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Understanding the Science-Practice Gap

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2016
2 pages
In this video and accompanying transcript, Jessica Shaw discusses what she learned about the science-practice gap while working as a translational criminology fellow at the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
She addresses the nature of the science-practice gap, how research intermediaries work to bridge that gap, how organizations and individuals can have gaps, and the importance of "interdisciplinarity," which involves drawing on research from a variety of scientific disciplines that can be applied to criminal justice policy and practice. Shaw has been trained as a community psychologist, with a Ph.D from Michigan State University. She notes that community psychology focuses its research on social justice and change, which requires interacting with individuals, organizations, systems, and whole communities in order to understand their perspectives and needs. This involves working in researcher-practitioner partnerships and community collaborations to produce practice and policy that can achieve envisioned change. Shaw states that her background in community psychology provides valuable input for NIJ's translation criminology mission, which is to translate scientifically derived research findings into the content and goals of criminal justice policy and practice. During her fellowship, she learned a lot about research intermediaries such as NIJ, which focus on connecting researchers to practitioners in projects that not only produce data and data analysis, but also devise ways in which the research findings can be incorporated into criminal justice policy and practice to improve envisioned outcomes. The gap between science and its research findings and criminal justice policy and practice occurs when scientists, policymakers, and practitioners fail to collaborate. Such collaboration can both guide research priorities that will be relevant to criminal justice policy and practice and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice by basing it in research rather than subjective preferences or political ideologies.

Date Published: December 1, 2016