federal government can make the difference between development or stagnation of research fields (National Research Council, 2007).

Because priority-setting decisions can alter the vitality of research fields and because government has limited resources to support scientific activities, assessing progress in order to appropriately set priorities is essential. Since the need to understand progress and to set priorities is ongoing, the process of assessing progress needs to be continuous, consistent, and in accordance with an agency’s mission and goals. If they were not mindful before, the passage of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) in 1993 has made all federal agencies sensitive to the importance of assessing the results of their activities (Sunley, 1998). Its enactment addressed demands for accountability and demonstrated accomplishments by requiring that all federal agencies, including research agencies, develop multiyear strategic plans and evaluate and report annually on their activities.

CURRENT PRACTICES

As this report illustrates, NIJ does very little to strategically assess its performance and even less to track the influence of its research on scholarship and practice. There is very little internal management information gathered by NIJ or its component offices that focus or assess effectiveness, and what external assessments it does support are irregularly conducted, narrowly focused on a few programs,1 and often done in response to political criticisms. What internal assessments it does conduct, such as regularly review progress reports from grantees and maintain dialogue with grantees and constituent groups, are rarely summarized for its constituents. In other words, NIJ’s own processes for assessing the results of its activities are not transparent and are viewed by the committee as inconsistent or nonexistent.

PART Evaluation

The current NIJ approach to assessing the efficacy of its programs is based largely on the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).2 The PART is designed to help agencies identify a program’s strengths and weaknesses in an effort to inform funding and management decisions aimed at making the program more ef-

1

NIJ’s assessment efforts have been focused on its outreach activities and forensic capacity-building programs and not on its research portfolios.

2

For more information, see http://financingstimulus.net/part.html [accessed March 24, 2010].



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