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Research at the National Institute of Justice — Prepared Remarks Welcoming Attendees to NIJ Day at ASC 2017

ASC 2017

Good morning! My name is David Muhlhausen and I am the director of the National Institute of Justice. It is my pleasure to welcome you to NIJ Day at ASC, for panels to discuss timely NIJ-funded research regarding firearms, human trafficking, school safety, and the impacts of body-worn cameras.

In line with the priorities of the Attorney General, NIJ is committed to funding research to prevent and reduce crime, protect law enforcement, support prosecutors, combat victimization and human trafficking, and support foundational research.

As many of you know, NIJ is the Department of Justice’s research, development, and evaluation agency. Our mission is to use science to inform and advance criminal justice policies and practices across the country. To accomplish this, we provide objective and independent knowledge and tools to inform the decision making of the criminal justice community, particularly at the state and local levels.

Research is NIJ’s bread and butter, and researchers are some of our most important stakeholders. In fact, many in this room may be past, current, or future grantees. We depend on your research to further our mission of informing and advancing the criminal justice system. Your work forms the foundation of NIJ’s value and relevance to the field.

NIJ awards more than $216 million in funding annually, to support research across every aspect of the criminal justice system.

Our research priorities are in full support of the priorities of the Department of Justice. 2017 has been a year of transition and change for the United States’ government, but NIJ will always stand for rigorous and innovative science, data-driven policy and practices, and a commitment to advancing the criminal justice field. The Department of Justice will always stand for public safety, and fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

In line with the priorities of the Attorney General, NIJ is committed to funding research to prevent and reduce crime, protect law enforcement, support prosecutors, combat victimization and human trafficking, and support foundational research.

Given the current realities on American streets, we are also committed to timely research to better understand and combat the opioid epidemic, domestic radicalization, and terrorism.

You’ll hear more about our research over the course of today’s panels.

In the past two years, NIJ released three strategic plans, to guide our research priorities over the next years in the areas of Policing; Safety, Health, and Wellness; and our Sentinel Events Initiative, which is a program to recast how the criminal justice system approaches error.

These strategic research plans are a valuable tool to guide our areas of focus moving forward. The panelists on our first panel will discuss this further, and I encourage you to ask questions and read more about these plans and our priorities on NIJ’s website.

We are currently working on similar strategic research plans to guide our funding priorities in other areas, including corrections.

The Department of Justice’s priorities and NIJ’s three strategic research plans provide the framework for all of NIJ’s funding. I joined NIJ as director this past summer. My background is in program evaluation and statistical methods, and I have spent most of my career championing evidence-based policy and the need for rigorous, replicated, program evaluations.

As NIJ puts forward solicitations and priorities for upcoming funding cycles, I am looking forward to supporting more RCTs and research to inform evidence-based policies and practices across all realms of the criminal justice field.

I believe NIJ’s single more important contribution to the criminal justice field is to answer the question of what programs work, what programs don’t work, and what shows promise but needs additional exploration. RCTs are a powerful tool in understanding what works and is scalable across contexts. When we know what works, we can fund what works.

Another important question for NIJ as we consider what research to fund is the question of relevance. The research we fund should be directly applicable to the criminal justice field, and have concrete applications in the advancement of justice. We never want to be caught in the ivory tower, funding projects that have no real application or implication to the field.

I know that many in this room are potential applicants for upcoming NIJ solicitations, and probably want to hear more about what NIJ will be funding next year and into the future.

Unfortunately, I am limited in what I can share, because solicitations for Financial Year 2018 are currently being finalized and approved.

I can say that moving forward in 2018 and beyond, NIJ will continue to support the research priorities of Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson and the larger Department of Justice.

In all our solicitations, NIJ will strive to ensure that our research answers the most pressing needs and questions in the field. We aim to fund relevant research that informs policies and practices across the criminal justice system.

Today’s panels discuss some of the impactful research that NIJ has already funded. Our first panel is an overview of the research and priorities of our three science offices. The panel is moderated by Bill Ford, Director of NIJ’s Office of Science and Technology Research Division, and panelists include NIJ Deputy Director Howard Spivak, Angela Moore, director of our Office of Research and Evaluation’s Justice Systems Research Division, and NIJ’s Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences Director Gerry LaPorte.

Our second panel is chaired by NIJ Social Science Analyst Basia Lopez, and will include a discussion of some of the research we have done to better understand and reduce firearms violence.

NIJ Social Science Analyst Amy Leffler will then moderate a panel highlighting three NIJ human trafficking research awards.

NIJ’s Mary Poulin Carlton will lead a conversation about our work to improve school safety, and NIJ’s Brett Chapman will moderate our last panel today, about an RCT project to evaluate the impact of body-worn cameras in Las Vegas.

This is the fourth year that ASC has partnered with NIJ to feature timely and relevant research through this NIJ Day. I would like to thank the American Society of Criminology for hosting us and giving us the opportunity to share some of NIJ’s research over the course of this NIJ Day, and the rest of the conference. I look forward to continued collaboration in the future.

I also want to thank all the NIJ staff and grantees represented here today. We’re excited to have the opportunity both to talk more about NIJ’s work and priorities, and to allow our grantees to present on their important work.

Now it’s truly my pleasure to turn things over to our panelists. Thank you.