Portrait of NIJ Directory Nancy Rodriguez

Nancy Rodriguez, NIJ Director (Biography)

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The NIJ Director

The Director is appointed by the President to lead the National Institute of Justice and establish the agency's objectives, guided by the needs of the field and the priorities of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The current Director, Nancy Rodriguez, was sworn in on February 9, 2015.

Follow the NIJ Director through her entries from the "Director's Corner" below. You also may:

Director's Corner

May 16, 2016 — Decades of Research Provide Guidance on Police Wellness

One of the most significant — but least understood — realities of research in the social and behavioral sciences is how difficult it can be to identify specific, causal relationships, especially when examining the impact of a particular program. In fact, in all the sciences, small incremental progress is far more common than breakthroughs. That’s why I’m so pleased when I see examples of NIJ’s role in driving innovative research in policing and other stressful occupations, such as serving in the military or on crisis intervention teams. Recently, I had a chance to visit with Dr. Bryan Vila, a former police officer turned professor at Washington State University, and tour the Simulated Hazardous Operational Tasks (SHOT) Laboratory. Read the Director's message on police wellness.


May 6, 2016 — New National Protocol for Sexual Abuse Medical Forensic Examinations of Prepubescent Children

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is pleased to support the release of the National Protocol for Sexual Abuse Medical Forensic Examinations, Pediatric by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. The empirical research on the abuse of children is clear—crimes against children are different from similar crimes that victimize adolescents and adults. This difference served as the rationale for developing a protocol tailored for children. Read Director Rodriguez message regarding the new protocol.


May 5, 2016 — Violence Against American Indians and Alaska Natives

Violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives is more common than violence against others — far more common than previous research has indicated. One of NIJ’s core missions is understanding and preventing violence using scientific methods that help policymakers and practitioners understand the full nature and extent of the problem. I am very proud of a study we just published about intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Read the complete message about violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives and learn more about the report.


April 14, 2016 – Making Progress on Understanding and Investigating Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a traumatic crime with a wide range of impacts on both the victim and public safety. Over the last several years, survivors, advocates, policymakers, prosecutors and law enforcement have focused on improving sexual assault investigations to better support and serve victims. This Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I want to talk about how NIJ’s efforts are contributing to sexual assault awareness and improvements in evidence collection and processing, including the value in testing previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits, the importance of victim-centered approaches, and the necessity of properly trained medical personnel. Read the complete Sexual Assault Awareness Month message.


March 7, 2016 Countering Violent Extremism with Research

At NIJ, we are dedicated to conducting and applying research in our efforts to find solutions to criminal justice problems. A great example of that dedication is exhibited in our robust research portfolio on domestic radicalization and countering violent extremism. NIJ has invested in almost two dozen research projects that aim to 1) understand how and why individuals radicalize to violence and 2) identify promising practices for prevention and intervention.

I am excited that we are hosting a "Research for the Real World" seminar on March 7 to share some of the findings from our CVE portfolio. We are bringing together three internationally renowned experts from the practitioner and academic arenas to share their data and discuss how research can be used in the task of preventing radicalization to violence. Learn more about the seminar an speakers.


February 19, 2016 – Tips for Making Your Proposal Competitive

As I discussed in my last Director’s Corner, NIJ is developing a number of exciting new solicitations this year. We have now started releasing our solicitations and will continue to do so over the coming months. In this post, I discuss several common elements of successful proposals to consider as you create the most competitive proposal you can. Read the full post to see these tips.


November 16, 2015 – Upcoming Solicitations for Fiscal Year 2016

I am excited to tell you about NIJ's upcoming solicitations. Fiscal year 2016 will reflect some key shifts at NIJ. Our overarching priority has not changed: to strengthen science and advance justice. But, for those of you who follow us closely and apply each year, you will see a few changes. The main goal of these changes is to better align NIJ's internal structure and processes with the research needs of the field and the priorities of the Administration. This realignment will nurture NIJ as a scientific agency and help us better support the researchers and practitioners whom we serve. Read the complete message on our 2016 solicitations.


November 12, 2015 – Developing the Future of Law Enforcement Leadership

I had a chance recently to meet some remarkable up-and-coming policing leaders and watch them in action at IACP’s annual conference. They are participants in a collaborative effort to mentor sworn, mid-rank officers who have shown a desire to advance and integrate science into their police departments. The joint NIJ/IACP program is called “Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science (LEADS).” Read Director Rodriguez complete message on the LEADS program.


October 22, 2015 – Setting the Agenda for Administrative Segregation Research

For most of my academic life, I have had an interest in corrections issues, especially the impact of incarceration on families and communities. When I arrived at NIJ, I was excited to be part of a national effort to reform sentencing and incarceration policies, including the use of solitary confinement.

NIJ is proud to play a role in the national discussion about the use of administrative segregation, more widely known as solitary confinement or restrictive housing. It is common practice in jails and prisons, and it can be an important option that can safeguard the well-being of staff and inmates. Read the complete message on setting the research agenda for administrative segregation.


October 20, 2015 – Building Knowledge to Make Schools Safer

For many people, the topic of school safety brings to mind recent incidents of gun violence that seized the attention of the nation. Indeed, the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative (CSSI) was conceived in the immediate aftermath of the murders of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. However, because CSSI was launched soon after that heart-wrenching event, some might regard “school safety” as a niche topic that is treated separately from other justice priorities.

I am convinced, however, that this is not the case. As a criminologist, I see how closely CSSI is aligned with many of the overall challenges and priorities for criminal justice in the U.S. Read the complete message on building knowledge to make schools safer.


October 12, 2015 — New Research Projects Funded in Fiscal Year 2015

One of NIJ’s most crucial tasks as a science agency is making decisions about which research proposals to fund. I’m pleased to report that for fiscal year 2015, NIJ made over $156 million in grant awards to more than 210 research projects. These awards reflect NIJ’s commitment to funding rigorous research that helps practitioners and policymakers make criminal justice decisions based on sound scientific evidence. Read the complete message on fiscal year 2015 awards.


October 1, 2015 — Statement on Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of NIJ

On behalf of the Office for Investigative and Forensic Sciences at the National Institute of Justice, I wish to thank the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) for providing NIJ with such an insightful and thoughtful report. We appreciate the Committee's time and effort in producing this assessment.

NIJ commissioned the report to help us monitor our progress in addressing the challenges facing the forensic science community and NIJ’s role in bolstering the forensic sciences research infrastructure that were both outlined in the 2009 report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, and the 2010 report, Strengthening the National Institute of Justice. Read the complete statement.


September 21, 2015 — Building Our Next Generation of Researchers

As colleges and universities across the country begin a new academic year, I want to discuss one of my high-priority goals — supporting the research activities of new and emerging scholars. These creative thinkers from a variety of disciplines are proposing innovative ideas to study and solve criminal justice problems. I am proud to offer my support in the form of fellowships and research assistantships.

This year, NIJ is taking full advantage of our long-standing fellowship programs as well as several newer ones. We are supporting a record number of fellowships this year: 32 in all. Plus we are supporting seven research assistants. Read the complete message on NIJ's fellowship and research assistantship programs.


August 30, 2015 —Body-Worn Cameras: Investigating and Evaluating Their Use by Police

I recently discussed NIJ’s research on the use of body-worn cameras in a short video about the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s body-worn camera toolkit. Because this technology has been front and center in the national discussion, I thought it was important for me to remind viewers that, to date, there has been little scientific research to help law enforcement executives and other officials decide whether and how to implement the use of body-worn cameras. Read the full post and watch a video.


August 10, 2015 —Strengthening Forensic Science at Its Foundations to Improve Public Safety  

With National Forensic Science Week beginning on August 9, I can’t think of a better time to highlight the importance of NIJ’s investment in forensic science research and how that investment is improving our criminal justice system.

Since 2009, NIJ has supported forensic research with more than $127 million. That makes us a global leader in the advancement of forensic science. Read the full post.


July 27, 2015Making Change Happen in Policing

I was honored earlier this month to serve on a panel discussion sponsored by CNA about the changing role of policing, entitled: “Making Change Happen—What Must Be Done.” My specific topic was how NIJ’s investments can help move policing reforms in the right direction. This edition of the Director’s Corner is inspired by the conversation at the event. Read the full post.


July 6, 2015Envisioning the Future

I’m glad I had time before I arrived in Washington to reflect on what I want to accomplish during my tenure, because it has been in a whirlwind of activity since I arrived. Knowing that my tenure ends in January 2017 (when the next Administration takes office) has its advantages and disadvantages. But since it is my nature to focus on the advantages, here’s the biggest one: I have a hard and fast deadline to meet my goals! Read the full post and watch a video.

Date Modified: May 16, 2016