About the National Institute of Justice

Listen, Learn, Inform

NIJ is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

We are dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. We provide objective and independent knowledge and tools to inform the decision-making of the criminal and juvenile justice communities to reduce crime and advance justice, particularly at the state and local levels.

We accomplish our mission through the "Listen, Learn, Inform" model — we "listen" to the needs of the field; "learn" ways to meet those needs by funding research, development, and evaluation projects; and then "inform" the field of what we learned.

Select a heading below to learn more.

Listen —

Improving our ability to understand and respond to crime and justice challenges begins with listening to the field. NIJ regularly engages with criminal and juvenile justice researchers and professionals to learn from their unique expertise and gather information on what knowledge, tools, and resources are necessary to reduce crime and advance justice.

Input about crime-fighting successes, failures, and needs gathered directly from practitioners, policymakers, and researchers helps guide our research investments, capacity enhancement programs, and standards development.

The research objectives for each of NIJ’s portfolios are determined also by:

  • Existing research knowledge (because knowledge accumulates).
  • The successes and struggles of programs undertaken by other federal agencies, including other Office of Justice Programs bureaus and offices.
  • Administration priorities.

Learn more:

Learn —

We invest in research across scientific disciplines, including the social and behavioral sciences, physical sciences, engineering and technology, to provide evidence-based knowledge to strengthen the justice system. Researchers, students, and justice professionals have the opportunity to apply for research and development funding through NIJ solicitations, fellowships, and challenges.

Our long-term research agenda is guided by our strategic goals. At the heart of our research planning process is the need to build on current science while balancing long-term strategic research goals with the pressing needs of practitioners and policymakers.

To support our strategic and overarching research goals, we develop strategic research plans on topics within crime and justice that span our three science offices. These plans build off of existing research knowledge; input about research needs gathered from practitioners, policymakers, and researchers; and the priorities of Congress and the Administration.

We use two main mechanisms to implement research: funding external research and conducting intramural research.

Throughout this process, we follow widely accepted scientific processes and procedures to help ensure the validity and integrity of our research.

We also gather performance data from our capacity enhancement programs to assess their effectiveness and shape their continued development.

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Inform —

NIJ’s scientific investments inform the national conversation on issues of criminal and juvenile justice and public safety. Evidence-based knowledge can lead to more effective justice policy and practice, develop new technology and scientific techniques, and address emerging justice challenges. We are committed to providing the justice community with the knowledge and tools necessary to reduce crime and advance justice.

The results of research projects are evaluated by external peer reviewers and NIJ’s own science staff.

After NIJ has evaluated the results of the funded research, it is disseminated through multiple channels as part of our mission to (1) give policymakers and practitioners the best available evidence to make decisions and (2) build knowledge that advances both science and practice.

In addition, awardees and NIJ scientists are encouraged and expected to publish results of their work in peer-reviewed journals.

Data resulting from research project typically is submitted to National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. Making data available allows researchers to test each other's conclusions and new conclusions.

NIJ-funded program evaluations also may be reviewed, rated, and posted to CrimeSolutions.gov — an NIJ-funded project that uses rigorous research to determine what works, what doesn’t, and what’s promising.

We also strive to ensure eligible entities take advantage of our capacity enhancement programs, such as the DNA backlog reduction and other laboratory enhancement programs and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

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Why and How — Strategic Planning and the Research and Development Process

Our long-term research agenda is founded on these strategic challenges. At the heart of our planning process is the need to balance the state of current research knowledge with the pressing needs of criminal justice practitioners and policymakers.

Learn about our Strategic Challenges and Research Agenda.

Our research and development process helps ensure that projects are relevant to the field and produce valid, actionable results.

Learn about our Research and Development Process.

Date Modified: January 22, 2018