What is Translational Criminology?

Sidebar to the article Strengthening NIJ: Mission, Science and Process by John H. Laub

The theme of this year's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) annual conference was "Translational Criminology: Shaping Policy and Practice With Research." The idea of translational criminology is simple, yet powerful: If we want to prevent, reduce and manage crime, we must be able to translate scientific discoveries into policy and practice. Indeed, this guiding principle lies at the heart of NIJ's response to a number of the National Research Council's recommendations.

The goal of translational criminology is to break down barriers between basic and applied research by creating a dynamic interface between research and practice. This is a two-way street: In one direction, practitioners in the field describe challenges they face in their jobs every day; in the other direction, scientists discover new tools and ideas to overcome these challenges and evaluate their impact.

However, translational criminology goes beyond the conventional "research-to-practice" idea. It does this through a systematic study of the process of knowledge dissemination, recognizing that successful dissemination of research findings may require multiple strategies.

Successful dissemination also requires that the evidence is implemented correctly. In other words, it is not just about finding evidence that something works; it is figuring out why it works and how to implement the evidence in real-world settings. Moreover, this facet of translational criminology places a priority on applicability — that is, on research with the potential for real-world implementation, something that is especially attractive in an era of limited resources.

Date Created: November 3, 2011