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Director's Message: Bridging the Sciences to Support Cutting-Edge Research — NIJ’s Partnership With the National Science Foundation


This partnership serves as a catalyst to identify cutting-edge areas of research in the area of crime and criminal justice.

At NIJ, we are dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that our agency is only one of several important organizations on the cutting edge of social, technological, and forensic sciences. Therefore, partnerships and collaborations with other federal and nonfederal entities are at the core of our work. Not only do they allow us to leverage the expertise of other research agencies, but these partnerships also allow NIJ-supported scientific research and innovation to build on the progress made in other disciplines. As such, NIJ regularly engages with a number of agencies and organizations, ranging from our Office of Justice Programs (OJP) sister agencies, to our grantees, to public and private foundations.

While all of our collaborations are critical, I want to highlight one of our more prominent partnerships. Since 2012, NIJ and the National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency that “promotes the progress of science," have solidified a partnership that goes well beyond a handshake. This partnership serves as a catalyst to identify cutting-edge areas of research in the area of crime and criminal justice.

In recent years, our Office of Research and Evaluation (ORE) established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NSF to formalize our efforts and foster interagency activities and cofunding of proposals in promising areas of research in the social, behavioral, and forensic sciences. Since then, NIJ and NSF have engaged in a number of collaborative workshops, events, and even cofunded proposals of interest. Specific projects include:

  • The Effects of Civil Protection Orders on Procedural Justice, System Efficacy, and Safety in Domestic Violence Cases (University of Delaware): Combines procedural justice theory and situated justice theory to examine the perception of women who have filed civil protection orders and their faith in the legal system and the effectiveness of the orders. See NSF.gov Award Abstract #1353671 to learn.
  • Crime and Community in a Changing Society, The National Neighborhood Crime Study 2 (Rutgers University and University of New Mexico): Explores the recursive relationship between crime and changing neighborhood conditions, especially racial and ethnic inequality. See NSF.gov Award Abstract #1357207 to learn more.
  • Analysis of the Implementation and Effectiveness of Three Strikes Sentencing Reform (Santa Clara University): Investigates how court officials are implementing reforms to the three strikes law and the effectiveness of these changes at reducing prison populations and sentencing disparities. See NSF.gov Award Abstract #1354490 to learn more.
  • DNA Examiners: Judgment and Influence (Northwestern University): Investigates the contextual clues, such as comments made by a police investigator, on decisions to and how to test forensic evidence; also examines mock jury results on use of forensic evidence.See NSF.gov Award Abstract #1356899 to learn more.
  • Understanding the Youth Engagement in the Plea Process: Predictors and Consequences(George Mason University and University of California-Irvine): Inquiry into the interactions of youth with defense counsel, prosecutor, and judges during plea process. See NSF.gov Award Abstract #1603944 to learn more.
  • Adolescent and Adult Lives of Children of Parents Returning From Prison (American Bar Foundation): Investigating the impact of parents’ re-entry on their children, with particular attention paid to education attainment and transitions to work and adulthood. See NSF.gov Award Abstract #1535563 to learn more.

Basic research in a wide array of disciplines can improve public safety outcomes, so in addition to this MOU, which is based around our social and behavioral science agenda, our other NIJ science offices — the Office of Science and Technology (OST) and the Office of Forensic and Investigative Sciences (OIFS) — have longstanding working relationships with NSF. For example, OST and NSF have partnered in the areas of computer and network systems and computer and information science and engineering. Notably, NIJ participates in the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council with NSF, which hosts NITRD.

Moreover, OIFS and NSF have cofunded efforts related to the development of the Forensic Resource/Reference on Genetics knowledge base, as well as projects to establish Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers in areas relevant to the forensic sciences. Learn more about this program (pdf, 3 pages).

I am pleased to announce that NIJ and NSF are embarking on a new effort to further solidify this relationship. Starting this fall, we will launch a joint initiative that solicits crime and justice research of shared interest to both agencies. NIJ and NSF will jointly review applications, and the most competitive and relevant scientific research proposals will be selected for funding — pending available funds. The collaboration is intended to be open year-round, with at least two closing periods per year for reviewing submissions. Interested applicants should review the interests and priorities of both agencies, and upon release of the opportunity, submit questions to the listed point of contact. Sign up to receive an email when this opportunity (and any other NIJ funding opportunity) is announced.

NIJ and NSF hope that this joint initiative further bridges the gap between basic science and our applied social, behavioral, forensic, and technological sciences.