PROJECT OVERVIEW AND REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS:
IMPROVING PERFORMANCE AND RELIABILITY OF EYEWITNESS IDENTIFICATION
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) is a 501(c)(3) private foundation, whose core objective is to address our nation’s most pressing and persistent challenges using evidence-based, multi-disciplinary approaches.
Request for Proposals
LJAF is pleased to issue the following request for proposals for research designed to assess and improve the performance and reliability of eyewitness identifications. Designing eyewitness identification procedures - and interpreting their results - is challenging, and current practices are not as reliable as one might hope. Numerous interesting open questions merit attention from the broad research community, and the Foundation especially encourages interdisciplinary research partnerships and/or research performed in collaboration with law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.
This call for proposals stems from the findings and recommendations of the 2014 National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) report, Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification (see http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18891/identifying-the-culprit-assessing-evewitness-identification). That report was the result of the Foundation’s request to the NAS to assess the state of research on eyewitness identification. In its report, the NAS found that, while “past research has appropriately identified the variables that may affect an individual’s ability to make an accurate identification,” because of “the complex nature of eyewitness identification, the practical difficulties it poses for experimental research, and the still ongoing evolution of statistical procedures in the field of eyewitness identification research, there remains ... substantial uncertainty about the effect and the interplay of these variables on eyewitness identification.”1
In general, this request for proposals aims to address the research challenges raised in Recommendation 11 of the NAS’s report,2 but proposals need not be constrained by the particular ideas raised there.
The Foundation specifically seeks proposals for research that explores the effects on eyewitnesses of different system variables (e.g., variants on lineup procedures or instructions given to eyewitnesses) and estimator variables (e.g., presence or absence of weapon, lighting conditions and distances, elapsed time between the incident and the identification task, levels of stress) and the interactions between these variables. It envisions that much of this research will use statistical evaluation tools to improve upon existing methods. To address questions about the effectiveness of various eyewitness identification procedures, the Foundation encourages experimental designs using random assignment, when feasible,
1 National Research Council. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The national Academies Press, 2014.
2 Ibid. See pp. 117-119.
and other research methodologies that allow for the strongest possible causal inferences when random assignment is not feasible.
Among the many ways that may be explored as options for improving the reliability and efficacy of eyewitness identifications, the Foundation is particularly interested in:
- research that yields an improved understanding of the relative merits of simultaneous and sequential lineup procedures;
- research that assesses the effectiveness of other lineup procedures;
- research that helps characterize the evidentiary strength of an eyewitness’s identification or non-identification of a suspect from a lineup. This is the binary classification problem of eyewitness identifications, which raises questions such as how to properly handle different kinds of error, which have different consequences3; and/or
- research from the broader scientific community that addresses the wide range of issues related to eyewitness identifications, such as how the probability of a correct identification varies with estimator variables including, but not limited to, those mentioned above.
Application Process and Selection Criteria:
The proposal submission process will be two-staged. Initially, applicants should submit a letter of interest including a description of work to be performed. This document, which should be no more than three pages in length, should be received no later than April 8, 2016. Statements of interest will be examined by a newly-appointed committee of experts established by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Taking account of comments from the expert committee, the Foundation will invite some applicants to submit a formal proposal. All invitations for formal proposals will be issued by May 6, 2016, and include a template for proposal submission including: 1) a short narrative statement describing the work to be performed 2) a detailed project budget; 3) a list of project milestones; 4) the principal investigator’s curriculum vitae; and 5) a description of project deliverables. The deadline for formal proposals will be June 24, 2016.
The letters of interest and proposals will be evaluated against the following criteria:
IMPORTANCE: Is the applicant proposing research that could produce important improvement in our understanding of eyewitness identification and the ability to reduce eyewitness identification errors? Could the insights arising from the proposed research be applied within the constraints of real-world conditions?
3 Binary classification is the task of classifying the elements of a set into two groups–in the case of eyewitness identification, into the groups “suspect” and “non-suspect.” The former group should have, at most, one member. However, an eyewitness may not only correctly identify a suspect from a lineup or correctly recognize that a suspect is absent, but he or she may incorrectly identify an innocent individual as the suspect (a false positive) or not identify a guilty individual as the suspect (a false negative). Errors of this type are important to consider, as either of the latter two outcomes have implications for the reliability of identifications.
EXPERIENCE OF THE RESEARCHKR(S) AND RELEV ANCE OF THEIR BACKGROUND(S)
STUDY DESIGN: Is the applicant's proposed study design likely to result in strong and useful insights. If the proposed study involves a randomized trial, can high-value data be collected?
PARTNERS: Does the applicant's team include alt parties needed to perforin the proposed study?
For the letter of interest: While applicants are asked to address all four selection criteria above, it is not expected that applicants will have finalized all aspects of the study design and partnership agreements. However, all four criteria will be evaluated when a full proposal is reviewed.
When full proposals are received, they will be reviewed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee described above. That committee will provide the Foundation with assessments of the merits of each proposal, but the Foundation will make the final decision as to which proposals are funded.
The Foundation will consider funding projects of varying scope and duration. While proposals for short- term, high-impact research are encouraged, the Foundation recognizes and appreciates the benefits of multi-institutional research projects that foster collaborations between academia and practitioners such as law enforcement agencies or other government entities. Research projects may, therefore, be performed by individual researchers or multi-member teams. The level of research funding will be commensurate with project size.
The following table shows the requested application materials and timeline:
Stage of application process
|All prospective applicants are asked to submit a letter of interest (maximum three pages)||Deadline: April 8, 2016|
|Applicants will be notified whether they are invited to submit a full proposal (full proposals must be invited)||May 6, 2016|
|Invited applicants submit a full proposal (maximum six pages)||Deadline: June 24, 2016|
|Applicants will be notified whether they have been selected for award||August 2016|
|Grants will be awarded||October 2016|
Letters of interest should be emailed to EWIDresearch@amoldfoundation.org with an email subject line of LJAF CJ RFP-2016-01.
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