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Translational Criminology

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One of the ideas that I am emphasizing at NIJ as we move forward is "Translational Criminology." I first learned about the idea of translational research in the field of medicine from my daughter who is a pediatrician. The idea of translational criminology is simple yet powerful. If we want to prevent, reduce and manage crime, scientific discoveries must be translated into policy and practice.

Translational criminology aims to break down barriers between basic and applied research by creating a dynamic interface between research and practice. This process is a two-way street — scientists discover new tools/ideas for use in the field and evaluate their impact. In turn, practitioners offer novel observations from the field that stimulate basic investigations. This is the knowledge creation process.

Another goal of translational criminology is to address the gaps between scientific discovery and program delivery and effective crime policy. This is the knowledge application process. Translational criminology calls for systematic study of the process of knowledge dissemination and recognizes that successful dissemination of research findings may well require multiple strategies. Along with knowledge dissemination, we must also determine if the evidence is being implemented correctly. It is not just about finding the evidence that something works; it is figuring out how to implement the evidence in real world practice settings and understanding why it works. Moreover, this facet of translational criminology places a priority on applicability; that is, research with the potential for real world implementation, which is attractive in an era of shrinking resources.

To learn more about NIJ’s efforts in this area, I invite you all to our annual conference taking place June 20-22 in Arlington, Va. Perhaps not surprising, this year’s theme is Translational Criminology — Shaping Policy and Practice With Research.