Research and Development Process

NIJ's established research and development process helps ensure that funded projects are relevant to the field and produce valid, actionable results. The process typically includes:

NIJ's Research and Development Process
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  1. Developing the Research Agenda 
  2. Developing Solicitations
  3. Reviewing Proposals and Selecting Projects
  4. Reviewing Research and Evaluation Results
  5. Disseminating Research and Evaluation Results
  6. Archiving Research and Evaluation Results and Data Sets 

1. Developing the Research Agenda

Our long-term research agenda is founded on strategic research goals that inform program-specific research objectives. At the heart of our planning process is the need to build on the state of current research knowledge while balancing long-term strategic research goals with the pressing needs of criminal justice practitioners and policymakers.

We develop the research agenda by listening to practitioners and policymakers through:

2. Developing Solicitations

We release multiple solicitations for research, evaluation and development each fiscal year. These solicitations are the key device through which our research agenda is articulated and advanced. Our solicitations are crafted to advance the agency's long-term research agenda.

Each solicitation builds on the current state of research knowledge to provide the best opportunities for achieving significant knowledge beyond what we already know about crime and justice. Research knowledge is integrated across successive studies, with more recent findings building on previous research findings. Our planning process takes account of recent research results and the current needs of practitioners and policymakers to craft each year's funding opportunities.

Types of solicitations — open and directed. The scope of each solicitation varies. Some are "open" solicitations (where applicants can submit on a wide range of study topics), whereas others are more "directed" (where the type of research or evaluation work to be commissioned is more limited). Both approaches are essential to inform criminal justice practice and policy. For instance, we may use a directed solicitation to evaluate a specific criminal justice tool, program or intervention. On the other hand, an open solicitation for research can reveal important new innovative tools, programs or research questions.

3. Reviewing Proposals and Selecting Projects

Each research application submitted to NIJ undergoes independent peer review for project quality, impact, cost and effective dissemination of findings. We fund only the best proposals with the greatest chance of advancing the field.

Proposals are reviewed by independent peer panels comprising representatives from academia, industry and government organizations, along with practitioners from federal, state and local agencies. Once the panel completes its review, our program managers assemble and send recommendations on the proposals to our Director, who makes final award decisions.

4. Reviewing Research and Evaluation Results

Our grantees submit a final technical report that typically includes an overview of the project; a detailed description of the project design, data and methods; a full presentation of scientific findings; and a thorough discussion of the implications of the project findings for criminal justice practice and policy. Each final technical report submitted is reviewed by independent peer reviewers, who look at the strength of the research methodology and the significance of the findings to policy and practice, and make recommendations for dissemination of the findings.

5. Disseminating Research and Evaluation Results

The NIJ Editorial Board considers each study's scientific rigor and its value to the field and advises the Director on publishing options. We use several methods to take research findings back to the criminal justice practitioners and policymakers. These methods include:

  • Publication and dissemination. 
  • Hosting conferences and other events.
  • Providing training.
  • Web sites and electronic outreach.
  • Presentations by NIJ staff.
  • Technology assistance and outreach.
  • Reference services and information repositories.

Simultaneously, research findings are disseminated by the researchers via:

  • Academic press.
  • Trade press.
  • Mainstream press.
  • Conference presentations.
  • Electronic and print media.

See NIJ's Author Guidelines and Editorial Style (pdf, 53 pages).

6. Archiving Research and Evaluation Results and Data Sets

Typically, results from the projects we fund are made publicly available in two ways:

  • Final Technical Reports are made available to the public through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). The NCJRS Abstracts Database contains summaries of the more than 200,000 criminal justice, juvenile justice, and substance abuse resources that are housed in the NCJRS Library collection. Search the Abstracts Database.
  • Data sets and documentation are archived with the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD). NACJD is part of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Learn about finding, using and submitting data sets.
Date Modified: April 20, 2012