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Webinar Transcript: NIJ FY 2024 Field-Initiated Action Research Partnerships Webinar

NIJ hosed a webinar to provide an overview of the "NIJ FY 2024 Field-Initiated Action Research Partnerships" solicitation, in which NIJ seeks proposals designed to build research partnerships that are led by and meet the needs and missions of local criminal justice and service provider entities — including police, corrections, courts, victim services, and forensic organizations — and the communities they serve. Partnerships should focus on applying a data-driven, problem-solving approach to challenges prioritized by agency partners; identifying actionable and measurable responses; implementing changes; and employing an action research evaluation approach to assessing their impact that emphasizes scientific rigor, meaningful stakeholder engagement, ongoing improvement, and long-term sustainability.


STACY LEE: Thanks for joining us today for the Fiscal Year 2024 Field Initiated Action Research Partnerships Solicitation Webinar. It is my pleasure to introduce Dr. Mark Greene, Director of the Office of Technology and Standards at the National Institute of Justice.

DR. MARK GREENE: Thanks, Stacy. I will be leading the webinar today. Glad everybody was able to join. First thing I want to do is I want to go over the content of the webinar today. 

So, today's webinar, we'll start with some introductory remarks by NIJ Director Nancy La Vigne. Following Dr. La Vigne's remarks, we'll talk about the vision statement for this solicitation, talk about the goal and what the partnership should accomplish. We'll talk about expected deliverables. Also, something that is new and unique to this particular solicitation is something called the Statement of Institutional Partnership. And following that, we'll talk about the submission and the review process, support and resources if you have questions following this webinar, and then we'll have a Q and A period at the end. One thing I do want to emphasize, everything that is in this webinar today presented in slides will be available online at NIJ's website, in addition to a transcript of today's webinar. Everything that's in the slides as well can be found in the solicitation and will be presented here perhaps in a more user-friendly and digestible way for you. So I will begin talking about the solicitation, but first I would like to introduce Nancy La Vigne, NIJ Director for some introductory remarks.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Thank you, Mark. And greetings everyone. I’m excited to see such a robust turnout for this webinar. It's very important to us that we communicate the details around new solicitations that have not been introduced before, as this field-initiated action research (FIAR) solicitation is indeed new. The FIAR solicitation, as we call it, though, does have its history in similar requests for research proposals that NIJ has released over the course of many years. 

Some of you may know that I used to work at NIJ before I returned to become NIJ's Director two years ago. It was many years ago. And back then, we had something called the Locally-Initiated Research Partnership, or LIRP, solicitation. That was to encourage research partnerships with practitioner entities. Back then, it was primarily police and then I think they added corrections. 

Since then, those types of opportunities have come and gone over the years. There was the Research Practitioner Partnership, that was released 15 years ago or more. I'm looking at the history of NIJ and realizing that we keep trying to do different things to accomplish the same or similar goals. The real goal of this solicitation and the others like it is to establish a stronger partnership between the researcher and the entity that they're partnered with. And in this case, we want a partnership whereby the issue, or challenge, or problem, or topic to be studied bubbles up from that partner entity rather than the researcher saying, “Oh, here's an opportunity for funding. Let me go and knock on the doors of the dozen chiefs that I have the best relationships with” and then saying, “Hey, how would you like it if we did a body camera study?” So those opportunities exist. They can happen through any number of NIJ solicitations, depending on the topic. But this is different because it spans a wide array of topics and content. What we're looking for here is the demonstrated partnership at the beginning where the researcher comes together with the practitioner, or policymaker, service provider, or other entity, and they co-create the contours and understanding of the problem to be addressed. It's very different from what we usually ask of applicants when they submit their proposal. We're not asking for soup to nuts delineation of the exact data that will be collected and then the methodologies employed and so forth. We're seeking proposals that demonstrate the partnership is already in place, and that shows the plans for the process that will create for a very close, tight-knit collaboration in pursuit of answers to the research questions that are agreed upon at the time of proposal. Mark will get into more details about this, but I'm starting here because I want to explain a little bit more why we think this is important, to see this type of research in the field. 

That relates to our Evidence to Action Initiative. It's one of our key priorities at NIJ. That is not just to do a better job translating research findings and summarizing them from journal articles into more plain language accessible information for the field, but to really build a body of evidence and apply that evidence. That’s what's known as implementation science — to ensure that the research knowledge that is generated through NIJ investments, and really any kind of research knowledge, is actually known, and the people who can best use it to make changes are inspired to make those changes as a result of that evidence, and that they actually do make those changes. The implementation science field is very robust. You may be aware that we have a partner solicitation on implementation science that is somewhat related to this, and that's to test different methods to get from evidence to action. In the background research we did for that, we learned that one of the key methods is having a strong partnership at the beginning. It's building capacity for this kind of work. So, that's the goal of this solicitation, is to tackle a certain research problem or issue or topic, but also to create capacity and ideally, a partnership that would sustain long after the grant period is over. 

That's probably more than you needed to hear. Mark will be covering some of this later. I'm going to stay on for the Q and A period. I think it's time to turn it back to Mark again. And before I do, I just want to acknowledge all the people who are a part of making this webinar a success. And certainly Stacy Lee, who you heard from at the beginning, and then Daryl on our team who's in the background supporting us. And then you'll probably be hearing from Nancy Merritt, who's going to help us navigate all the Q and A that will come in at the end. So thanks to all the team and thanks to you for joining.

DR. MARK GREENE: Excellent. Thank you, Nancy. She just took the words right out of my mouth. I think we could move right onto the Q and A. I'm joined by my colleague Nancy Merritt, who will be manning the Q and A. If you do have questions about the solicitation at any point, go ahead and type your question into the Q and A. We'll be monitoring that and we'll get to that later on in the webinar.   

I'll go ahead and get started and just sort of build on what Director La Vigne described. The vision statement for this solicitation really goes back to this idea of the partnership. We're really looking for strong partnerships, and that partnerships between the researcher and justice agency or justice-related service provider can be the catalyst to embrace the use of data and evidence. And we think that the use of data and evidence really allows those agencies to transform into evidence-based organizations, that I think it's that transformational power of the partnership that we're really looking for here. 

So, what is our goal? Our goal with the solicitation and with all the subsequent grant awards that we hope to award is to support the research partnerships, really that's focusing on what are the missions of the partner entities. As Nancy described, really the problems and the challenges bubbling up from them, rather than a research team that comes in and says, “Hey, we need to study this. Let's go find the agency that I have a good relationship with and just do our academic work.” We're really looking for that process that allows the researcher and the agency to build that partnership around trying to solve problems. We envision the primary grantee and the applicants to be the research entities, universities, nonprofit research organizations, to be the primary grantees. And the partner entities, this is broad. As Nancy said, we have some efforts in NIJ's history where we really focused on law enforcement and policing, broaden that a little bit to corrections. But here, we're casting a very wide net: police agencies, law enforcement agencies, corrections, institutional corrections, community corrections, courts agencies, courts, victim services organizations, forensics science service providers, and community safety and adult and juvenile justice entities among other organizations within the criminal justice ecosystem. Specific eligibility requirements for applicants are on page four of the solicitations. You can review those and get back to us with questions if you have questions about that. 

So, partnerships should accomplish the following and within the solicitation and repeated here, just some organizing principles kind of bulleted out here that we're really looking for the partnership to really focus on data, to focus on problem solving, to focus on generating that evidence, and to do it focused on challenges that are prioritized by the practitioner agencies. We really want the partnerships to identify actionable and measurable responses. We need this to be reasonable and achievable. We're focusing on action research. It's in the title of the solicitation. We think that that's a really valuable approach. One of the things we hear from, the practitioners repeatedly over the years at meetings and conferences, is the research takes too long or, "Man, I really could have used this result three years ago." So we're really thinking that action research is a way to really bring science and evidence into practice as quickly and reasonably as possible, to be able to measure the impact.

As Nancy mentioned, implementation's so important here. We want to be able to implement the results to see changes and to be able to measure that impact. 

So, the following few slides, really the meat of the solicitation, the slides themselves, kind of text-heavy, so I'm not going to go word for word here, but they're here. You can review them when they're put on the NIJ's website. I just want to highlight a few things from these sort of principles that we're looking for really, again, focusing on specific and pressing challenges experience by the practitioner entity. Really think local, think what's going on there, what are they having challenges with, and how, as a researcher, can we help them by building that partnership. We really want to hear from the applicants about how you're already collaborating with the practitioner entities, thinking about that topic, trying to figure out, what has been done to solve this problem before. How have you kind of initially analyzed the problem? We also want to hear about, again, that sort of how are you going to collaborate together? How are you going to work together? Build a partnership so that you can identify the problem, you can pilot it, you can measure that. What resources are you going to use for that? Who are the stakeholders? And how are you going to address this problem? You don't have to have everything worked out at the point of submitting that application, but we really want to hear what your plan is. 

So as Nancy said, you don't have to have everything delineated right at the beginning, but we really want to hear about what your plan is, what your process is going to be to work together. And I think also too, as you guys, attendees here, and folks interested in applying, I'm hoping that, through this webinar and reading the solicitation, there's a very practical sort of practicality about this approach here. So we really encourage applicants to really ask some pragmatic questions to think about, how a project is going to be viable? How are you going to adapt? What could derail things? And as you kind of think through those questions, I think it really helps the process in terms of understanding, what will be effective? How can this partnership be most effective? Really thinking about how could things go wrong? And then think about how we can address that, because I think, as Nancy said, we're going to mention in a couple of slides here, it's that long-term sustainability that we're looking for as a big part of this, right? How is this partnership going to be durable over time? So often, a study is done in an agency, the money is there, you do the work, and then, the grant is over, and then what happens? Perhaps nothing. We're really trying to cultivate that long-term durable partnership. 

One of the things we encourage also in the applications, and I won't go through all of these points here, you can look at them later, is really to provide a logic model. Really give us a map for how you're going to approach this partnership, whether it's a map, or a graph, or something, some visual model that sort of has all of the aspects of the project and the partnership will be really useful, I think, so that everybody is going to be on the same page, on the same sheet of music. Logic model can be very, very helpful when doing something like this. 

So, we're looking again at actionable and measurable responses, very important here. I think sort of the key takeaway here is maybe the concept of meeting agencies where they are, or service providers where they are. Think about what they're already doing, what resources they have. Do they have researchers in house? Are they collecting data, storing data, using data? Do they have analysts already there? What are the resources that they already have and use? That gives you a point of reference to build on that. You can use those resources. And I think that's where you get the agency buy-in. You can build on that. You can add some capabilities. And then I think it really helps with that long-term sustainability, that if the agencies already have some capability, you're building on that capability, sort of like going out—many sort of analogies we could use—go into the tool shed. Let's see what tools are in the tool shed. Let's see what we can do with those tools. Go in the kitchen, see what sort of pots and pans we've got, see what we can make with that and then build a little bit on that. Proposals that might go way too far. We've got to have all of these different resources, staffing and technology that an agency may not have. It may be difficult in terms of long-term sustainability to do that, so I think it would help with the buy-in. 

So, just to go back to the action research approach, we think that this is a very good approach in terms of being able to really build a plan, execute some good science, and getting the results in the form of evidence that can be put into action as quickly as reasonably as possible. A project can be scientifically rigorous without being overly complicated, so I think that's an important part of it. And I think if you kind of go down through some of these areas for emphasis in the action research approach, this timely ongoing data feedback loop to inform the practitioner agency about how they're doing, what to do, I think can be so crucial and important, because they're involved and they can see the results of the activity, not immediately, but very soon. And they can see the value. When there's value there, the light bulb goes off, right? And that helps that long-term sustainability and see why research and evidence-based approaches can be very important and can help the operation, whether it's policing, whether it's corrections, courts, forensic science. If you see that change, that improvement, by implementing what we've done and we've done it together, then I think you'd see the light bulb go off and I think we have a chance for long term sustainability for this partnership. 

And again, emphasizing this here, again, just the long-term sustainable implementation is something that we're really focusing on. Nancy touched on this a little bit in her remarks, thinking about how, not only are we going to implement the good science with the partner agencies, but how are you going to communicate that? And I think that's what we're looking for too. We're looking for new and creative ways to disseminate the results that might be useful for other agencies and other researchers to build on these partnerships. So think about your dissemination plan, think about how you're going to tell your colleague, tell other practitioner agencies. I think that's really, really important how you're going to communicate this. And all of this is very practical. So, really trying to get out in front of practitioner audiences, I think very important. 

So, some expected deliverables. For those of you attending today who are already grantees, are familiar with federal grants. We have sort of standard grant reporting requirements of course, semi-annual progress reports, financial reports. We expect of course a final research report. We also have a requirement here called a research impact brief. And this is really going to be a public facing research summary that highlights, I think, the actionable sort of results and one of the implications for policy and practice. The audience for this really our, policymakers, practitioners, researchers, but also the general interested public as well. I think this is designed to be a very accessible brief. Of course, if you create datasets, all the associated files, any documentation that goes in that, all of our datasets are typically archived on NACJD. That will be required as well. And of course, we love to see scholarly products. Something like this, even though it might be as simple and straightforward in terms of maybe the problem you're trying to solve. The process itself can be very illuminating and certainly worthy of publication and peer-reviewed journals. We love to see scholarly products. Okay. 

So, we'll talk about some of the key application submission requirements, and there's one I have highlighted down here I'll touch on in the next couple of slides. So we do have a number of things listed in the solicitation. Some of them are elements we consider Basic Minimum Requirements. You need to provide these to us or else the application won't go forward for consideration. There're other things that are required, but not necessarily required at the time of application submission. Those things that are in fact required are standard federal SF-424 and our SF-LLL. Those are done in Grants.gov. Your grant administrators should be familiar with these types of forms. Proposal Narrative, of course, we need to hear what good work you're proposing to do, the form of a narrative. So we'll need that. We of course need a Budget as well. It's a Web-Based Form that we use in a system called JustGrants, which you can enter in budget details and budget narrative. Of course, we need to know who's working on the project. So we'll need CVs or resumes for key personnel. And for this solicitation, we do require something called a Statement of Institutional Partnership. We'll talk about that in just a moment. Some of the additional requirements that are there, tools and instruments you're using, questionnaires, any other sort of, tables or charts or graph or evidence maps, your data archiving plan, project management plan, and timelines, other things that we require human subjects and privacy, requirements, there's a lot of forms that you need to fill out there. If you're working with human subjects that has to go to IRB, those are things that can be addressed sort of later on. The more you can address them upfront, great, but those are not necessarily things that would take you out of contention. 

The Statement of Institutional Partnership, what is that? Well, it probably has the look and feel of a Memorandum of Understanding or a Memorandum of Agreement, an MOU or an MOA, but it really is a written statement that captures the nature of the partnership. Who's involved? What they're going to be doing? What are your goals? What are your roles? How are you going to govern sort of the partnership? And what are the principles that are going to guide your work together? What data are you going to collect? How are you going to do it? How are you going to implement it? How are you going to sort of refine it and continually update your process? And then also a statement that talks to the data that will be collected. Since we do have some requirements around data collected and data archiving, we'll need to have some acknowledgement of your data archiving plan in that as well. We would prefer that the Statement of Institutional Partnership would be submitted as a final signed document. And we will give special consideration in our award decisions for any applications that do have that. But you can submit a draft version of that at the time of application and finalize that within 45 days of the grant award, acceptance of the grant award if you should receive a grant award. However, that draft version that does come to us and at the time of application still needs to be signed by both the principal investigator or principal investigators at the research institution, the applicant, and the partnership leader at the local agency. It can be a provisional statement. That's okay. But we do need to have that with acknowledgement in writing and signatures, that the partnership is in the works. 

Some additional notes just for this one. We do expect for substantive effort by the non-research partners, the practitioner agencies. And so applicants should include some estimated cost in the budget to cover those expenses. Those expenses might be associated with the data collection or implementation that those partners may incur in terms of expenses. So, we do encourage some estimated costs there. Also, applicants should include in their budget some funds to travel to a convening or a symposium that we plan to hold in Washington sometime in year two. We'd really love to have all of the grantees get together about two years in to present their progress on their award activities. We think that would be a really meaningful and interesting symposium to have. So, please do include some travel to that event to be scheduled at some point in the future. 

We do have a two-step application submission process. First step is in Grants.gov. We really only need those two basic forms, the SF-424 and the SF-LLL. The deadline for that one is June 17th, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. So please get into Grants.gov early and often. Do not wait till the last minute. We have notes in the solicitation about this. If there are technical difficulties, try to avoid that, so get in to that early and often. And then from there, you have an additional two weeks to submit the full application in JustGrants.gov. And that is due by July 1st at 8:59 p.m. Eastern Time. 

There are some contact information for support. We do have an OJP Response Center. The phone and email is listed there. Also listed in the solicitation. Grants.gov also has support phone and email. And JustGrants system, our system here at DOJ, has phone and email support if you have any problems with those. So the Grants.gov and JustGrants are really more if you have technical problems with the system. The OJP Response Center is if you have questions about the substance of the solicitation, eligibility questions, or something like that. So those are who you would contact for those issues. 

Our Application Review process, we of course start with a Basic Minimum Review, or BMR, determination, and making sure that every application received by us has all those elements that we went over earlier. We then do an External Peer Review. We use technical or scientific researchers, as well as practitioners. We try to do 50/50 both because our work is very applied. We need both views. We need both the practitioner view and we also need the researcher view. We find value in both of those. We also do Internal Review. We look at all the applications as well. The science staff looks at that here at NIJ, at NIJ leadership, sometimes other federal subject matter experts at our sister agencies at OJP, some further in the field in DOJ and sometimes outside of DOJ. If we do have questions that a subject matter expert at one of our federal agency counterparts could answer. All funding decisions are at NIJ, made at the discretion of the NIJ Director. And included here is a link to a dear colleague letter that gives some discussion about what makes a good application, little discussion from Nancy on that topic. 

Peer Review, just going to give you guys a sort of a sense of how the different aspects of the applications will be or the program narrative and budget will be looked at. This is in the solicitation sort of near the end, maybe two-thirds, three-quarters of the way through. This one is a pretty even waiting among the categories. Oftentimes if you look at any NIJ solicitations, you may see heavy emphasis on Project Design and Implementation, if that's sort of the nature of that type of solicitation, that research we're looking for. Other times, we more heavily weight Capabilities and Competencies, where we're looking for a center type of activity where we're trying to build out long-term work over a certain sort of subject matter area. This one's pretty evenly split I think among the different categories. So, Statement of the Problem, Project Design and Implementation, Capabilities and Competencies, the potential impact, and the small amount for Budget as well. So make sure you hit all those elements in your applications. 

And we have FAQ. Sorry about the Q&A, but we do have an FAQ that we maintain in our website. As questions come in to our OJP Response Center, we try to get answers back out in a timely way to the questers of that information, then we do put that out on our website so that everybody can have the advantage of seeing those questions. So these are the type of issues: the award amount, period of performance. Some of the other issues we get questions about. We do have some resources, of course. The OJP Funding Resource Center, the DOJ Grants Financial Guide, if you have questions about the budget and allowability of costs, things like that. We do have an FAQ on NIJ funding, which I just mentioned, so you can refer to those. And now we are to the question and answer period. And we can open that up. I see a few questions coming through the Q&A, but I would invite Nancy Merritt, my colleague, to maybe run through some of the questions and we can try to answer them. And I did receive a couple of emails from folks prior to the webinar that we'll try to get to as well.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. I can start with the first question, Mark. That is, “Do community partnership have to be just the services or could it be organizations that work with criminalized populations, like people experiencing homelessness, et cetera?”

DR. MARK GREENE: It's a great question. I received a similar question by email. And so I think the question is, “Do the partners need to be essentially local government agencies or could they be a non-profit, but non-government organizations working with affected populations?”  

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: There are actually two questions in there, right? It can certainly be a nonprofit partner. It doesn't need to be a governmental entity, so a victim service provider will be a good example of a nonprofit. The other question, though, was kind of related, but different, right? It was around the homeless population, which tends to have heavy involvement in the criminal justice system. And that's fine, as long as the overall topic has to do with public safety or some kind of CJ type outcome. It could be anything from fear of crime, to reducing jail populations, to diverting people from arrest. But doing it strictly as an unhoused population study without that nexus to issues of public safety would probably not be responsive given NIJ's mission of focusing on issues of safety and justice.

DR. MARK GREENE: Right. I think that's great answer. So the partners can be nonprofits. I think we there are a couple of two or three questions that are a similar vein, so hopefully that clarifies that point.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Yes. Thank you, both. The next question is, “A research organization plans to partner with a prevention services provider that is nonprofit community-based agency serving girls who are at risk of justice involvement or are justice involved. This agency receives funding from the state. DJJ provides services and has other funding resources as well. Is this an eligible partnership under the terms of the RFP? Meaning, could this agency we partner with be a service provider rather than a direct law enforcement or probation system?

DR. MARK GREENE: Yes. I think the answer is yes to that one.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: It's kind of the same as the previous answer.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: It does not need to be a justice entity to be a suitable partner for us.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Next, “Is there an expectation as to how the funding would be split between the researcher and the agency? I recall in some past solicitations that involves partnership building, that there were expectations built in as in at least 20% of the funds should go to the research partner or two-thirds of the funds should go to the agency.”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: I was looking that up, Mark. I don't think we ended up putting any language solicitation about that, did we?

DR. MARK GREENE: No. We didn't. We don't have like a hard number, has to be 20% or it should be at least this. We do indicate though that we expected that the partner entities will be doing some work, so budget should reflect that. But we don't have a hard number.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yeah. I mean, there's so many different configurations of partnerships. It could be that the agency or entity has the human resource capacity, but not the analytic capacity. So that there would be more resources going to the research partner and less to the partner entity. So there's just so many different ways that this could play out that we don't want to be too prescriptive.

DR. MARK GREENE: Right, right.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Another participant asked whether this includes international work or environmental crime.

DR. MARK GREENE: So, I think our focus is U.S. criminal justice system. I think that there would have to be a clear nexus to the U.S. criminal justice system. I wouldn't want to just off the cuff say, international is out, but I think that there definitely has to be a clear nexus to what's going on here in the U.S.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Right. It would have to be, at a minimum, comparative in nature or…


DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: …because NIJ's authorizing language allows international engagement involvement as long as that those activities and those investments relate back to our primary mission, which is promoting safety and justice here in the U.S.

DR. MARK GREENE: Yes. Okay. Nancy Merritt, what's the next question?

DR. NANCY MERRITT: The next question is, “The RFP refers to building capacity in partner entities, is this specifically about capacity to collect, analyze, or use data or is it broader relatedly? Can the research question focus on how the partner uses data? As in, can it be more of a methodological question?”

DR. MARK GREENE: So, I would say, and Nancy La Vigne, you can sort of jump in to correct me here. But I would say it's not just about how an agency is using data. It's not sort of a, “I'm analyzing how they're doing it,” but it's really building a sustainable partnership with the researchers providing value to the practitioner entity to, essentially help them build the house, so that they can continue doing that work. We want to see that researcher-practitioner partnership sustained through time.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Beyond the period of funding, right? Which is really

 a challenge. And as those of you who are familiar with problem-oriented policing model, that's one form of an action research model. But what we're thinking we will be doing with this solicitation is seeding problem solving partnerships around a specific-agreed upon issue or problem. Then to have that partnership play out through a full-on scanning, analysis, response, and assessment process – an action research type model – summarizing findings, sharing the findings with relevant stakeholders in the field. But along the way, to identify and build capacity so that even after the grant is over, there's this foundation from which to engage in future problem-solving partnerships. And they may be a more formal partnerships with the same entity, or it may be that that nonresearcher entity now has more capacity to do that work internally, or it's probably a combination of the two.

DR. MARK GREENE: Yeah. And I think in the process of building that plan for the partnership, I mean, I think it's important to understand how the partner is using the data but I think it needs to go beyond just that.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: The next one involves, “My research team is partnering with sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) programs nationwide to expand a research registry we recently developed. The goal of the registry is to support recruitment for studies testing evidence-based mental health interventions for sexual assault survivors. We intend to share study results with same programs and to support implementation of efficacious treatment with a proposal for infrastructure support for this registry be relevant to this award mechanism.”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: That's a lot to digest. It sounds tenuous to me because supporting a registry is not really supporting the research process and I didn't hear anything about measuring how the registry is used and what the outcomes in registry use would be. But I don't want to say a hard no because at the end of the day, you should read the solicitation to figure out whether you align with it.

DR. MARK GREENE: Yeah. I'm reading it the same way. Go ahead, Nancy Merritt, next one.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “Do the partnerships need to be newly established or can long-standing relationships be leveraged here?”

DR. MARK GREENE: I think it can be both. I think it can be newly established or it can build on pre-existing relationships. I don't think we're prescriptive either way, so long as it's effective.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Yeah. Okay. And then “Is there a specific budget category you'd like non-research partners to be budgeted under?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: It's usually the consultant or subcontract line, right, Mark?

DR. MARK GREENE: Yeah. It's typically that, it's either subcontract, subaward, and consultant, or an OVC-type thing, yes.


DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. And then, “Are there requirements or restrictions on an applicant's nationality?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Not the applicant. 

DR. MARK GREENE: Foreign organizations are not eligible. However, we do recognize that many folks working at universities are not originally from the U.S., we love that, but the institutions themselves must be domicile here in the U.S.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “I'm associated with a nonprofit that assists law enforcement with various disciplines. We also have a research site associated with the organization. I am wondering if we can apply or qualify for grants as a nonprofit or law enforcement organization.”

DR. MARK GREENE: That looks to me like an eligibility question as I'm sort of scanning through this…

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Right. I'll just put eligibility in the chat. It's pretty expansive, but if you read the solicitation, you'll see that we're thinking that the prime applicant is a research entity. Now, we recognize that research entities can be embedded in state governments and city governments and all manner of this list that I just posted in the chat, including nonprofits and including for-profit organizations. So it's less about which entity you are because, if you can see, all of them apply and more of what function you would be playing in the partnership. Is that helpful? Anything to add, Mark?

DR. MARK GREENE: Yeah. As I'm sort of digesting that, I'm not seeing anything that flags from just a, technically, eligible, but I'm thinking about sort of how we're trying to build this. I think some organizations make more sense than others as applicants. Put it that way.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Great. “Do you anticipate that this grant mechanism will be a regular one or a recurring one?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Let's see how it goes this year and let's see what our budget looks like.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Then, “Is the expectation that the practitioner is the sole entity implementing changes?” This person is thinking of organizations who may have staff who provides services and technical assistance support in implementation efforts.

DR. MARK GREENE: Well, again, we tried to craft this in a way that was flexible and inclusive of many different configurations. So, obviously, I think the practitioner is going to be very important in implementing changes but I don't necessarily want to say that I know how every organization is organized and who's working on what. So not entirely sure how to not fully commit to that answer. So it depends. It depends, I guess.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “The length of time for this grant is three years, correct?”


DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “Would a partnership between a police oversight commission and a police department be eligible?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yeah. I would think so. They have research capacity and the oversight entity. Many do. Not all. The bigger ones.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Then the follow-up question is somewhat similar but it may have a distinction. “Can a state corrections agency with a research department be both the researcher and the partner entity?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: I don't think we have anything that says no, but that's not in the spirit of this solicitation.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “My nonprofit agency hopes to partner with a university to investigate the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries among survivors of domestic violence using hospital records. Establishing the prevalence of the issue would allow us to educate law enforcement and partners to work with survivors on appropriate accommodations, referral to medical care, et cetera. Would a health topic like this that has implications on how justice systems interact with victims qualify?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yes, it would.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Great. “There is language in the solicitation regarding the importance of using random assignment or strong quasi-experimental design when evaluating the impact of policies and practices that emerge from these partnerships. Given that it may not be clear at this point in the partnership what types of interventions make sense, can you talk a little about how to address this in the application? In other words, is it okay to talk broadly about a commitment to utilizing strong study designs?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think it is okay. We absolutely understand that there's no way you would know what your design would look like at this juncture. But you might have done enough of a scan of the problem, let's say it's carjacking, right, that you know the general volume and would have a sense of the—regardless of the intervention—what the numbers look like and what types of methodologies would be possible given that. So rather than just saying we'll develop the most rigorous methodology, I would advise that you go a little bit further and try to anticipate what methodology would be likely given your understanding of the nature and prevalence of the problem under study.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “As a clarifying question, Mark was discussing there's a point about an initial analysis. Does that need to be done before the application is submitted?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: A strong application, yes, will show some understanding of the problem to be addressed, right, Mark?

DR. MARK GREENE: Yes. So the actual line in the solicitation is the applicant should describe how the partners have already collaborated to identify the specific topic, challenge, or crime problem that will be the focus of the partnership and conduct the data-driven scan and initial analysis of the problem. What that initial analysis necessarily looks like is you leave it open, but we would expect some of that in the application, yes.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “As a grant-funded researcher, I wouldn't overpromise sustainability of a partnership. A lot of partnerships really come from efforts to stay connected, involved, and engaged. Further, action research is intended to be cyclical and often uncovers new problems or challenges that you didn't intend from the beginning. I just wouldn't want to under or overpromise on the sustainability piece between researcher partners. Any recommendations for what you are looking for on this?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Okay. I get it. And, boy, we had a lot of fun writing this one. We tried to shoehorn a lot of big goals in here. And, really, what we mean by sustainability is thinking creatively as you go about how your activities might support similar partnerships and inquiries in the future. So I'm just making this up, but let's say you're teamed up with a service provider around domestic violence and you worked to develop a database that better tracks survivors that are being served, as well as people who were referred but never took up the service, or something like that. So you develop that for the purpose of answering the posed research question, but then that will, ideally, still exist and continue to be populated to help support other research inquiries in the future. And that is one example, so don't take that as the only one. I'm just making this up as I go.

DR. MARK GREENE: Yeah. And I think just to build on that, Nancy, I think we do, in the solicitation and in the webinar, talk about, asking those very pragmatic questions about what could go wrong, what could derail it. And I think we, as reasonable people, understand that we are assessing applications that describe partnerships, and there is not a hundred percent guarantee that everything we receive is going to be successful, from a sustainability perspective. But we certainly want that to be one of those sort of like guiding principles, and for you guys to be thinking about that because, at some point, the grant money is going to be over and we want to see these partnerships, you know, grow or, at least, sustain. And, I think that's what we're looking for. We're looking for that as a guiding principle.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. And related to that. “Can you talk about partnerships which has been successful in past solicitations like this one? I'm a small county probation department looking to partner with a California public university in the same county.”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: So, yeah, Mark, I don't know. There's a lot of different types of successful partnerships, but if you're right now seeking a research partner, I would ask them some questions around why they'd be interested in partnering, their experience with action research, and their philosophy behind sharing findings as they go. Just having a researcher from a local university doesn't mean they're necessarily trained or have the disposition to be the kind of research partner that I think you would need to be both a successful applicant and have a really strong productive partnership.

DR. MARK GREENE: Nancy, what I love about this question? That this is the practitioner looking to partner with the university.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yes. I know. That's exactly what we wanted.

DR. MARK GREENE: Not the other way around.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yes. I love it.

DR. MARK GREENE: I think this is the perfect question. I don't have a template that I can provide, but I love the spirit of this question. I really do. So I think do your due diligence.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: And there might be other people on this call who might be interested in partnering with you. I think we have a lot researchers on here who might be still trying to figure out who their partner is. So we might encourage some offline connections.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Great. And the next question is somewhat similar to what's asked but I'm going to ask it anyway. “Can the partner organizations be medical settings with research questions focused on the impact of new protocols around forensic examinations or mandatory reporting, referrals to services for victims of crime?"

DR. MARK GREENE: So long as it connects to our overall mission of crime and justice, I think that probably could work, yeah.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: And that the protocols are developed through a data-driven process and that there's an assessment or an evaluation component to it, right? So it's not just, “Oh, let's field some new protocols,” but, making sure that there's a research and evaluation component to the proposal.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Great. And I saw some other questions related to this. “Could you please clarify the period of performance? I think I just heard three years but the solicitation states five years.”

DR. MARK GREENE: I will clarify this one. On page 14 of the solicitation, it does say the period of performance is up to 60 months, but that's generally all of NIJ's grant awards. But we are I think certainly looking for results much sooner than five years from now.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Great. Thank you. And this is a big question. “Can you clarify what a research agency is?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: No. For the purposes of this one, since I shared the eligibility earlier and it really is almost everyone. It's more “Is that prime applicant…do they have the capacity to serve as a research partner?” Mark, would you add to that at all?

DR. MARK GREENE: I think that's in terms of talking about the capabilities and competencies of the research partner. Folks who are primarily involved in the business of doing science and research. Typically, we find these folks at universities and nonprofit research organizations.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. And then this kind feeds off of that, in that the participant asked, “Our small business provides outpatient therapy and we are licensed clinical social workers and a doctorate in psychology and know how to do research. However, that is not our primary focus. We are planning to partner with the local support services unit to support them. Would we qualify?”

DR. MARK GREENE: Qualify, yeah. I think, in terms of just the question of would you be eligible to qualify, yeah. I think that fits within, the general scope. 

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “When you say the projects meets the needs and missions of local justice and service provider entities and the communities they serve to strengthen the response to the challenges of safety and justice, would a project focused on school and workplace responses to sexual misconduct and discrimination fall into this scope and be competitive? We believe it would, but asking clarification, because much of the language in the solicitation focuses on criminal justice-related systems.”

DR. MARK GREENE: I think possibly. It, again, has to tie to sort of our mission addressing problems of crime, injustice in the U.S. So I think you would need to…

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yeah. It's got to have a tie.

DR. MARK GREENE: It's got to have a tie. That's right.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “In addition to the partner statement, would we also need a letter of support from the partner?”

DR. MARK GREENE: Well, you need to have a statement of institutional partnership. That's a basic minimum requirement. Like I said during the webinar, we're kind of have the look and feel of a memorandum of understanding or a memorandum of agreement, something like that. I mean, you certainly could have letters of support from other folks, agencies, but I think you do need to have that sort of document that's co-signed by the researcher and the practitioner partners. Talking about roles and responsibilities of what the partnership is going to look like.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “Without going into details, would a collaboration between law enforcement and an academic institution working on the built environment features be appropriate for this solicitation?”

DR. MARK GREENE: As long as there's a clear tie to crime and justice, I think that it could, yes.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. “Action research has various interpretations depending upon the context. Could you tell us specifically what action research NIJ is looking for?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: We put a a link to a webpage on NIJ's website on action research that is embedded in this solicitation. I put it in the Q&A and now I'm opening up the chat and putting it in the chat.

DR. MARK GREENE: And that link can be found at the bottom of page eight of the solicitation. You can read a little more about that.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Great. Thank you. “We are a researcher and a public defense agency currently partnering on evaluating the process and outcome of a youth participatory action research project. Would this project be eligible for the mechanism?”

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Sure. As long as it's not already funded by a different entity. As long as it's new research.


DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: I'm sensitive to the issue of supplanting. If you already have a grant to do the work, applying for another grant to do the same work is not desired, but you can build upon that work.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: And then, “Is NIJ prioritizing early career folks as the PI for this solicitation?”

DR. MARK GREENE: That is often a priority area. 

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yes. It's in here.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. Great. Thank you. Now, Stacy, I think I've run to the end of the questions, unless there are some of the chat that I missed. I can look at that now.

DR. MARK GREENE: I do see a few questions in the chat.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Well, Stephanie just put out a call for people who might be interested in teaming up. That's the latest one. “How can one serve as a peer reviewer?” Theodora asks, “How can one review for the program?” How would we respond to that, Mark?

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: I think she means peer reviewer.

DR. MARK GREENE: If someone is interested in being a peer reviewer, they certainly can reach out to me, if that is the question. If that is not the question, then we will look at the question and put it on the FAQ.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: I think we answered them—there was one I saw earlier around a CVI initiative. Did we answer that one?

DR. MARK GREENE: Let's scroll back.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: I don't think we did, because it seemed to be somewhat redundant, but let's go back to that. It basically asked if it was possible to use a CVI as a topic. Let me go back to that.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yeah. And we didn't call that out explicitly in this solicitation because we have a CVI solicitation that was just released. That might be a better mechanism, but that doesn't rule it out as a possibility for this, in my opinion.

DR. NANCY MERRITT: Okay. And then in the chat, I'm seeing some more specific questions about applicable partnerships. So I could get into those if there's time remaining.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: We are over time, are we not?

DR. MARK GREENE: We are a few minutes over time. So, I'm happy to stay on for just a few more minutes, if we want to do maybe five more minutes. Also, in the solicitation, if you send an email to the OJP Response Center ([email protected]). It's not the Grants.gov one. It's not the JustGrants one. It's the other one. Substantive questions about the solicitation, you can send, and that'll get routed to us and we could respond. And that'll go up on the FAQ on our website, if we don't get to your question today. I apologize. We did have a lot of folks turn up for this webinar today and it's a lot of questions.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Yeah. Great turnout. Great questions. Really appreciate everybody who joined. And, of course, thanks to Mark and Nancy and Stacy and Daryl.

DR. MARK GREENE: I think we can wrap it up. And to all participants, if we didn't get to your question, please send us those questions. If you have any further questions beyond today, please, again, send those questions to us as well. We are more than happy to try to answer them all.

STACY LEE: Okay. On behalf of the National Institute of Justice, thank you for joining today's webinar. This will end our presentation.

DR. NANCY LA VIGNE: Thanks all.

DR. MARK GREENE: Thank you.

Date Published: May 7, 2024