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Criminology and Criminal Justice Research: Organization - Future Trends

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The history of criminological and criminal justice research suggests at least six important trends that will affect the research and practitioner communities. First, while private foundations did not show substantial interest in funding criminological research during the 1970s and 1980s, interest has picked up in the 1990s with private foundations distributing millions of dollars earmarked for research on crime and violence. Second, the federal government continues to be one of the main grant providers to researchers interested in crime issues. Interestingly, in his original essay, Charles Wellford hypothesized that federal research efforts would be further consolidated such that many of the branches of OJP would be brought into closer coordination. Although this has yet to occur formally, Wellford's premonition appears to be taking shape. For example, many of the agencies who were tangentially involved in criminological research and grantmaking have been either consolidated or eliminated. Toward this end, an OJP reorganization plan was proposed in the late 1990s to consolidate all research, including juvenile justice research currently being conducted by OJJDP, within NIJ. It would also consolidate all statistics within BJS. The plan would eliminate the presidentially appointed directorships of the five bureaus (NIJ, BJS, OJJDP, BJA, and OVC). Under the reorganization plan, the directors of the NIJ and BJS would become appointees of the Attorney General. As of late 1999, the plan and its recommendations had yet to be voted upon, but whatever the outcome, it is likely to influence future funding for criminological research. Third, crime research is likely to continue on an interdisciplinary trajectory, while remaining cognizant of both qualitative and quantitative research, and relevant across macro, meso, and micro levels of analysis. Much of the current work employs researchers from different fields of study, including psychology, sociology, political science, biology, neuropsychology, and criminology, to approach criminological and criminal justice issues via a number of different methodologies and disciplinary training. Funding agencies are becoming more likely to administer grant awards to researchers working from this multidisciplinary, multimethod perspective. Fourth, the Internet has become a powerful research tool. Researchers can download data from police, courts, and corrections databases, view crime maps for a number of different cities, and retrieve journal articles and publications via Pro-Quest Direct in many more ways than ever before. These advents will make doing research, sharing data, and publishing results much easier than ever before. Fifth, with continued work on emerging methodological tools, researchers will likely revisit many secondary data archives in an effort to apply these new tools to old data to determine the usefulness of the new tools. Sixth, research will continue to be associated with universities and research centers (both private and nonprivate). Toward this end, crime research will probably expand to involve undergraduate students in more significant ways than ever before as universities continue to encourage undergraduate research projects and honors theses.

Since the 1980s, through the Office of Justice Programs, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health, the federal government has created a solid, long-term program of research in criminology and criminal justice. In addition, private foundations have entered the criminological research area with a fervor of interest. Across both the federal and private domains, important and timely research programs have been created and sustained. The future of criminological and criminal justice research will probably anticipate and embody a working partnership between federal and private agencies. One exemplar of this working relationship is the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. This project is a major interdisciplinary study aimed at deepening society's understanding of the causes and pathways of juvenile delinquency, adult crime, substance abuse, and violence. Directed by the Harvard School of Public Health, this project is a joint venture among a variety of public and private agencies including the MacArthur Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute of Mental Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the Stein Foundation, the Turner Foundation, and the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families. It is believed that these partnerships will continue the multidisciplinary, multiagency, multi-methodological approach to studying criminal behavior and the criminal justice system response to such behavior. This approach should continue to contribute to the knowledge base regarding the understanding and control of crime.

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