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Production of Criminological Experiments

NCJ Number
Evaluation Review Volume: 27 Issue: 3 Dated: June 2003 Pages: 316-335
Date Published
June 2003
20 pages

This article examines the production of crime and justice field experiments funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) during the 1990's.


The National Institute of Justice is the principal research agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. This study collected data on NIJ-funded crime and justice field experiments during the 10-year period from 1991 through 2000. Information for this study was obtained from the grant management information system of NIJ. The data obtained permitted a determination of the prevalence of support for experimental research designs and other nonexperimental designs, as well as the characteristics of the funded experiments. The latter data were used to assess whether some of the patterns identified in previous research also occurred in NIJ-supported research. The data encompassed every grant award made by the NIJ from October 1, 1990, to September 20, 2000. During this period, NIJ made 2,418 awards worth $671 million ($33 million in 1991 and $126 million in 2000). Since not all of these awards supported criminological research, this study used the project rather than the award as the unit of analysis. This narrowed the focus to 990 projects totaling $225 million. A total of 21 of the projects used experimental methodologies, which used the random assignment of cases to alternative treatments; these awards involved $7 million. The substantive issues addressed were concentrated in two areas: treatments or sanctions for illegal drug use (n=8) and treatments or sanctions for domestic violence (n=7). There were two studies on policing practices, two on pretrial release decisionmaking, and two on parole outcomes. The findings suggest that research funds are available, criminologists are capable of designing experiments, and at least some operation agencies are willing to implement field experiments, but these conditions in themselves are not sufficient to sustain or enhance the production of criminological experiments. Promising trends are renewed attention to the value of more rigorous research and evaluation designs and NIJ's recent explicit encouragement of the use of experimental designs in its funded projects. 7 notes and 53 references

Date Published: June 1, 2003