The National Institute of Justice SORNA Challenge: Developing Strategies to Measure the Implementation Costs and Public Safety Benefits of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)

We would like to thank everyone who submitted an idea under this Challenge.

We know our Challenge questions are tough, and in this case, no submission met the Challenge, so we will not award a prize.

We will continue to collaborate with the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking to address this important question.

On this page find:

Section I. Overview

To improve the effectiveness of sex offender registration and notification programs in the United States, Congress passed the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-248).

NIJ's SORNA Challenge seeks creative and innovative research strategies for future researchers to use when studying (1) the implementation costs associated with complying with SORNA and/or (2) SORNA's public safety benefits (examples include, but are not limited to, the Act's general and specific deterrent effects, its effect on law enforcement's ability to prevent crime, and its effect on the public's ability to protect itself). Contestants may propose a research strategy for one or both of these sets of issues ("Challenge components"). One cash prize will be awarded for each of these two Challenge components. A proposal addressing only one of the Challenge components is eligible for only one of the prizes, whereas a proposal that addresses both Challenge components will be eligible for both prizes (see Section VI).

Sex offender registration programs serve several important public safety purposes, including tracking sex offenders as they are released into the community, providing information to law enforcement that may assist in investigating crimes and apprehending criminals, curbing sex offender recidivism, and deterring would-be sex offenders. Typically, sex offender registration programs also involve public notices and make information about released sex offenders more broadly available to the public for the purposes of crime prevention and self-protection.

Empirical research on sex offenders has grown over the past decade, but no study to date has examined the multifaceted effects of SORNA, specifically the wide range of costs that have been or may be incurred in implementing SORNA, or the public safety benefits achieved with SORNA compliance.

This Challenge seeks to advance the sex offender research literature by developing a comprehensive strategy for further research measuring SORNA's costs and public safety benefits. [1] It provides an opportunity for practitioners and researchers to think creatively about how broadly to define, operationalize and ultimately measure those costs and benefits.

Section II. How to Enter

Application Instructions

See How to Apply for instructions on using the OJP OJP Grants Management System.

Contestants must submit their entries via the “The National Institute of Justice SORNA Challenge: Developing Strategies to Measure the Implementation Costs and Public Safety Benefits of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)” announcement during the Challenge submission period. Entries must be made through the Office of Justice Programs Grants Management System (GMS). Registration and entry are free.

All entries shall include:

  • A proposed research strategy (submitted in PDF format), which shall not exceed 15 double-spaced pages in 12-point font with 1-inch margins for a strategy addressing one Challenge component; or 30 double-spaced pages in 12-point font with 1-inch margins for a strategy addressing both Challenge components.
  • A cover page (submitted in PDF format and not counted against the appropriate page limit), which shall include the title of the research strategy and the applicant’s name and complete contact information (i.e., name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address).

Once a proposal strategy is submitted, no changes may be made. Any entry exceeding the appropriate page limits will be disqualified. All qualifying entries will be judged according to the Judging Criteria described below (Section V).

Section III. Important Dates

  • Challenge submission period begins: July 1, 2013, 9 a.m. ET.
  • Challenge submission period ends: October 31, 2013, 5 p.m. ET.
  • Judging period begins: November 4, 2013.
  • Judging period ends: January 3, 2014.
  • Winners announced: February 2014.

Section IV. Judges

The Challenge will be judged by a distinguished panel of judges with expertise in sex offender management and research methods. The Challenge will be judged according to the criteria listed in Section V. Reviewer ratings and recommendations are advisory. The Director of NIJ or a designee will make the final award determination. If the Director of NIJ determines that no entry is deserving of the award, no prize will be awarded. The award of any prize is subject to the availability of appropriated funds.

Section V. Judging Criteria

The following criteria will be used to judge Challenge entries:

  • Demonstrated innovation and creativity in the proposed research strategy (25%).
  • Connection between the proposed strategy and the problem (10%).
  • Soundness of methods, and analytic and technical approach (35%).
  • Feasibility of the proposed strategy and methods, and awareness of potential pitfalls (20%).
  • Potential for significant advances in the field of sex offender management, registration and notification (10%).

Section VI. Prize

A Challenge prize of up to $50,000 is available. One prize of $25,000 for each of the two Challenge components will be awarded. In the case of a team entry, the team will be considered a contestant and receive any prize money as a group. All prizes awarded will be at the discretion of the NIJ Director.

Section VII. Other Rules and Conditions

(A) Submission Period

The SORNA Challenge submission period begins on July 1, 2013, and ends on October 31, 2013. Entries submitted before or after the designated submission period will not be reviewed.

(B) Eligibility

The Challenge is open to (1) individual residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa; (2) teams of eligible individuals; and (3) corporations or other legal entities (e.g., partnerships or nonprofit organizations) that are domiciled in any jurisdiction specified in (1).

Contestants may submit or participate in the submission of more than one entry. Employees of NIJ and individuals or entities listed on the Federal Excluded Parties list are not eligible to participate. Employees of the Federal Government should consult with the Ethics Officer at their place of employment prior to submitting an entry for this Challenge. The Challenge is subject to all applicable federal laws and regulations. Submission of an entry constitutes a contestant's full and unconditional agreement to all applicable rules and conditions. Eligibility for the prize award(s) is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.

(C) General Warranties and Conditions

(1) Release of Liability: By entering the Challenge, each contestant agrees to (a) comply with and be bound by all applicable rules and conditions, and the decisions of NIJ, which are binding and final in all matters relating to this Challenge; (b) release and hold harmless NIJ and any other organizations responsible for sponsoring, fulfilling, administering, advertising or promoting the Challenge, and all of their respective past and present officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives (collectively, the "Released Parties") from and against any and all claims, expenses, and liability arising out of or relating to the contestant’s entry or participation in the Challenge, and/or the contestant’s acceptance, use, or misuse of the prize or recognition.

The Released Parties are not responsible for (a) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by contestants, printing errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with, or used in, the Challenge; (b) technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (c) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Challenge; (d) technical or human error that may occur in the administration of the Challenge or the processing of entries; and (e) any injury or damage to persons or property that may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, by a contestant's participation in the Challenge or receipt or use or misuse of any prize. If for any reason a contestant's entry is confirmed to have been deleted, lost, or otherwise destroyed or corrupted erroneously, the contestant's sole remedy is to submit another entry in the Challenge.

(2) Termination and Disqualification: NIJ reserves the authority to cancel, suspend and/or modify the Challenge, or any part of it, if any fraud, technical failures or any other factor beyond NIJ’s reasonable control impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the Challenge, as determined by NIJ in its sole discretion. NIJ reserves the authority to disqualify any contestant it believes to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Challenge or to be acting in violation of any applicable rule or condition. Any attempt by any person to undermine the legitimate operation of the Challenge may be a violation of criminal and civil law, and, should such an attempt be made, NIJ reserves the authority to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. NIJ’s failure to enforce any term of any applicable rule or condition shall not constitute a waiver of that term.

(3) Intellectual Property: By entering the Challenge, each contestant warrants that (a) he or she is the author and/or authorized owner of the entry; (b) the entry is wholly original with the contestant (or is an improved version of an existing solution that the contestant is authorized legally to enter in the Challenge); (c) the submitted entry does not infringe any copyright, patent, or any other rights of any third party; and (d) the contestant has the legal authority to assign and transfer to NIJ all the rights, title, and interest (past, present, and future) under copyright and other intellectual property law, for all material included in the Challenge proposal that may be held by the contestant and/or the legal holder of those rights. Each contestant agrees to hold the Released Parties harmless for any infringement of copyright, trademark, patent, and/or other real or intellectual property right, which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from the contestant's participation in the Challenge.

(4) Publicity: By entering the Challenge, each contestant consents, as applicable, to NIJ’s use of his/her/its name, likeness, photograph, voice, and/or opinions, and disclosure of his/her/its hometown and state for promotional purposes in any media worldwide, without further payment or consideration.

(5) Privacy: Personal and contact information submitted through www.nij.gov or https://grants.ojp.usdoj.gov is not collected for commercial or marketing purposes. Information submitted throughout the Challenge will be used only to communicate with contestants regarding entries and/or the Challenge.

(6) Compliance With Law: By entering the Challenge, each contestant guarantees that the entry complies with all federal and state laws and regulations.

(7) Specific Disqualification Rule: If the announced winner of the Challenge prize is found to be ineligible or is disqualified for any of the reasons listed under “Other Rules and Conditions: Eligibility,” NIJ may make the award to the next runner up, as previously determined by the NIJ Director.

(8) Prize Disbursement and Requirements: Prize winners must comport with all applicable laws and regulations regarding prize receipt and disbursement. For example, NIJ is not responsible for withholding any applicable taxes from the prize award.

(9) Rights Retained and Assigned by Contestants and Challenge Winners

(a) Except as provided herein, all legal rights in any materials or products submitted on entering the Challenge are retained by the contestant and/or the legal holder of those rights. Entry in the Challenge constitutes express authorization for DOJ staff and NIJ’s selected panel of judges to review and analyze any and all aspects of submitted entries, including any source code and any trade secret or proprietary information contained in or evident from review of the Challenge entry. 

(b) Upon acceptance of any Challenge prizes, the winning contestant(s) exclusively and irrevocably assigns and transfers to NIJ all of the winner’s rights, title, and interest (past, present, and future), under copyright and other intellectual property law, for all material included in the Challenge proposal. This assignment includes, without limitation, the right to register copyrights for the Challenge proposal in the name of NIJ and to enforce against third parties any copyright or other intellectual property interest in the Challenge proposal.

(c) Upon acceptance of any Challenge prizes, the winning contestant(s) agrees to provide any and all ratifications and consents necessary to accomplish the purposes of the foregoing to the extent possible, and to execute any document or perform any actions that NIJ may request to perfect or otherwise implement this assignment of rights.

Section VIII. Contact Information

  • For substantive questions about the Challenge, e-mail NIJ at SORNA_Challenge@usdoj.gov.
  • For technical questions about the application process, first read through How to Apply. If you still have questions, contact the OJP Grants Management System Help Desk — open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET — at 1-888-549-9901.

Note

[1] For information on how the states and U.S. territories have implemented SORNA, see http://smart.gov/sorna.htm.