NIJ Journal 278: Director's Message

Portrait of NIJ Acting Directory Howard Spivak

Howard Spivak, NIJ Acting Director

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As a research agency, NIJ has long recognized that no single scientific discipline can address the variety of complex issues facing our criminal justice system and the people who work to protect and improve public safety. To better show how research from across the social and behavioral sciences, forensic sciences, physical sciences, and technology can shed light on these challenges, we are taking a new approach to the NIJ Journal. Each issue of the NIJ Journal will now focus on a single theme, allowing the articles to dive into one specific topic from different scientific points of view.

This change reflects internal shifts NIJ has made over the last two years to bring our scientific staff from each discipline together to collaborate on key crime and justice priorities that confront the nation. By identifying and nurturing the links between scientific disciplines and fostering discussion of how scientific findings can inform one another, we are strengthening our research investments as well as our ability to support the field.

This issue of the NIJ Journal is the first to incorporate these interdisciplinary changes. I am pleased that the directors and staff of our Office of Research and Evaluation and Office of Science and Technology have partnered to share some of the latest evidence and thinking about issues within institutional corrections. The articles in this issue show how research from the social sciences and research from the physical sciences complement one another to provide evidence-based information and guidance to improve corrections practices and promote institutional safety.

Applying a thematic focus to the NIJ Journal not only will allow us to examine a particular issue from all sides but also will showcase different forms of science to provide innovative, evidence-based insights that are timely and relevant for those working on the issue — whether basic science to understand the causes and impacts of a problem, applied science to inform strategies and decision-making, or evaluations and assessments of specific programs or technologies put in place to solve a problem.

It is my hope that the new thematic issues will invite not only people interested in a particular topic but also those working in related sectors to read the NIJ Journal. Just as different scientific disciplines can provide new insight to a specific problem, the evidence about and approaches to solving a challenge in a particular area can shed light on other challenges within the criminal justice system.

Our goal is to provide a more holistic look at a single sector or problem that can help bring new ideas and better insight to the work of policymakers and criminal justice professionals. Investing in knowledge at the intersection of scientific fields is a valuable way to develop innovative approaches to complex problems. NIJ remains committed to our interdisciplinary investments, and I encourage scientists and those working within the criminal justice system to draw upon the scientific information in this and upcoming issues of the NIJ Journal to inform innovative, evidence-based decision-making.

Howard Spivak, M.D.
Acting Director, National Institute of Justice

Date Created: May 23, 2017