Scientific evidence has an essential role in promoting a fair, equitable, and effective justice system and improving public safety for all Americans, says Nancy La Vigne, new director of the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice. She says, "The most direct way to work toward those goals is by building our knowledge base through research that is rigorous, interdisciplinary, and inclusive.. Such research includes randomized controlled trials as well as strong quasi-experimental designs. La Vigne says, "We also need research that examines the 'how' questions. How do investigators make use of forensic data? How do police officers engage effectively with community members? How do service providers assess the needs of crime survivors?"
In La Vigne's view, "Research can also be rigorous while being entirely qualitative, and many of the best studies combine quantitative and qualitative methods — leveraging statistical evidence by documenting the policy context, perspectives, and experiences of practitioners and community members." She plans to fund research "employing a wide array of rigorous, mixed-methods approaches, particularly those that are inclusive of the people closest to the issue or problem under study, whether they are prosecutors, business leaders, correctional officers, or people who have experienced incarceration." La Vigne says research "should be intentional in examining potential structural inequalities that may generate disparate outcomes based on one’s gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual identity, or citizenship status — regardless of the research topic." She says research should help determine "whether technology works not just in the lab, but also in the field" and that research findings should be made "accessible and applicable to practitioners, increasing the odds they will embrace evidence-based practices."