be a panel on the research associates’ program?” Not that I know of but there could be. Keep your eyes out for it but at this point I don't know. It's not my program. One says, my question about Ed.D. students was not answered. Doctorate of education, if that's eligible. We say that it needs to be a science or engineering field. So we typically go by the classification that, for example, you can see at NSF, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics does a survey of earned doctorates every year. They classify what we consider science and engineering and what is outside that.  

Generally, education is considered outside that. But you might check that and if it's not, again, check the FAQs page to see if we've answered a question specifically about that. If not, send it in as an inquiry or I'll try to put up a question on the FAQs to try to get a final answer for you. But generally, we're looking at Ph.D. programs or joint Ph.D., M.D. programs.  

JOSEPH HEAPS: Just two quick thoughts. First, many of the questions that Greg answered today really benefit from something Greg said earlier regarding reaching out to your office of sponsored programs immediately. Working through these issues with the university is going to make the application so important. Those are the kinds of things our students and the university applicants can work through those sooner than later.  

Second, if there are individuals on this webinar who are interested in assisting Greg and me with the reviewing process, we're interested in hearing from folks interested in being peer reviewers.  

GREGORY DUTTON: Thanks. That's a good point to make. I see another couple of comments in the Q and A.  

“Following up about appropriated funds, is there a chance that fellows will only be funded for a single year?” No, the money in terms of the availability of money from NIJ, the money is up front from fiscal year 2023 funds, even if you have a project that goes over three years, the money from NIJ is from this year. So if you're awarded a grant, it is not going to suddenly become cut off if there are budget issues in the government in later years.  

You will be fully funded for your project. So no worries about that.  

“How much do reviewers value number of previous research publications an applicant has?”  I don't know if I can speak to this, but they would certainly see value in previous publication as an indication of future productivity. But they also certainly realize that not everyone in grad school is going to have publications already and it certainly varies by field. In some fields it is common for students to be publishing early and in others, not until after they've defended. They know there's variation. “How long does the project narrative need to be?”  We have a 12-page limit. Look at the solicitation for all of the requirements there.  

“Because funding including salary ends with the defense, if a student ends in February will the funds end in February or continue to the end of the semester?” If they defend in February, it would need to end in February.  

 “Can a fellow choose to do a summer internship and continue their research during the school year?” You can, look at the FAQs, there are also questions about leaves of absence. If you have something professionally or personally that makes you not be able to be working on your dissertation project, you can certainly let us know if the fellowship funding should be suspended for a period of time. We can work with you on that.  

All right. Thank you all. I think we're going to finally end it there. I look forward to seeing all of your great and interesting applications. Thank you.  

STACY LEE: Thank you for joining today's webinar. This will end today's presentation.  

Date Published: March 9, 2023