Editor's note: Read an interview with Greg Ridgeway in Amstat News, the magazine of the American Statistical Association.
Before I arrived at NIJ in July 2012, I was already impressed with NIJ's research, especially with the innovation and intellectual curiosity that has led to major changes in the way law enforcement works — historic examples include the development of body armor and crime mapping. Now that I have been on board at NIJ for eight months and acting director since January 7, I am even more impressed with NIJ's potential for propelling innovation forward. We have remarkable people at NIJ and operate from a prominent national platform. I am committed to making decisions that will continue to ensure rigorous science and leading-edge activities.
Several articles in this issue of the NIJ Journal illustrate NIJ's commitment to innovation. The cover story, for example, shows how Geoffrey Barnes and Jordan Hyatt used sophisticated statistical techniques to create a computerized system that goes a long way toward predicting which probationers are most likely to violently reoffend within two years of returning to the community. Not only does their work illustrate innovation, it exemplifies two other primary NIJ goals: researcher-practitioner partnerships and translational criminology. Barnes and Hyatt formed a partnership with Philadelphia's Adult Probation and Parole Department and translated their work as they went along. They continually tailored the models to be what practitioners in the Department needed most. They custom-fit their research for the end-user.
The article about the pitfalls of prediction is a piece I wrote while I was an NIJ grantee at RAND; I presented it to a group of law enforcement agencies that were developing predictive policing programs. It is gratifying to see that the timing allowed the NIJ Journal to publish it in this issue with other articles about the ways researchers are using data to keep communities safer while also saving public safety dollars and practitioner time.
People who study innovation tell us that great ideas happen when networks of people connect. With NIJ's new Office of Research Partnerships, we are making deeper and stronger connections with researcher and practitioner networks — such as the National Science Foundation, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA). NIJ plans to actively participate in IACP and IACA's annual conferences this year.
As acting director, I intend to continue to foster the interchange of ideas between researchers and practitioners and to learn from each other so we can better understand how to use data to respond to the nation's most pressing criminal justice issues.
Acting Director, National Institute of Justice
NIJ Journal No. 271, February 2013