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Webinar: Research Assistantship Program, Academic Year 2021-2022

Transcript and Slides

NIJ held a webinar on November 12, 2020, to discuss the academic year 2021-2022 Research Assistantship Program. The following is a transcript of that webinar. 

Full Transcript

ANGELA M. MOORE: Good afternoon, everyone. Before we get into the meat of the presentation, I first want to thank everyone for joining us and for your interest in NIJ's Research Assistantship Program. In addition, I just want to call your attention to very important information on this first slide here that you see in yellow. So the RAP fiscal year, which begins September 2021 through May 2022, you will see that the application deadline is December 23rd, 2020. That deadline is hard, fixed deadline, so please make sure if you are planning to apply to the Research Assistantship Program that you apply by the deadline. And it certainly is great if you apply earlier.

So I am delighted to provide this overview of the Research Assistantship Program. My name is Angela Moore and I am the Program Manager. And today, I am joined by two of our illustrious Research Assistants, Ms. Danielle Crimmins who comes from Purdue University, as well as Ms. Jessica Norton who comes from Auburn University. And the three of us will be hopefully providing all the information you need about the program as well as we'll answer any questions that you have at the end of the presentation. So with that, let's get into it.

So for those of you who might not be familiar with us, the National Institute of Justice, or as we are referred to as NIJ, we use acronyms for everything. So NIJ is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. And basically, we use science to improve knowledge and understanding of crime and justice, so that's our mission. Okay. In terms of how NIJ is structured, we have the Office of the Director and then we have two research offices, our Office of Research Evaluation and Technology as well as our Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences. Those two offices, we cover a host of research and evaluation, and some demonstration work. Our Office of Research Evaluation and Technology is as its name suggests, so we have basic and applied research and we also cover technology development and testing. And then with our Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences, they cover all types of forensic sciences, including DNA, ballistics, forensics related to sexual [INDISTINCT] of topics that we cover that span the entire criminal justice system, and research assistants have the opportunity to work in those areas. Rounding out NIJ, we have our--what we call our sort of our business offices, our Operations and Communications including budget and how we disseminate the work that we do, as well as our Office of Grants Management. NIJ primarily provides funding for research and evaluation, and technology development, and so our Office of Grants Management oversees that work and handles it for us.

So why do we have a Research Assistance Program? So our main purpose is--or one to grow the field. So we want to develop a pipeline by nurturing and growing researchers in the field involving criminal justice research. We also want to provide doctoral students with practical and applied research experience at the government level because we know students do this maybe through their university, et cetera. So this is an opportunity to do it at the federal government level. And then another purpose is to give doctoral students an opportunity to learn firsthand how science can inform policy.

So what are some of the benefits of the RAP? First, it provides students the opportunity to work with the only federal agency within the United States solely dedicated to criminal justice research, development, testing, and evaluation. Certainly, we're not the only federal agency that does some of that work, but we are the only one that is solely dedicated to that. In addition, this is an opportunity for career and professional development for doctoral students who want to bridge at science to criminal justice. You may decide that after this experience, as a scientist, you want to work at the federal state or local government level. Also, it's an opportunity to network. Because of where we're situated, we get to interact with other federal agencies, regional, state, tribal and local agencies and partners, and stakeholders. And also, we do provide funding and resources for the RAs that come and work with us at NIJ.

So let's talk about some of the specifics as it relates to being--becoming a RA with NIJ, so the eligibility requirement. First and foremost, at the time you submit your application, one must be a US citizen or a permanent US resident. Secondly, you have to be enrolled in a research-based doctoral degree program at a public or a private university. So if there's questions about that, you certainly can contact us to determine if you qualify for the program. Also, in terms of a student's status, you must be enrolled in a degree program. Candidates must be working towards a doctoral degree throughout their research assistantship period of performance. Degree programs include a doctor of philosophy, PhD, Doctor or Public Administration, a DPA, Doctor of Public Health, DPH, Doctor of Social Work, et cetera. Note that university sponsoring doctoral students in policy and health sciences or in an education [INDISTINCT] participate only if the doctoral program is in an NIJ supported discipline. That can be the social and behavioral sciences, operations technology, information and sensors, research and development, or investigative and forensic sciences. After acceptance into the Research Assistantship Program, it's important to note that applicants must go through a background check. And that requires a profile and pre-screening paperwork, security reviews, and a background investigation, such as your credit, check, and criminal investigation. So that is required for anyone who comes into the program as it is for federal employees. In addition, once the students begin working on projects and stuff with NIJ, before they can do certain things, they must take in complete Human Subjects Protection Training. Unless the student has already done it at their university, they'll be required to do that. And that's training that's done right now online, and that training is provided through NIJ.

So what is required in terms of the application? First of all, each student who applies will be required to provide a statement of interest. That statement of interest, which is a thousand-word maximum, describes the applicant's background and qualification, current educational program objectives, reason for interest in assistantship, including what issues the student is interested in, skills to be acquired, also career goals, and how the assistantship would support those goals. Secondly, a public safety challenge essay is required. So applicants are going to provide an essay describing what they consider to be the greatest public safety challenge or set of challenges that could be addressed through advances in science and that includes the social and behavioral sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics within the next 20 years and why. The applicant will need to explain why this challenge is important and what advances could be employed to address the challenge. Applicants also must provide a resume or CV and it should be up-to-date. Also, applicants will provide an unofficial copy or copies of their transcript covering their undergraduate and graduate studies. A letter of recommendation is also required. And that recommendation must be from an individual who can comment on the student's academic achievements and abilities, and other qualities and interests that make the applicant especially qualified to serve as a research assistant. In addition, applicants must provide a writing sample of a scientific paper. That writing sample could be from a classroom assignment or could be from a publication. Lastly, we have in there the list of references and applicants need to provide those as well. It's important to note because we indicate here on this slide that you should work with your Graduate Program Director to submit your application electronically. The application comes from that individual not from the student. And we use the term graduate Program Director generically because of all the different positions and roles at the university. So we would recommend that the submission be submitted by university-authorized representative within the department or college since the actual award is between NIJ and the university. So, it could be the case that it comes from the graduate school, graduate advisor, et cetera. But it's also important to know that the university is responsible to ensure that the student is eligible, in good standing, and qualify for the assistantship.

So after you submit your application, what's going to happen? So first of all, applications are reviewed by NIJ Science Staff. And I as the RAP Manager, I oversee that process. And so they’re reviewed, and they’re screened, and based upon that process—happens--NIJ staff, science staff and management, we will then ask candidates that we deem to be the most highly qualified to interview with us. And that is a video interview. Once that happened, again, we will narrow it down to a certain number of research assistants, how many we bring on each year. It's determined by a variety of different factors, and certainly of course one of them being the resources that we have. So once decisions are made, and that usually happens in April, we'll contact the Graduate Program Director or the appropriate individual, and the candidate with the intentions of acceptance.

So, candidates' tentative acceptance of the assistantship is contingent upon two things. One is that successful security or background clearance that I mentioned on the last slide and certainly also the execution of an agreement between NIJ and the sponsoring university. Ultimately, candidates are selected based on their background and their skills, and whether or not they're a good fit for the program. And at this point, normally what would happen once applicants who are selected, they become research assistants, they will begin in September of 2021. Normally, they would come to Washington DC, so, yes, this is a in-residence program right now because of everything we're dealing with due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RAs are not working on-site. As a matter of fact, none of us except the heads of organizations within the Department of Justice and those that must be on-site are working on-site. The rest of us are currently teleworking. And so when that changes, we would be back on site.

So what do RAs do when they come to NIJ? RAs can work on a variety of different things. And you see some examples on the slide such as maintaining measurement and study databases, conducting qualitative interviews, focus groups, and the likes, engaging in quantitative analysis, writing articles, papers, reports et cetera. RAs also undertake annotative bibliographies and conduct literature reviews. They collaborate with NIJ Scientists on intramural research. They assist with evaluability assessment. There's plenty of opportunities for research assistants to do a lot of good and meaningful work at NIJ. As one RA had said, "The opportunity is what you make of it." There are certain things NIJ wants the RAs to do. But, again, this is designed to be a win-win. And so we hope that the RAs get as much out of this opportunity as they would like.

And now as there's lots for RAs to be able to do, there's something that RAs cannot do. So RAs are not federal employees. So, we don't expect them to do federal work. While it certainly would be great if somebody could so some of my work, that's not why we bring RAs in. So they're not to supplant clerical work, grant, and cooperative agreement, or any of those things. They're not to assume the role of a federal employee. Now there are some things RAs get to see and do. For example, they can observe scientific peer review panels, internal NIJ briefings, and the like. And in those instance, they have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and then they're able to engage in those activities. RAs can have access to proprietary or government-classified or sensitive documents or systems. Again, whatever they have access to, they will have to sign that non-disclosure agreement. And it's important to note that RAs do not have confidential secret or any type of clearance as such. It's just public trust accessibility only.

Again, as I noted previously, RAs are expected to be on-site at NIJ. Right now, we're not on-site due to COVID-19. So the RAs, they establish their work schedule and they finalize their work plan with assigned project officers, and those are NIJ scientists and also with me, the manager of the program. Certainly, RAs should follow their university calendar, that's the way we operate. RAs do not work for NIJ on federal holidays or any other time when the federal government is closed. So that is a great opportunity for RAs to work on their university work. So, there's the opportunity and option, if RAs are interested in, it to work over academic break such as the fall, winter, spring, summer. You can do that. You're not required to do so. In those instances, RAs may then work up to 40 hours a week. So, the placement for the Research Assistantship is for one year. However, reappointments may be offered, placement decisions are made annually based on need and funding availability. And as you will hear from Danielle and Jessica when we do our Q&A, both of them have been at NIJ longer than a year. In terms of work place conditions, RAs are subject to the same codes of conduct and professional behavior as research assistant and their--such as those assigned to work at the university and those outlined by NIJ. NIJ will provide workspace and equipment for the RA.

So, what are we looking for in terms of candidates for the RAP Program? First of all, we're looking for candidates with strong reason ability--reasoning ability. So, RAs made to be able to work independently, accurately, and in a timely manner. RAs should have strong communication skills. So, candidates should be able to communicate orally and in writing to prepare comprehensive research report, proposal and evaluation, make a recommendation to accomplish an enhanced project objective. Be able to present to NIJ and external stakeholders. RAs should have strong writing skill. They should have solid analytical, statistical, and methods knowledge. We don't necessarily expect RAs to know how to do everything, be familiar with the latest, statistical technique per se. But we do expect RAs to have analytical, statistical, and method knowledge. That's important. So, as well as having some specialized training in a topic area and that usually corresponds to what you're doing as part of your doctoral work. We consider applicants to be highly qualified based on a skill that would facilitate a successful placement in the NIJ RAP including, again, just reiterating, strong writing skill, solid analytical, statistical and method knowledge, and then having a specialized knowledge or training in a particular area.

So, in terms of day to day management and supervision of the research assistant, RAs are employed and supervised by their university not NIJ. So, I'm not anyone's supervisor and should not be classified as such. I oversee the program and what's happening with the RA. I facilitate the work that they're doing with NIJ Science Staff, make sure that everything is going well, I check in, make sure, that RAs--because it's very important that RAs continue to matriculate. So, RAs have to be able to manage the work they're doing at NIJ with their university work, continuing to proceed towards completion of their PhD. Also, again, as I mentioned before, RAs plan and schedule their own work based on approved work plan. I work with the RAs to develop their plan, that's based on a different project, they're going to work on with NIJ scientists. The RAs work is reviewed. There usually is midyear and annual review for the RAs. But I check in with the RAs regularly. That way, if there's any challenges we can address them quickly so that this arrangement can be beneficial not only to NIJ but also to the research assistant.

So, in terms of the money as it relates to funding for the student. So, students will receive a stipend and that's based on 20 to 30 hours a week during the academic year of work. Again, it could be nine and a half month or twelve months, give that option as I mentioned before, not only to work during the breaks, but also over the summer. The stipend is based on the university policy or contract so that the university handles that. It would be the same as similarly situated RAs in the department or college that is sponsoring universities. It's dependent upon the doctoral degree program and the discipline as well as the RA's year or status in their program. Through the program, we also provide tuition remission up to 20 credits per academic year for a research assistant who work for NIJ for the nine and a half months or if they work for the calendar year, it would be up to 24 credits. We also provide health benefits and at times through the university, as well as opportunities for travel and training and this training is related to the RAP placement. So, it could be quantitative training or it could be qualitative training. Travel to conferences, research site visits, other data collection, so all of these things are a part of RAP funding.

And so with that we are at the end of the presentation. Certainly if you have any questions or you need more information about the program, you should visit our website and you see that URLs that--or you can email us at [email protected] And, again, I can't stress enough that the deadline for your application is December 23rd, 2020. So, if you are planning to apply, please work with your University to get your application in as soon as possible. And so with that, we now are ready to take questions if there are any at this time.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Yes, we do have a few questions, Angela. Our first one is what is RAP program good for and what kind of benefits does it come with?

ANGELA M. MOORE: So, I'll take that question. So, I think more than anything that it's about exposure to NIJ and the federal government and how we operate. So, that's one aspect, but it's also for the research assistant to learn and grow both academically and professionally. So, one of the things that we do in the RAP program is that research assistants, they both are generalist and specialist. So, sometimes RAs, they come in and they work in an area that's not in their background and they learn and they master another area. And some people find out, "Wow, I'm really interested in this. I never thought about this before, I never thought about applying my education to this particular area." So, it's professional, academic, personal growth and development, as well as becoming familiar if one doesn't already have that experience as to how a science agency within the federal government operates. And can you repeat, Mary Jo, the second part of that question? Just in case I didn't answer it.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: You did, but it's what--or what kind of benefits come with the position?

ANGELA M. MOORE: Right. So, in addition to those there's some money too. I mean, it's certainly not something you're going to get rich off of, but we do provide for that stipend that can pay for living expenses and the likes. And there's also the opportunity for relevant travel and training.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Our next question. How many students typically apply for the NIJ Research Assistantship Program?

JESSICA R. NORTON: I can take that one. Hey, everyone this is Jessica Norton. I am an RA here at NIJ, and I've been serving since September of 2019. So, historically the RAP Program was open to students in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. Within the last seven years, I believe, it opened up nationally. So, the number of applications that we receive fluctuates, but the applications are coming from doctoral students across the nation. So, it is a competitive program. So, yeah, so, the number fluctuates, but as Angela stated before, and I think this goes to another question coming up, the RAP accepts students, probably between two and five students on average per year, but that depends on funding in addition to other NIJ resources. So it's hard to put a number on the number of applications that we would get per year, but it is a nationally--it's a national application pool.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Thank you, Jessica. And you did address the next question, which was, what's the acceptance rate and how many students are accepted per year. The next question is, is there a maximum or minimum length for the writing sample?

ANGELA M. MOORE: I can take that one. And, again, as I had indicated early on, for the writing sample, it can be classroom scientific, no limits. I may not have as much time to read a dissertation, right? So maybe somewhere--a reasonable length, a journal article length is fine, but we don't have a specific page limit as it relates to the writing sample. We only have limits for the statement for interest, and the public safety challenge essay.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: The next question is what if someone is already a graduate from his doctorate program by that time? And I'm not sure what they mean by--what time they're referencing.

ANGELA M. MOORE: So I might not have made this so clear when I was talking about the eligibility. You have to be working towards a doctoral degree program during the period of performance. So if you've already have your PhD, you will not be eligible. This is pre-doc, not post-doc.

JESSICA R. NORTON: And I would just add that there are opportunities in the federal government for post-doc--for post-doctorate opportunities at who--I know there's a couple questions about post-docs, so if you're interested, a couple of--on the top of my head would be the PMF, and the AAAS post-doc. So if you're interested in something once you finish your doctoral degree, those may be things that you want to look into.

ANGELA M. MOORE: And if I can add, Jessica, if you--if you have questions about post-docs, feel free to email us again at [email protected] and we will be happy to point you in the direction, as Jessica mentioned, to opportunities.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: And the next question, is there a page limit for the public safety challenge?

ANGELA M. MOORE: Yes, there is a page limit for that, and I'll tell you exactly. So I'm not--so you know exactly the public safety challenge should be no more than five pages.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Should the scientific paper be in the form of a research manuscript that would be submitted to an academic journal?

ANGELA M. MOORE: It can be. That's not required. It's just a writing sample of a scientific paper. So if it's something that you've written for a class assignment, that would be accepted. If it's a publication, that would be accepted; if it's prepublication, that would also be accepted. The key here is for you to be able to demonstrate through that writing sample that you are able to write well. So, I strongly recommend whatever you submit, you should carefully review it, maybe have somebody else proofread it because those are the type of things, errors on those documents, they jump out at us right away.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Is there a particular statistical software that NIJ uses that the RAs should become familiar with?

ANGELA M. MOORE: Danielle? Jessica?

JESSICA R. NORTON: This is Jessica. Yeah, this is Jessica. I'll answer and I'll pass it onto Danielle. So, the short answer is, no, it depends. It will depend on who you're working with. If you were to do any data analyses then you would likely use a software that you're assigned to set you're working with uses, so having broad knowledge is probably the best, but it's hard to say which software you would be using at NIJ because it does depend on who you work with. And Danielle, you can kind of give your experiences on the software you've worked with.

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: Thanks Jessica. Hi, this is Danielle Crimmins. I have worked with SPSS and Stata while at NIJ. I did have experience with both of those prior to coming to NIJ, but it's not--I mean, there would've been time to get up to date and, you know, textbooks, and all of that provided to familiarize myself with those programs.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: We have a stipend minimum in our institution. Can you indicate the amount of stipend per year?

ANGELA M. MOORE: I'll take that one. Sorry. The short answer is no, and the reason why I say that is because it's really the university and the student, they work together to decide what the stipend is and then that information is sent to NIJ, we review the budget, and, as long as that information is valid, is practical--is legitimate, we go with that, so I couldn't--I can't tell you. So it's dependent upon a lot of different factors as I had mentioned earlier, what's your standing in the program, what is acceptable according to your university, all of those things, I would not--I wouldn't know that. I don't know. Danielle or Jessica, do you want to add anything to that response, based upon your experiences?

JESSICA NORTON: Yeah. I would just say it is very likely that your stipend minimum at your--at your institution will be accepted. Again, the contracts are based off of what's typically done at your home institution, so--yeah. So, you would work with the people at your university to create a budget that NIJ will then review, and hopefully approve. But it is--I would say that it's very likely that the minimum at your institution will be accepted because that is what is typically done at your institution. And your institution, even through the RAP, is still your employer.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: As of now, I am sure it's hard to estimate when NIJ employees will resume work on-site. If they do resume work on-site, say mid-fall 2021 semester, would the RAs be required to relocate at that time?

ANGELA M. MOORE: Yes. Yes. So, we wouldn't say, "Okay, we're going back on-site now. Find a place tomorrow and come." No. We try to be a little bit more reasonable than that. But, in all seriousness, no, you wouldn't be expect--you would be expected to come on-site but there would be time for that. So, let's say if we knew ahead of time, if we knew before September, maybe May or June, what have you, that we would be coming back on-site, all of us, then as soon as I knew that information, all of the candidates that were selected and accepted to be a research assistant, I would inform them, okay? So, "You're going to--we're going back on-site," so the expectation is that you're going to relocate so that you can be on-site. If it happened mid-spring, later in the year, or what have you, I would probably negotiate with the student in terms of what's reasonable for them to be able to come to the DC area, to come on-site. Maybe it wouldn't be reasonable or feasible until the following semester. That's all negotiable. So that--my role is to negotiate these different things that we have experienced. So even with our current cohort of RAs, none of them are working on-site right now, and so they have the option to remain where they were located, you know, in the same town, university, et cetera, or they could move to this area if they wanted to. That was up to them. But none of us are working on-site now, and we do not have any indication, at this point, regarding when we will come back on-site.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Should the application come directly from the university? Some universities are unclear as to who is allowed to submit the application on the student's behalf.

ANGELA M. MOORE: Right. And we know that is a challenge. That's why we say it has to come from someone who is like a Graduate Program Director. So--I don't know. It could be the Graduate Advisor, it could be the dean of the graduate school, et cetera. It has to be someone authorized to act on behalf of a university, to submit the application. And understand that your advisor can work with that person in terms of getting your materials together but then that individual who is authorized to submit it will submit it. Understand that this is an agreement between the Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, and your university. So that person has to be able to enter into that agreement. And that's why we do it that way. That's why it's not students that submit it. It has to be someone who has the authority to do so. Because when we start going back and forth--as you can imagine, this is a government agency. There's forms that need to be completed. These documents have to be reviewed. They're legally binding. So it has to be someone who can act on the university's behalf to enter into the agreement.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Will projects be assigned based on research interest?

ANGELA M. MOORE: It depends.

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: I can take this one. Oh, okay.

ANGELA M. MOORE: All right, Danielle. Please. No. Please.

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: Yes. That was going to be my exact answer. It depends. A little bit about my background, I'm in a Digital Forensics Program. And, luckily for me, there is a digital and multimedia evidence portfolio. So I--part of my work is definitely involved in that because that would be my area of expertise. However, as Angela was mentioning, you do have a plethora of projects that you have the opportunity to work on. And so, from my experience, one of those is mass shootings, which--and firearms violence in general, which, prior to coming to NIJ, was something I knew nothing about. And I've been with NIJ now for almost two and a half years, and I've consistently worked within that portfolio, and so it's something that I've really come to know a lot about. And that kind of has just further developed my CV because I've applied my methods and my critical thinking to an area outside of my actual wheelhouse per se. So I think it depends is definitely the answer.

JESSICA R. NORTON: Yes. And, Mary Jo, can I jump in on--piggyback on this question? And I think…


JESSICA R. NORTON: …we can probably answer a couple that are coming up. So I think it's important that candidates for the RAP either have direct research interest with the criminal justice field or have interest that can intersect with the criminal justice field. So I am in a Human Development and Family Studies Program. I applied for the RAP to, you know, learn more about criminal justice and also to explore nonacademic career opportunities. But, for the most part, my work at NIJ has aligned with my research interest, even though I'm not in a criminology program. So I've worked on projects with school safety. I've worked on evaluation projects, program evaluation projects. I have also worked in some more social justice types of efforts. And so it ranges, but I found that, for the most part, the projects that I've worked, the portfolios that I've worked on has intersected in my education in some way. So your interest may align with some of the work that you do directly or it may be--you know, may be aside of what you do, but research assistance will be asked to work with certain scientists or certain scientists may indicate they want to work with a research assistant, but the research assistant can also pursue certain projects as long as, you know, the work is there and the scientists are willing and able to work with the research assistant. So it does vary. It does depend. But, as Angela mentioned before, it is what you make it. And so there are definitely opportunities to work on various different topic areas.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: This next question is dealing with health insurance. So do students receive health insurance if they are beyond that point in their university? I'm not sure what that point means--oh, sorry. Meaning a student whose program give them healthcare under their contract for four years, if the student is applying in their fifth year.

ANGELA M. MOORE: So I'll take that question. And I will say this, because I can't say definitively. Again, because this relationship is between NIJ and the university, we have to follow what the university provides to us in terms of a budget. So if their budget doesn't include funds for health insurance, we can't say you're getting health insurance. You would get whatever the university deems as appropriate for the student to receive. So think of it has you're being treated as a RA if you were at your home institution. So we do the same thing in terms of hours, tuition, remission, stipend, et cetera.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: This question is a clarifying question that this is not a gap program, meaning students are expected to maintain typical course load and other educational program expectations during the assistantship. So are they required to do that?

ANGELA M. MOORE: That is--that is correct. I don't know. Danielle or Jessica, you want to elaborate on that?

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: I was just going to say the whole time I've been at NIJ, I've maintained full student status at Purdue University. That's looked different every semester. Sometimes I've taken courses that were offered online, and other times I'm doing research hours for my dissertation.

JESSICA R. NORTON: Yes. Yeah. So you have to be enrolled in your program. So if that means you have to take one credit to be enrolled or if you have to take three or a full course load. Again, whatever the university requires. So say your university requires you to take three credits to have an assistantship, it is likely that you have to take three credits. So, for me, I don't have that requirement, so I've taken as little as one credit, a dissertation credit, but I've also taken as much, I believe, as six credits because I've been--I've finished course work before I started in--at the RAP, so I've only had to take credits for dissertation for the most part.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Are RAs responsible for finding their own housing in DC?


DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: Yes. Definitely.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: What distinguishes the best, most highly-qualified candidates?

ANGELA M. MOORE: Jessica or Danielle, do you want to take that one first?

JESSICA R. NORTON: Sure. I think that--I think qualified candidates should be able to--should be able to demonstrate that they know how to work independently, as well as a team, have a record of presentations and/or publications. As Angela outlined earlier, being able to communicate verbally and communication--and, yeah, and able to collaborate and just be effective as a research assistant. So having experience as a research assistant, having experience with research, and publications, and presentations, I think would make you a qualified candidate. And with that being said, that should be demonstrated on your CV and through the materials that you submit, otherwise you may not make it far enough in the application process for you to talk about it in, say, an interview. So be sure that your CV is up to date and is able to show that you are--that you're competent in those areas. Danielle?

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: I would agree with everything Jessica just said. I think remembering that you're coming to NIJ to be a team player and to work in collaboration with the science staff, to convey that in your application would be great. And also that you can critically think, apply your research skills somewhat broadly, and your message skills are a big thing I would say.

ANGELA M. MOORE: I was just going to add that whatever--if you have specialized experience, you certainly want to make sure that get's reflected on your CV, such as if you have been conducting semi-structured, qualitative interviews for projects, or what have you, you have worked on a grant before, et cetera, those things should be on your CV because we look at that. Because that also helps us to think about, "Okay. We're--we have this project. So this individual--oh, Danielle would be a good fit for that because she's got that experience. So--oh, you know, Jessica has a strong evaluation background. She would be good to work on this particular project." So you want to make sure that you are highlighting those things for us so that we can see them on your CV or resume.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: I just wanted to say we are after the 4:00 hour but the panelists have agreed to stay on and answer some quest--some more questions because we do have quite a few. So I'm trying to find those that are slightly different than the other ones that have been asked. Who do you recommend to use as references, past employers, other advisors, anybody else?

ANGELA M. MOORE: I'll take that one to start. I would certainly recommend employers. I would recommend advisors. You really want someone--and you should know what they're going to say about you before you provide the reference. That's always important, to know what people are going to say before you include them. I would say that. Also because--not only as it relates to a reference, but also for that letter of recommendation, you want someone who can unequivocally say that you are highly qualified to be an RA. Danielle or Jessica, do you have anything to add to it?

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: I can say when I applied, my department has submitted the application on my behalf, but my actual Dissertation Chair wrote my letter, so she could speak to my research over the past--well, I knew her since I was an undergrad, so for a very long time. And also, as to what Angela said, always ask someone if they can provide you a good recommendation. That was some advice I have gotten over the years.


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Does the program pay for relocation costs to move to DC?

ANGELA M. MOORE: In a word, no. The government doesn't pay for--if I relocated, they wouldn't pay for me. So, I mean--so that's just something government-wide. I mean, very few people have their relocation expenses paid. That's just not something that we cover. And it's purely a resources issue.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Can the work with NIJ supplement one's dissertation or is the work data proprietary?

ANGELA M. MOORE: That's a very good question. I'll start with a response, if you're working on a project and you indicate to the scientific officer, the person that you're working with that you're interested in using that for your dissertation, that's someone--that's something that you and that scientist would have to negotiate. If there are any privacy or human subject issues, that needs to be addressed with our Human Subjects Protection Officer. If there are any particular sensitivities, it will have to go through our Office of General Counsel. So it's possible certainly, but understand that there can be hoops that one has to jump through in order to make that happen. And what I'm talking about is not anything different than what NIJ scientists experience. When we tried to do our own research at NIJ, we have to go through a variety of different processes to make that happen. One thing that I try to remind people who come in, other newer federal employees, et cetera, that the United States Department of Justice is one of the largest law firms in the country, if not in the world. We are run by lawyers, not scientists. So they do things a little bit differently than scientists do. So that's just something to keep in mind. But apart from that, we still manage to do good work, good scientific work. Jessica or Danielle, did you have anything you wanted to add to that?


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Is there a preference for how--excuse me. Is there a preference on how far along in our programs we are, and if not accepted, may we apply again the following year?

JESSICA R. NORTON: No, there's not a requirement for how far along you are in the program. And, yes, you can reapply. So just keep in mind that when you come to work at NIJ, that you will likely be a resident. So as Danielle mentioned, she's taken online courses while she's been at NIJ. So if you do have coursework, you should be sure that you're able to do that from the DC area. And if you are not, then maybe you should wait until you finish your coursework. But it is okay for you to still be taking coursework. Also consider your full workload in the time that you'll be working at NIJ and the number of courses you need to take because you do have to manage your own time and be able to do all the work. And, yes, if you are not accepted into the RAP your first go-around, you are more than welcome to reapply. Not being accepted into the RAP does not necessarily mean that you are not qualified. Again, as Angela has mentioned, acceptance often depends on the resources available. And so if, for instance, there is not enough funding to take on additional students, then there may be some qualified students who are not able to come on that year. But we do encourage you to reapply if you are not accepted your first go-around. And also, over that time, you may become--if you were not accepted because you were not necessarily the most competitive, then you may become more competitive over the next year or two, which would help your acceptance into the program.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: This is actually a follow-up question. They acknowledged that it's already been asked and answered but they would like us to repeat it. So is there a specific statistical software that would be best, and how did you address that earlier?

JESSICA R. NORTON: We said no because it depends on the scientist that you end up working with; to have some knowledge of some software package would be helpful. But if you are able to learn new software then that would be great. For instance, you know, I started working with Stata since I've been exposed to Stata. Let me say that since I came to NIJ, it's not a platform that I had worked with but because I have experience in other platforms, it makes it a little bit easier to use it. And also I feel like I'm competent enough to read over a manual and be able to do the work. So it just depends on who you end up working with.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Can the interim dean of the graduate school submit an application as well?

ANGELA M. MOORE: Yes. If she or he is authorized to do so, they certainly can. As long--I guess--again, I want to emphasize this, because this is--I know for many students, this has been a critical issue. Again, the key is that that person is able to--ultimately, we are looking for someone--you know, anybody could submit an application on your behalf, so to speak, but if you get selected and we need to enter into agreement with the university, we would like for that person to be able to do so. And it's okay if it's a different person, but that--who--those individuals should be part of the conversation together. You don't want someone who doesn't know how things operate at the university necessarily submitting for you, or you don't want someone who doesn't know anything about you to submitting. So if that isn't one individual then they should be working as a team. And so I can say when we received the document, there will be a number of individuals who are on the email when it's submitted and can provide--answer questions that we might ask when we receive the document.

JESSICA R. NORTON: And I'll add to that, because, yes, this is a question that comes up a lot. So, for me, we call--instead of the Graduate Program Director and--at Auburn, it's the Graduate Program Officer. So when I got my initial notice of contingent acceptance into the RAP, I spoke to my Graduate Program Officer about--well, sorry. So when I--when I was interested, I let my Graduate Program Officer know that I was interested, and he agreed that he could send it and he agreed to basically the concept of me participating in the RAP, that it would be okay for me to leave the program to work in residence in DC for the RAP. So I got that initial agreement from him. Once I would--had my contingent acceptance into the RAP, in order for the budget and the other documents to be completed, he brought in other people from other offices. So the process is not always as streamlined as it's one representative who will handle everything, but it is important that you speak to leaders and your program and in your college to figure out who is--who can actually give the permission for you to leave the program to come to the RAP. And then as you're--if you're accepted into the RAP, there may be other individuals who become a part of that process and--in getting you--getting your IAAs and everything together, and so that may require other people. But you want to be sure that the person who sends your application materials in has the authority to say, yes, you can leave this--you can leave the university to work in DC with this program and we will support you in doing that.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Is there any preference in the NIJ between harder science backgrounds, technology, and forensics or the social behavioral sciences, or are they given…

ANGELA M. MOORE: Absolutely not.


ANGELA M. MOORE: Oh. I will say, we really want and encourage the hard science if you will, and really hard sciences, which is social and behavioral, but that is--that's subject to debate. We certainly want both because at NIJ, we--again, our offices, we have the Office of Research Evaluation and Technology. There's a lot of individuals in that office with social and behavioral science backgrounds, but then we also have-- have engineers also and that we have individuals with technology backgrounds. In our Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences, we have chemists, we have biologists, and we have forensic scientists. So we welcome all of that. And so now we're increasingly getting more individuals that don't have social and behavioral sciences background to apply, and we've accepted them.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: A question about the submission of the writing sample. Does it matter if it's single or double spaced?

ANGELA M. MOORE: That's a good question. I don't recall if we--if we've indicated that it has to be single or double-spaced. You should follow what is--I'm not in the website right now but you should follow what we say on the website. Danielle or Jessica, do you?

JESSICA R. NORTON: No. Because we don't have a page limit for the writing sample, there's no preference for that. Just double-spaced makes it easier to read but, yeah, I don't--I don't think it matters so much. And I'm looking at the website to see if there was any guidance for the statement of interest. It doesn't say. But that's 1,000 words maximum so it doesn't matter. If it's double-spaced, it still has a limit. I guess the only product that that may matter for would be the public safety essay because that is strictly a page limit and not a word limit. So, Angela, if you have a preference on that, and then--you know, if we--we can update the website if that--if it makes a difference for you. So the publishing of the essay.

ANGELA M. MOORE: It's--it just--right. For--it doesn't--I mean, you just want to make sure that it's not more than five pages. And, you know, use your standard margins and all of that stuff, and whatever makes it easier to read. But I think as it relates to that, if you do five pages single-spaced, that's fine.

JESSICA R. NORTON: And so have--I see one more question, Mary Jo. Do you want me to--oh, you're muted.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: I didn't realize I muted myself. I'm sorry. Is a conceptual paper sole authorship considered a scientific paper for the purpose of this application?

ANGELA M. MOORE: Say that again please, Mary Jo?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Surely. Is a conceptual paper, in parentheses, sole authorship considered a scientific paper for the purpose of this application? And kind of in conjunction with that, there is another question. Using publication writing sample, is it required to be a solo piece? So perhaps we can address both of those at the same time.

ANGELA M. MOORE: I would say that a conceptual piece is a--is a scientific piece because as long as you are--you're thinking through, and I'm assuming you're providing literature, et cetera regarding that particular topic, that to me would be a scientific piece. But I certainly ask Danielle and Jessica weigh in as well. Regarding the authorship, if you submit something that is not sole authored, you certainly want to be the first author. But also just keep in mind that we're using these documents to attest you're ability to write for example, right? Writing, reasoning, communicating through this written document. So if it's not something that you have written solely, it makes it a little bit harder for us to tell who has written the document, right? What skills are we looking at? Is it, you know, Danielle's or is it Jessica’s? So if we can tell that, that makes it harder. So do that, but just think about, we're using this to assess your abilities, and that makes it harder to assess it if it's not something that you have written yourself solely. Danielle or Jessica, do you have anything to add?

JESSICA R. NORTON: I agree with both of the points that you made. I think a conceptual paper, especially if you wrote it yourself, would be a great demonstration of your reasoning and also your writing ability. And, yes, if you are not the sole author, being the first author would be best. But the writing sample, remember, is also open to class papers. So if you have a very well-written class paper, that would be a single author paper that you can submit. So in case you haven't--if you don't have a sole authorship published paper, I would suggest maybe, you know, submitting a class paper that is well done, that can show your independent writing ability for the reviewers. And, again, like Angela said, that way, they don't have to wonder how much is your work and how much is the work of your collaborator.

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: And I agree with both Angela and Jessica. However, I was going to ask a question that I think I saw in the Q&A as a follow-up. So I'm thinking about when I applied, I had my thesis done, and, of course, Angela can't read the entire thesis but perhaps I could have submitted that literature review. And so somebody did ask if literature review would count as a writing sample. So perhaps you have that. Or literature review for a class paper.

ANGELA M. MOORE: Yeah. So it would.

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: So that would be a way to make sure you're a single author, is if you take out some aspects of something you've already written.


MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: The next question, I'm asking just Danielle and Jessica, if they have any advice on how they prepared for the interview part of the application.

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: Sure. I actually had my advisor providing me with a list of commonly-asked questions, and I just prepared answers to those in preparation. I also definitely looked up what NIJ does, the different types of research that they do, so that I was prepared for any questions they got. Do you--like, "Do you know what we do here at NIJ?" Surprisingly, those are questions I've received in interviews before for other jobs. So looking at that. And, yeah, being familiar with the website and the work that they do.

JESSICA R. NORTON: Yeah. I agree. I also scoured the website to make sure I knew about all the work that NIJ is doing. Also, I particularly focused on work that they do that I would be interested in so that I could speak intelligently about that; how my research, interest and experiences aligned with the work being done at NIJ. I also, you know, wrote notes and made sure that I outlined my own research and experiences that would--that made me qualified and competitive for the position. So, you know, I wrote down, you know, all the statistical message that I know, the courses that I took, the research papers, presentations that I made. You know, making sure that I remembered the results of certain things just in case they wanted to know the results of some of the, you know, studies and presentations that I did. So just being able speak intelligently about my experiences, my work, being ready to answer any questions they had about my findings I think was important. But also being able to speak about the work that they are doing at NIJ and being, you know, aware of everything that they, you know, had going on, and how my research could supplement the work being done, but also what I felt like I could learn from being a part of the RAP program.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Thank you. And I apologize. We did lose the captioner, if you were using that service because we are over the time, so they dropped us. We are going to go maybe answer a couple more questions before we do need to move on. I'm trying to find something. We might have everything. I don't know if you see anything else in there that hasn't been addressed. I'm not really seeing anything. Can you guys send us information about ProDot via email?

JESSICA R. NORTON: About what?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: It says ProDot with the capital D on dot.

DANIELLE M. CRIMMINS: I think they mean--I think they mean postdocs?

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Oh, okay. Maybe it is postdoc. Okay.

JESSICA R. NORTON: They can reach out to us if they have questions. If they can reach out to the RAP email then we would be happy to send some links to help them explore postdocs with the government.

MARY JO GIOVACCHINI: Actually, with that being said, like I was going to say let's go to that last slide. And I'm also going to put the RAP email address in the chat box so that everybody will see that. If you give me a second, I--all right. So the email address for the RAP program has been added to the chat box. Right now you are looking at a slide that gives you the NIJ website. And if you want to go their website and pick the information out it is nij.ojp.gov. We also ask, if you haven't already done so, go ahead and subscribe to receive email updates and publication updates from NIJ. And it would also include information such as webinars, such as today's. And you could do that by texting OJP NIJ, inserting your email address, and sending that to 468-311 to subscribe. Just please note, any data rates will apply. And NIJ also has a presence on both Twitter and Facebook. The URLs listed for those two social media platforms are listed on the slides for you. And I can also take that--no, I can't. Sorry. I thought I could. Again, as a reminder, a transcript for this webinar, as well as the slides will be posted to the NIJ website in about 10 business days. Probably a little sooner than that. And we will also send you an email letting you know when that information has been posted. Angela, would you like to say anything before we finish up here?

ANGELA M. MOORE: I just, again, want to thank everyone who attended today's presentation. I'm greatly encouraged that you're interested in the RAP program. And again if you are going to apply, please do so early, but certainly by December 23rd, 2020. And I'd also like to thank Danielle and Jessica for joining me on this webinar. And I hope everyone has a good rest of the day, and please take good care, and stay safe.

Date Published: November 25, 2020