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NIJ Forensic Science R&D for Criminal Justice Purposes Program, Fiscal Year 2017

Mary Jo Giovacchini; Frances Scott; Danielle McLeod-Henning; Minh Nguyen

January 2017

This webinar will provide details and guidance for potential applicants to the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) Forensic Science Research and Development for Criminal Justice Purposes Program. This program seeks proposals in basic or applied research, and development to support forensic science disciplines. The purpose and goals of the forensic science R&D program will be discussed and frequently asked questions regarding this funding opportunity will be addressed. A Q&A session will conclude this webinar.

Speaking in this video:

  • Danielle McLeod​-Henning​, Physical Scientist, National Institute of Justice
  • ​​Minh Nguyen, Physical Scientist​, National Institute of Justice
  • Frances Scott, Physical Scientist​, National Institute of Justice
  • Mary Jo Giovacchini, National Criminal Justice Reference Service

This webinar will provide details and guidance for potential applicants to the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) Forensic Science Research and Development for Criminal Justice Purposes Program. This program seeks proposals in basic or applied research, and development to support forensic science disciplines. The purpose and goals of the forensic science R&D program will be discussed and frequently asked questions regarding this funding opportunity will be addressed. A Q&A session will conclude this webinar.


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today's webinar, NIJ Forensics Science R&D for Criminal Justice Purpose Program, hosted by the National Institute of Justice. At this time, I would like to introduce Danielle McLeod Henning, Physical Scientist at NIJ. And Minh Nguyen, Physical Scientist at NIJ.

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: Good afternoon. This is Danielle McLeod Henning. I'm one of the four R&D program managers here at the National Institute of Justice. As you can see on the slide that's currently up, myself and Minh will be presenting today. But we have all four R&D program managers, including Frances Scott and Greg Dutton here to be able to answer any Q and A that we have at the end of the presentation.

So moving forward, who is the National Institute of Justice? NIJ is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the US Department of Justice. Our mission is to improve knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. And within that National Institute of Justice and as you will see--excuse me, as you will see, the poll just came up, please address the poll questions if you're able to. It's at--we're asking all attendees what their familiarity is to the National Institute of Justice. If you're new to NIJ, if you are or have been a principal investigator on an NIJ award, or if you are or have been a researcher on an NIJ award. So getting back to who is the National Institute of Justice. We have--within the National Institute of Justice, we have three scientific offices and we are within the Office of Investigative & Forensic Sciences. The vision of the Office of Investigative & Forensic Sciences is justice through sound science, scientists, and forensic practice. The mission of the Forensic Science R&D Program is to advance forensic science by supporting research and innovation to protect the public and ensure justice for all.

So what is the goal of NIJ's Forensic Science R&D programs? Our goal is to support basic scientific research, research and development in broader scientific fields that are applicable to forensic science, and ongoing forensic science research towards the identification, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence for criminal justice purposes. I want to make sure to bring to your attention that the goal of this program is for methods or knowledge gained for the interpretation, analysis, and identification of physical evidence.

So just to give you a little bit of background of the Forensic Science R&D program over the past five to six years, I want to bring your attention to the graph on the left-hand side of your screens. And that will show you the Forensic Science R&D funding levels from FY 2011 to this past fiscal year 2016. As you can see, our funding levels have increased over the years. Additionally, what has increased is our funding rate. You can see, again, in the chart on the right-hand side, from FY11 to FY16, our funding rates have gradually increased.

And these pie charts will give you an idea of who receives Forensic Science R&D grants. Predominantly, Forensic Science--our Forensic Science R&D program is focused on projects with underlying biology and chemistry principles. And you can see the breadth of the forensic science disciplines that are funded under this program. From DNA--forensic DNA and biology to forensic etymology, controlled substances, pattern and impression evidence, trace evidence, forensic pathology, anthropology, toxicology, and so on.

And who do we fund? Who receives these Forensic Science R&D grants? Predominantly, as you can see from the pie chart on the right-hand side, is academic institutions. Seventy percent of our research and development awards are funded to academic institutions. We also have programs with nonprofits, for-profits, federal labs, and local and state government labs.

So today, the main objective of this webinar is on the current solicitation that is open right now for Forensic Science R&D. The main R&D solicitation objective is to fund proposals for basic or applied research and development projects that will either increase the body of knowledge to inform forensic science policy and practice or result in the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods that have the potential for forensic application. And you will see that this is the front page of the current open solicitation and it will give you an idea of the timeline that you will see--well, the solicitation is open all the way to when awards will be announced. So the solicitation closes on February 28th. Our peer review process will be through spring and summer. And then awards will be announced by September 30th of 2017.

And what are we soliciting? This is the program description. This slide is taken directly from the current open solicitation. And as I stated previously, we solicit for basic scientific research to improve the understanding of the accuracy, reliability, and validity of forensic science disciplines. We support applied research to increase the body of knowledge to inform forensic science policy and practice. And we support development projects to produce novel and useful tools, systems, or methods that have the potential for forensic application.

And as I stated previously, what are the goals of the proposed projects? Again, this is find--this is found directly under the program description within the posted solicitation. To increase the body of knowledge to inform forensic science policy and practice and lead to the production of useful materials and devices for forensic application.

And now, I'm going to turn--now I'm going to turn the presentation over to Minh Nguyen, who is going to present the rest of the webinar.

MINH NGUYEN: Great. Thank you so much, Danielle.

So one of the most common questions we receive from researchers who are interested in our R&D program is, “What research areas are NIJ interested in?” Or asked another way, “Is the research I'm doing of interest to NIJ?” In order to maintain fair and open competition, as Mary Jo stated, NIJ does not provide guidance on research with open design. With that said, we can highlight a few points that you may find helpful. Forensic sciences are essentially the use of science to make an argument in the court of law. For NIJ's purposes, the science should be related to the examination of physical evidence and the court of law must be within the US criminal justice system. As you can see from this slide, the breadth of the underlying sciences is quite large. In fiscal year 11, we moved away from discipline-specific solicitations and towards a broader call. A few reasons for doing this was to reduce redundancy across our programs, facilitate multi-disciplinary research, and to increase the equity in our consideration of all possible disciplines where research is needed. Therefore, because our solicitation does not limit its scope to any particular discipline, many scientific research areas are within our interest. So in conclusion, if your concept for proposal relates to the current or potential future analysis of physical evidence taken from a crime scene, it probably fits.

The more important question then becomes how we prioritize our research interests.

So what are NIJ's research priorities? The primary focus of our program is to work towards solutions for the problems, needs, and operational requirements of the forensic science community. So our research priorities revolve around those requirements. In order to develop our research agenda, we start by engaging with forensic scientists practicing at operational laboratories. Once a year, we meet with a group of forensic scientists across many of the forensic disciplines. The focus of the meeting is to go over the previous year's requirements. What solutions, if any exist, where the gaps are, what needs to be done to close those gaps, and what the new operational requirements might be.

After this meeting, we post these requirements on NIJ's website and a link is included on the first page of our R&D solicitation. When you click on the link in the solicitation, it will take you to a page on the NIJ website which gives an overview of the process I just described. From that page, you can find links to each year's requirements since we started making them public in 2013. At the time of solicitation posts, the most recent table was from 2015.Today, the table is updated with the needs from our 2016 meeting, which occurred last month. This slide shows you what those requirements look like. The first thing to note here is that the forensic discipline is listed in the last column of the table. You can search or browse the document to find the forensic discipline you are most interested in. The second thing to note is that not all of the requirements for the forensic science community require research or development. So make sure to check the first two columns to see where the forensic scientists feel R&D is most needed. These requirements along with the current state of the art can form the basis of a proposal's problem statement. So we encourage you to consider them as you build your research concepts and proposals. The PDF document that you'll download with the table is quite long. There are a number of pages, so make sure to scroll through until you find the area you're interested in.

Please also keep in mind that these needs are a representative sampling based on an annual meeting. There are certainly possibilities for farther-reaching or more innovative research areas that our working groups may not have considered over the course of that meeting. So while we do prioritize these high needs areas, we do not limit grant awards fully to them. And these are not the only research needs of the forensic science community. Okay.

NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees or OSAC, they were established to coordinate the development of standards and guidelines for the forensic science community. Part of this very important work includes ensuring that a sufficient scientific basis exists for each discipline and the developed standards. As the OSAC participants move through their own processes, they have also been identifying areas in which there may be an insufficient scientific basis which translates into research needs. They've begun publishing these research needs on their website shown in this slide. And the generation of solutions to these needs will also become part of NIJ's R&D program strategy. It's again another source of ideas for problem areas for which your research may see potential solutions.

So onto the second most common question we receive, “Who is eligible?” Or perhaps more importantly, “Am I eligible?” If a proposal is selected for a funding award, the applicant becomes the recipient of the grant. Eligible applicants are state governments, nonprofits, for-profits, institutions of higher education, local governments, and finally, individuals. Please note that individuals must be able to meet all of the conditions to receive and manage the grant and project if awarded. That's a pretty broad list. And on the surface, it seems to include just about everybody.

So who's not eligible? Foreign governments, foreign organizations, and foreign colleges and universities are not eligible to apply.

While foreign entities are not eligible to apply directly, in some past instances, we have awarded grants to eligible applicants who have partnered with a foreign entity and who then becomes a sub-recipient on a project. Foreign entities can be included in proposals as sub-recipients as long as the primary applicant is eligible to apply.

Okay. So let's say you've determined that you're eligible, you have identified a high-priority problem where the state of the art is, in your opinion, far inferior to a technology that you just so happened to be an expert in. You're ready to write your proposal and submit your application. Let's go through a few of the important areas to focus on as you build that proposal. One way to do that is to consider the review process that occurs after submission. The very first thing we do in an internal review is an internal review for basic minimum requirements and for responsiveness.

The basic minimum requirements are defined in the--when an application should include section of the solicitation. There are four critical elements and you should read critical as mandatory. These are your basic minimum requirements and they must be submitted with your proposal. They are a program narrative, a budget detail worksheet, a budget narrative, and resumes or CVs of key personnel. It is important that you use descriptive file names to ensure that internal and external reviewers do not miss any of the critical elements in your proposal. With that said, simply labeling a file as a critical element does not constitute meeting the requirement. So you should make sure the contents of the file are relevant and complete. The solicitation provides a lot more detail about what each of these elements should contain and there are links to NIJ and OJP website resources and examples.

Whether you are a first-time applicant or if you have received many NIJ grants, we still encourage you to carefully review the solicitation. Many changes have been made to this section of the solicitation and it's important that you know what the current requirements are.

How is responsiveness determined? We talked about the scientific research, we talked about what scientific research is relevant to our program, how research priorities are determined, and whether or not you're eligible to apply.

So what might make your proposal nonresponsive? The key place to look for this is in the “What will not be funded?” section of the solicitation. There is a long list of proposal types and proposal elements that could result in your application failing a review for responsiveness. We encourage you to read this section very carefully.

With very few exceptions and none that I can recall in my years managing Forensic Science R&D programs, all of the proposals that meet the basic minimum requirements are determined--and are determined to be responsive will move into external peer review. We convene panels of experts to review proposals. These experts include scientific researchers, both inside and outside of forensics, and practicing forensic scientists. Knowing what the panels will focus on can help you in the development of your proposal.

There are six selection criteria that are considered by our reviewers. Statement of the problem, project design and implementation, capabilities and competencies, potential impact, plan for dissemination, and budget. The first thing to note about this slide is that there is a wait to each of the criteria.

The forensic science R&D program puts most of its weight into the project design. So please make sure this is your--the strongest part of your proposal. A project that proposes to resolve the highest-priority need of the forensic science community is no good if the experimental design is flawed, rendering the research findings of little use to the community. In a worst case scenario, a poorly-designed experiment can lead to erroneous results, misinforming practice or policy. To facilitate the review of experimental design, you should be very clear and detailed about your research hypothesis, your proposed handling methods, experiments, instrumentation, methodology, data analysis, etcetera. When a non-forensic researcher is recruited for a panel, it is often for the review of a new technology area for which there are no current experts available from the forensic science community. These reviewers may focus a great deal on the appropriateness of the instrument or analytical technique that is being proposed. And you should never rely on benefit of the doubt or assumed knowledge. The solicitation contains a lot more detail in both the “what an application should include”, as well as the “review criteria” sections that should assist you in writing your proposal to this very important criteria.

Capabilities and competencies of the proposed team is also an important criteria. The success of a proposed project relies heavily on whether or not the individual or team is capable of concluding it and has a strong science environment to perform with in. Reviewers need to know who is tasked of completing the proposed work and what roles each of the key personnel will play.

Potential impact is equal in weight to capabilities. Please be sure to describe the potential impact, but be careful not to overstate some far-reaching higher risk or more innovative projects may not have a direct impact on practice for years. But they may have a strong potential for immediate impact on future research that may eventually lead to changes in practice and that's okay. NIJ focuses on basic research and innovative applied research for this very reason. Similarly, fundamental research can either strengthen the science underlying a current practice, which may not necessarily impact how those methods are used but may have tremendous impact on how the data is interpreted or reported. Conversely, fundamental research could also result in major changes on how a method is or should be performed. The forensic scientists that participate in our panels will put a lot of focus on the potential impact on their own practice. So, please bear that in mind.Be clear in your hypothesis and the research questions that you are hoping to answer. They should make the connection on how the knowledge generated will inform forensic research and or practice but do not overreach.

While, the statement of the problem does not appear to embody a large portion of the pie as we've described in earlier slides it is very important factor to our research priorities. So while external reviewers may not be asked to put as much weight here, please don't forget that NIJ will be reading this portion very carefully.

Finally, there are two criteria that are not weighted but are still very important. The plan for dissemination to broader audiences is a component that reviewers will comment on and NIJ will consider. Research could--should result in publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals and presentations at scientific meetings. Development should ideally result in patents, prototypes, and protocols that promise for commercial development. Open source materials whether they're publications or publicly available data and protocols are encouraged where applicable. You may also want to describe how you might share manuscripts that are not successfully published. There are research archives that exist to do this. Please make sure that your proposed dissemination plan is both appropriate for your proposed project as well as relevant to the community it stands most to impact.

The budget should be appropriate to the proposed work. Reviewers both external and internal are rarely shy about pointing out disproportionate costs and including sufficient justification in the budget narrative can go a long way to mitigating that.

So, that was our selection criteria.

And one of the things that we really encourage researchers to do is engage with forensic scientists in their projects. For those of you researchers who are not familiar with the practice of forensic science or have completed enough R&D that you have something ready to test in a more forensic relevant environment, there may be even more benefits to recruiting forensic scientists to act as consultants or finding operational laboratories to collaborate with for assistance with sampling, testing and evaluation. This is something easier said than done. Here are a few ideas on where to start. According to a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics census, there are 409 publicly-funded forensic crime laboratories in the US and 88% of them are accredited. By checking accreditation bodies websites, you can find laboratories along with information on the forensic science testing methods they're accredited in. Another possible avenue to finding forensic laboratories near you is to go to OJP's website and use their OJP award data interface to search for recent NIJ awards by state. By focusing on Capacity Enhancement Program grants such as DNA Capacity Enhancement or the Paul Coverdell Program, you can identify NIJ funded operational laboratories. Alternatively, if you are a public laboratory that is interested in performing research through this or other funding programs, you can use the OJP tool to find NIJ funded researchers to partner with as well.

So, I mentioned a couple of the Capacity Enhancement Programs. We have several programs that do this. They basically--they grant--give grants to forensic science laboratories to increase their capacity and efficiency to perform forensic testing to reduce their backlogs of samples or to perform research related to their laboratory operations. You can learn more about these programs at NIJ's website or by attending the webinar tomorrow.

All right. So, if you want to learn even more about NIJ funding opportunities, there's a wealth of information available at our website. Current funding opportunities, previous year's solicitations, as well as forthcoming anticipated opportunities can be found here. Past projects can also be reviewed to see what we've funded in the past through this and other programs.

All right. So, in addition to the question and answer portion of this webinar that's coming up shortly, there are a number of resources to help you with questions after this webinar is over. For technical issues with your application submission, you should contact grants.gov directly. For questions about the program requirements, you should contact NCJRS email address listed in the solicitation. For many common questions or the--there is no such thing as a stupid question type question, you can consult our online FAQ and other helpful general information that's there. And as we've stated multiple times in this webinar, unfortunately the one thing we cannot do is--so, one thing you cannot do is contact program staff while the solicitation is open and accepting applications. In order to maintain fair and open competition, NIJ staff does not provide guidance on research scope and design.

And with that, I will pass--I will pass this back to Mary Jo so that she can open up the Q and A.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Hi, everyone. Thank you again. At this time, we do have a few questions that we will start addressing. You can continue to submit your questions using the Q and A panel.

In formulating specific aims, is it acceptable to include social science aims such as surveys and a basic science proposal?

MINH NGUYEN: So, that's kind of a difficult question to answer because a social science aim, that's--it's kind of a broad question. And I would--and I know this is probably not the answer you're looking for, but I would really encourage you to really fine tooth comb the solicitation and see if what you're considering a social science aim is in fact an impact aim. I will also let you know that surveys--survey instruments often, I would say most of the time require OMB approval. So, if you--if you do plan on doing any kind of a survey instrument, you would have to factor that into your timeline if it's even allowed in our solicitations.

Okay. So, I'll take the next question.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI Can an international collaborator serve as a Co-PI or senior personnel?

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: This is Danielle. I'll go ahead and take this. An international collaborator may serve as a Co-PI or a senior personnel as long as the applicant agency is a domestic agency.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Similar question. Can a--oops, I lost it. Can a foreign entity be a Co-PI as long as they are not the primary applicant?

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: And again, yes. As Minh stated earlier in the presentation and to address the previous question, yes, a foreign entity may serve as a subcontractor, collaborator underneath the applicant agency supporting the applicant agency which must, again, be a domestic agency within the US.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Do you need to provide a CV for the grant administrator as well as the PI?

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: For the grant administrator, no, you do not need to provide a CV or resume. CVs and resumes need to be provided for key personnel for the project.

MINH NGUYEN: And it's actually defined--I believe it's defined quite well in the …solicitation what that means


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Will this PowerPoint point be made available?

I'll take that question. Yes, it will be made available along with a recording and a transcript of the actual webinar. You will receive an email when it has been posted to the NIJ website. And that email will provide you a direct link to where it's located on the website.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: What discipline would an animal DNA studies be covered?

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: That's a great question. For this, it depends on what the particular impact or aim of the project is. If it's--usually when looking at animal DNA studies, it may have a trace evidence component whether it's evidence that may be located at the crime scene or trying to put together databases that may be used to compare, but typically, those kind of studies, it depends again on what the impact and the aim of the project is as related to physical evidence.

MINH NGUYEN: And, of course, animals can be used as models if it's an appropriate model for a study that impacts humans.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: How does NIJ determine a certain qualified individuals are eligible--or I'm sorry, excuse me, are able to manage a grant if awarded?

MINH NGUYEN: Oh, okay. So, I was probably not really clear when I said that in--during the earlier part of the webinar. What I would encourage you to do is to go to NIJ's website and look at--there's a lot of post award guidance. And it will tell you exactly what needs to be done if you were awarded a grant. And I think that's probably the best place to look to see if you as an individual would be able to accept and manage a grant.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Are conference fees and the resulting travel cost allowed if they would be used to--used to present and disseminate the results of said research?

MINH NGUYEN: Yes, absolutely. We don't encourage including a tremendous amount of travel, and it's difficult to predict where you will--your abstract may be accepted. So--but yes, we absolutely do, and we also encourage any other kind of dissemination, too, so for example paying for open source publication of articles and then other avenues for disseminating the research finding.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Can you talk a bit more about IP and confidentiality, especially from the perspective of a for profit company?

MINH NGUYEN: I believe that information is available on our website. And I'm hesitant to say anything about it now, simply because I don't have the expertise.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: What is the intent of the new investigator program? Is it--is it to encourage new people to apply or to develop a new talent? i.e., is there an expectation that some of the activities will involve developing the talent of a new investigator?

MINH NGUYEN: I think it's sort of--so, the idea is we do want to grow the pool of researchers who are focused on forensic science research questions. So--and there is a lot of both young investigators as well as investigators who are well-established who are new to forensics. And when we want to grow our pool, that's what we are trying to do. There are fellowship programs and other programs that contribute to the development of forensic scientists and that there's a bit of a nuance there.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Where do I get information--I'm sorry, excuse me, where do I get help with budget questions?

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: Any budget questions, if you go to the NIJ website and you go to find a funding opportunity, you should be able to find a number of resources there. And additionally, if you go to our parent agency, which is the Office of Justice Program under what's the NIJ is one of seven bureaus, if you go to OJP's website, www.ojp.usdoj.gov, you'll be able to search for the OJP financial guide, and that should be able to address a number of any budget questions.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: One thing, if you're asking questions, can you please make sure that the questions are asked to all presenters and not sending it to one person privately so that we can make sure that we see everything that's coming through. Thank you. And just give me a second so I can see where we left off. Where do I get [INDISTINCT]

MINH NGUYEN: While we're waiting for the next question, I'll just say that I think that was www.ojp.gov just to clarify.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Must IRB Protocol be approved or submitted at time of submission?

MINH NGUYEN: No, not at the time of submission. The--so, IRB Protocol, depending on the requirements of your academic institution or agency that you work for, if you are not--if your research does not involve human subjects, you don't actually need to obtain IRB exemption or approval every time. There is a human subject protection form that should be submitted at the time of application. And there's also guidance at our website--at our NIJ website about those forms and how to fill them out. However, if your research does involve human subjects, you will need to get IRB approval, but that can be performed after receiving notification of a grant award.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Where can one find samples of completed proposals?

MINH NGUYEN: I don't believe we post any samples of completed proposals. There are examples and templates at OJP and NIJ websites I believe, not necessarily specific to this program, but just more of the common forms and the common required elements.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: I am unclear on the resubmit response. How much of a material must be new to be no longer considered a resubmit? Is there a--is--if some is recycled and some is new?

MINH NGUYEN: There isn't clear--there isn't a clear line on this. And I do think that this is also applicant discretion, so for example, if your proposal has been modified in response to peer reviewer comments that you received in the year it was not funded, you may actually want to indicate a resubmission to ensure to the best of our abilities assignments to consistent reviewer panel. However, I don't believe there is an exact percentage or any quantifiable measure for that.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Can we ask for money greater than a hundred thousand dollars for instrument purchase or…FRANCES SCOTT: Less than.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Sorry, less than a hundred thousand dollars for instrument purchase or leasing an instrument?

MINH NGUYEN: So, instrumentation is--this might be a two part answer… instrumentation is dependent. Again, this is a discretion question. It's dependent on how necessary it is to complete the research that you are proposing. So, if this is--if you don't have the instrumentation available to complete this research, you may in fact need to purchase or lease. However, you may also receive some pushback on why it is--you don't have the instrumentation available particularly if you're proposing that you have the expertise to handle that equipment. I'm going to let Frances Scott jump in, in case she has something to add here.

FRANCES SCOTT: I just wanted to add that it should be noted that instrument--instrumentation that is purchased with the research and development grant does not necessarily stay in the lab--in your lab after the research award is finished. It is subject to the equipment disposition regulations that govern OJP. And so, just bear that in mind when proposing such not--lease may be the most appropriate option both from a cost savings as well as not having to deal with the disposition situation at the end.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Where can I get a list of the program managers for each discipline?

MINH NGUYEN: Well, the four of us are here. So, that's essentially your list, Frances Scott, Greg Dutton, Danielle McLeod Henning and myself, Minh Nguyen. I manage Forensic Biology DNA with--where it's--well, its purpose is for human identification. There is some other DNA stuff that has to do with--which Greg Dutton manages. He also manages the pattern impressions evidence portfolio. Frances Scott manages drug chemistry and toxicology. And I'll let Danielle speak to what she manages because it's a whole bunch.

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: And this is Danielle McLeod Henning, and I manage the projects in forensic anthropology, forensic pathology, crime scene examination, and then any sort of other medical legal death investigation related field, such as forensic entomology, forensic odontology, and microbial forensics as related to post mortem investigation and cause of death.

MINH NGUYEN: And just in case that question was rooted in the--I'm going to reach out to that program manager after this webinar. Again, I really do want to emphasize the point that we are not permitted to discuss concepts for proposal directly with you while the solicitation is open.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Our laboratory is making inroad on next generation sequencing in digital forensics. Would both be viable scopes if we submit research proposals on these topics?

MINH NGUYEN: Digital forensics is not actually a part of this solicitation. The office of science and technology, which is one of the three sciences offices in--at NIJ and is our sister office, they handle digital forensics. So they have their own solicitations to with--that response to this area, with next generation sequencing. Again, I'll point you back to if it's a technology then intends to solve one of the problems or research needs in the forensic science community then sure.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: One reminder here to please, if you do have a question for the panelists, please, please use the Q&A box and not the chat box. We would like to have all our questions coming through on one screen.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Is it necessarily to obtain IBR approval…


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: I'm sorry, IRB approval if you propose to use equipment purchase with grant money on actual criminal cases and evidence included, defendants in addition to simulate…


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: I'm sorry, decedent in addition to simulated evidence?

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: Well, I can--this is Danielle. I can address at least, IRB in relation to decedents. Decedents are not considered human subjects, although, every individual who applies to this solicitation must submit a human subject protection form. If you are not using human subjects or if the subjects are decedents then you can simply fill out box A that states that this project will not be using human subjects. I'm not quite sure about proposing to use equipment purchase of grant money on actual criminal cases and evidence. You can't use research funds on actual--for actual evidence caseworks. And you will see that under What Will Not Be Funded section of the solicitation, but research funds cannot be used for casework or any sort of production or capacity backlog.

MINH NGUYEN: So to be more specific, under the What Will Not Be Funded, I believe it's under--the research funds cannot be used to provide a service and we consider the analysis of active and current casework as service. If you're talking about adjudicated casework, you know, I would leave that to you to do the rigorous background work to ensure that you are allowed to do research on those samples. We're not going to provide guidance on that because the rules are various and widespread.

FRANCES SCOTT: That--this is Frances Scott. I just want to add--that sounds like a pretty detailed question and it would likely best to be directed to your IRB who can guide you better.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: How many technical reviewers are assigned to each proposal?

MINH HGUYEN: The minimum is three, occasionally, there's four. There are two kinds of peer review processes that our solicitation go through. A couple of the discipline--what the three of us called a standing review panel--standing scientific review panel, and then the rest go through more of the discipline specific panel reviews. I would say three is the average typical number.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Some of the categories seem redundant, such as potential impact and implications for criminal justice policy and practice in the US or review of relevant literature, which would already be incorporated into the statement of the problem, can you clarify?

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: Yes. This is Danielle McLeod. Essentially, what--we're talking about two different things here. Implications for criminal justice policy and practice in review of relevant literature are necessary sections for the program narrative, and potential impact and statement of the problem are two of the selection criteria that are used to weight your particular proposal. So, yeah, so implications for criminal justice policy and practice is essentially what would be the impact of your project on the criminal justice system. So this would be addressing the selection criteria potential impact.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: How is NIJ vetting proposals to ensure that they do not duplicate with existing available resources?

MINH NGUYEN: I'm not quite sure I understand that question. We…


MINH NGUYEN: We vet the proposals in the sense that they don't duplicate--oh, so, basically, you have to provide a disclosure of any existing funds or pending proposals that you have out that might result in funding. So this is a self-report. We do have strong relationships with other federal funding agencies, and we do communicate during a lot of our review period as far as what's been submitted and existing research that is ongoing, so there are number of avenues. So, if I--if I understood that correctly--question correctly, there's a number of ways that we do review. If I didn't answer it correctly, please submit a follow-up.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: What distinguishes whether a procured service, analytical measurement, should be a subcontract or a procurement?

MINH NGUYEN: That's up to you. Wait. There's pretty clear guidance in the solicitation on how you should describe what roles different players have. So if you are subcontracting out a service or if you're hiring a consultant or you have as a sub-recipient in other agency or academic institution that's going to act as a co-investigator or collaborator, it's up to you to describe why you needed to do that or why that benefits the capabilities or competencies that are being put forward. So, really it's at your discretion. We don't--we certainly can't say when you should or should not do that.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: How is the decision made among the best proposals?

MINH NGUYEN: Okay. So, the peer review goes through the selecting criteria that I described in that section of the webinar. It was the slide with the pie chart. And those weightings and conjunction with the reviewers' feedbacks on those particular areas--selection criteria, inform us on how well they--whether they were viewed favorably or not favorably, then what we do is we look at the needs and priorities of the community as well as a number of other factors that are all detailed in the solicitation. And those are kind of the variables that we look at in--that what are important to think, and of course, how much funding is available is always a [INDISTINCT]

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Is there funding for projects other than English languages such as Spanish?

MINH NGUYEN: All proposals should be submitted in English. I don't know if I'm understanding that question correctly.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: There's another question I'm not really sure where--what information you're looking for. Can you provide the website--I'm sorry, this is a--sorry, this is a different question. Can you provide the websites for committees who have research topics that are critical to the field?

MINH NGUYEN: So, in the slides, there are URLs--so most of the material that we presented today is publically available to you I say most because there are a] few slides in our internal data. You'll find URLs at the bottom of each of the slides when they become public. The slide for the OSAC research needs and the slide that describes our practitioner priorities and requirements, all of that information is available, and the URLs will be available to you as soon as the slides are up.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: On the SSTWG operational requirement, can you clarify the meaning of this topic, further increase the discrimination power using GO…


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Genomic tools other than the human DNA, specifically, discrimination power for what goal?

MINH NGUYEN: Probably human identity. It's also possible--actually--I don't have it in front of me so it's a little bit difficult for me to--I'm going to guess that it's varying--so, like--so the discriminatory power can be applied to a number of things. And it should be applied to whatever it is that you're trying to discriminate. So whether it's the identity of individuals or if it's the identity of a biological tissue so fluid or source material, or, you know, what have you. So it's a little difficult for me to say basically.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Would statistical models for improving the use of eyewitness reports not be considered in scope for this solicitation?

MINH NGUYEN: I don't believe it would be, simply because it's not examination of physical evidence.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Since the federal government is operating under an FY2017 continuum resolution, currently scheduled to run out at the end of April, what happens to this solicitation if funding is curtailed or reduced for the remainder of the year?

MINH NGUYEN: We can't really predict that at this point. There are a number of funding sources for research and development at NIJ, and that's about all we can say until, you know…

FRANCES SCOTT: And as Minh mentioned before on the question about choosing amongst the best proposals, she mentioned that the level of funding is always the final determinant of what we will award. So that would be addressed obviously if funding is curtailed or reduced.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Does research analyzing previously collected postmortem tissue fluids or slides require an IRB?

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: Hi. No. Previously collection postmortem tissue fluids or slides do not require IRB approval as they are postmortem samples, so they're not living individuals. Again, as I stated earlier, everyone, when submitting an application, has to submit a human subject protection form, but if you're not using human subjects, again, under Box A, all you have to say is this project will not involve human subjects.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: What criteria are used to ensure reviewers don't have a conflict of interest?

MINH NGUYEN: So reviewers have to disclose--so basically, what happens is there are several tier to this. They review the--so, internally, the first thing that happens is when reviewers are assigned to proposals, internal staff does everything within their abilities to ensure that there is no obvious conflicts. So, you know, if they're employed at an agency, they should not be reviewing a proposal from that agency and there's, you know, different levels of that sort of review. Then the reviewers themselves, once they're given access to the proposals, they must disclose as soon as a conflict comes up. And they disclose anything, the--what we--what we basically recommend is if--even if you don't necessarily think it's a conflict but it could be perceived as a conflict, they must disclose to us. And then that is reviewed carefully, and then weighed, and then a judgment is made. And if there is a true conflict, they are removed from review of that proposal.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Are software purchases considered instrumentation as far as budget items?

FRANCES SCOTT: No. We don't have instrumentation line actually. We have equipment, and we have supplies. And the--you can either use the federal definition which is that it will have--it's greater than $5,000 and they believe a useful lifespan of over a year, but you would have to check that. I'm not an accountant. Or you can use your own internal definitions of what makes equipment and supplies.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Are there any exceptions to using grant funds on actual casework if you are incorporating the research into a regular lab workflow?

MINH NGUYEN: So, again, this isn't necessarily up to us. It's--so, as far as we are concerned, the analysis and the sampling methods that you are using those samples are, how you collect them, why you collect them. As long as that is critical to the success of completing the research project and producing meaningful findings, those are the relevant things that we look at. It is up to you to describe to us why you are able to use those samples or examine those samples, and as Frances said earlier, if you're in doubt, talk to the administering folks at your agency or your IRB.

DANIELLE MCLEOD HENNING: And again, as Minh mentioned earlier, research funds cannot be used for service. So they can't be used to actually complete that casework.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: All right. I'm just looking over. I believe we have answered all the current questions. Just clarifying to make sure I didn't miss anybody.

So at that time--at this time, we do not have any further questions. And--oh, we will--actually, one thing that we do want to do is we want to move to the next slide so that you can see the information. It's not moving. Where is that? Here it is. Nope. That's it. Oh. So this is the information. If you have any questions, you can contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. It's in the center section of this slide. So you can send your questions there and they will be addressed. The information also in this slide includes grants.gov as well as how to obtain general information on applying to NIJ. And we actually did just get one more question--no, okay.


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: I'm sorry. Oh, and we have--we received several questions, and I'll repeat it again, this slide will be posted to the NIJ website. So we will have a Powerpoint presentation will be posted, this live webinar will be posted, a video of it, a transcript of the webinar will also be posted. And you will receive an email letting you know that that has been posted to the website and the email will have links directly to each of those items included in it. And again, it will take approximately 10 business days.

FRANCES SCOTT: Q&A. Will the Q&A be posted?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: If you do have--if you want to look at the Q&A, I would go ahead and you can look through the transcript if you don't want to listen to the entire webinar again, but the transcript will include this Q&A portion with all the questions and answers.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Is there anything else? All right. On behalf of everybody here at NIJ, Minh, Danielle, Frances, and Gregory, I would like to thank you so much for joining us today. Have a wonderful day.


Date Created: August 15, 2019