Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice Conference
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Thank you, John. I'm so pleased to be here, and I'm just thrilled that the Attorney General could join us. I think we all know just how much Eric Holder cares about the role of research and science in public safety. We're truly fortunate to have someone so committed to these issues leading the Department of Justice. I look forward to introducing him in just a moment.
Before I do, though, I'd like to say a few words. I've come to use my remarks at this conference as a vehicle to report each year on how we're doing on the "science front." So I thought - for a few minutes - it would be appropriate to give you that annual update.
Let me begin with John: Last year at this time we were still awaiting his confirmation - and Jim Lynch's - by the Senate. Both came almost immediately after last year's NIJ Conference. And while I missed the opportunity at last year's session to welcome John to NIJ and OJP, I can tell you I am thrilled to have him at the helm of the Institute.
And, as you know, John just returned from Sweden, where he was awarded - by the Queen! - the Stockholm Prize in Criminology, the highest honor for a researcher in our field. How well deserved! And I think we should embarrass him now with a huge round of applause!
There are several other points on the "science front" I want to highlight as well:
First, our new OJP Science Advisory Board, which I announced at this conference last year, held its first meeting in January - a highly productive session. The appointment of this body by the Attorney General was, in my view, a significant development. The Board can help ensure the integrity of our science functions at OJP and provide important guidance to us.
The Board is holding its second meeting today. It is chaired by legendary criminologist Al Blumstein - we are so lucky to have him at the helm - and I am again impressed, seeing them today, by the stellar group of individuals who have agreed to serve. Let me ask them to stand.
Second point: I want to note the enormous collaboration that exists right now between the science and program sides of OJP. These robust relationships are not just dialogue, but have resulted in concrete collaborations like the HOPE Demonstration Field Experiment and evaluation solicitations supported by BJA and NIJ that are currently on the street.
As a very longtime observer of the federal criminal justice assistance program, I don't know that we've seen this kind of sustained cooperation and coordination between science and program since the early days of the LEAA program in the 1970s.
Third point, and related to the last: We continue to make real progress under our Evidence Integration Initiative. As those of you who've heard me talk about this know, E2I is about improving how we at OJP encourage better integration of science into program and policy decision-making.
We know, for example, there's a tremendous amount of information out there on "what works" - but too often it's in academic journal articles that few policymakers and frontline professionals ever read. For years, going back to my days at Penn, I've felt passionately that our field needs a "What Works Clearinghouse" - a repository of easy-to-access information on effective programs and approaches, material that busy practitioners can easily access.
In fact, I testified before Congress on the need for this back in 2007, two years before returning to OJP.
Over the last 24 months, my staff - Dr. Phelan Wyrick, Brecht Donoghue, and Jennifer Tyson - have been working to make that vision a reality. Today, I'm pleased and proud to announce the culmination of that hard work: We're going live today with a new online resource we're calling CrimeSolutions.gov. You can see the logo on the screen, and you can see a live demonstration in the hallway at the CrimeSolutions.gov booth.
I'm extremely excited about this. It's going live today with information on more than 125 justice-related programs, each accompanied by an evidence rating that categorizes it as effective, promising, or showing no effects, based on available research. The Web site is searchable and it covers a range of topics - from prevention to courts and corrections to juveniles to law enforcement, and beyond.
I think those of you in the audience who are researchers will find CrimeSolutions.gov to be helpful. But its primary audience - those we're aiming for - are policymakers and practitioners. As I've said, one of my top priorities as Assistant Attorney General is to help these busy professionals make use of research, and I think this can help.
We see CrimeSolutions.gov as a practical tool for helping translate research for broader use, but it's a first step. So we invite your suggestions on how to make it better.
My final comment on "the state of science" and the Department of Justice: We have had the constant, abiding support of an Attorney General who believes - deeply believes - in science and in preserving the integrity of science.
I have to tell you that there has not been one thing I have asked Eric Holder to do related to science that he has not done - or supported - immediately.
When Eric Holder took office in 2009, many of us in this audience knew we were getting an Attorney General who would be a forceful advocate for our issues. What has been so gratifying for me, personally, and I know for many of you, is the extent to which he has embraced and promoted science as the foundation of our work.
In speech after speech, he's called for a stronger role for research in informing practice. I'd even argue that the phrase "smart on crime" has gained such currency because he's uttered it so often. And he's been absolutely unwavering in his commitment.
Two months ago, he outlined his top priorities for the Department of Justice for the remainder of his term. He pledged - and I quote - to continue "invest[ing] in scientific research to make certain that [the] Department is both tough and smart on crime." This is a man who believes in the value of science.
We need no further proof of Eric Holder's commitment than his presence here today. Please join me in welcoming the Attorney General of the United States.
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