Message from NIJ Director John H. Laub in response to the report Strengthening the National Institute of Justice by the Committee on Assessing the Research Program of the National Institute of Justice at the National Research Council.
Responding to the NRC Report
This page provides updates on our response to the results of an evaluation by The National Academy of Sciences's National Research Council that examined NIJ capacity for meeting the needs of the criminal justice field.
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On June 20, 2011 — the first day of NIJ's annual conference — we released our response to the National Academy of Sciences's National Research Council report, Strengthening the National Institute of Justice. The NRC made recommendations regarding:
- Independence and governance.
- Strengthening the science mission.
- Research infrastructure.
- Scientific integrity and transparency.
- A culture of self-assessment.
In our response to the NRC report, NIJ endorses the NRC's basic principles and, indeed, in my year as director, the Institute has already put in place new policies and procedure that address many of the NRC's recommendations.
Our response discusses how NIJ can maintain independence as a science agency while remaining within the administrative purview of DOJ's Office of Justice Programs; our efforts to change portions of NIJ's governing statute; and a new peer review processes, which — as I announced at the first day of our annual conference — will include standing panels (for example, using rolling, multi-year appointments of reviewers) to provide greater consistency across solicitations over successive years and increase transparency of the grants we award.
As you will also see in our response, NIJ is developing a multi-year strategic plan that clearly establishes research priorities and articulates a path — including the clearest possible commitment of resources, considering current budget realities — for developing an evidence-based body of knowledge that builds a more effective, efficient and fair criminal justice system. We are also working with the new NIJ subcommittee in OJP's Science Advisory Board, and we have begun negotiations to transfer management of the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program to the Bureau of Justice Assistance. We have re-established our Visiting Fellows program and are considering ways to improve it, such as short-term residencies for senior criminal-justice practitioners and policymakers and shared fellowships with other federal science agencies.
One of my goals in support of strengthening science is to create research partnerships within OJP and DOJ at large. For example, NIJ and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) have launched a joint research project, "Mining of Police Data for Statistical and Research Purposes." The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and NIJ have launched a larger and more ambitious project — a multi-site demonstration field experiment of the Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), an innovative probation initiative designed to reduce recidivism.
NIJ has already strengthened our system for archiving data generated through its research grants. Measures include improvements to the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, the partial withholding of grant funds to encourage submission of products, and new requirements for a data-archiving strategy in every application for funding.
We know that our response to the NRC report is just a beginning, and I look forward to updating the Director's Corner as we implement additional measures to meet our dual strategic mission: generating knowledge through research that is scientifically rigorous, and disseminating that knowledge in ways that are useful to policymakers and practitioners.