NIJ Tests and Evaluates Programs, Practices and Equipment

A critical part of providing evidence-based knowledge and tools is ensuring that they are valid, effective and compliant with performance standards. We fund projects to accomplish this in three areas:

Evaluation

Value of evaluation. One of the most important aspects of managing a criminal justice program or developing a new tool or technology is ensuring that the program or technology is meeting its goals and objectives. Policymakers want to fund activities and tools they can be sure are improving public safety. They want clear, actionable information on what works. An evaluation is the best way to accomplish that.

An evaluation not only produces evidence about how a program or technology works (or doesn't) but it also shows us where to adjust and fine-tune so the program or technology has the greatest impact.

Validity of evaluation. The scientific validity of evaluations is measured along a continuum from strong to weak. Randomized controlled trials provide the strongest measure of a program's effects. Randomly assigning test subjects to the experimental and control groups helps to isolate and measure the effectiveness of the program or intervention. However, this "gold standard" is hard to achieve in some research situations. In these cases, we have other "quasi-experimental" methods that may provide acceptable precision in detecting and measuring the program's effects.

In the physical sciences, measuring against a verified standard is the strongest way to evaluate effectiveness. We produce technology through a proven research, testing, development and evaluation process. Pilot projects and demonstrations put good concepts to the test in the real world. Will a concept that appears feasible really work? We fund scientific experiments to measure whether an idea is feasible, effective and can be replicated in more than one location.

Equipment Performance Standards

Public safety professionals need an independent, objective source to develop standard measurements for their equipment — minimum performance requirements for equipment such as body armor, hand-held and portal metal detectors, handcuffs and chemical-biological bodysuits.

Compliance Testing

We support several programs that test equipment against an objective measure to ensure that the equipment meets minimum standards for safety and effectiveness. We partner with the National Institute of Standards and Technology when we develop and test standards, such as soft body armor.

Date Created: January 26, 2010