The information presented here has been gathered for State Administering Agencies (SAAs) and policy makers who do not have a background in research and evaluation. As such it provides basic information to enable SAAs to engage in conversations – including knowing what questions to ask to protect against misinterpreting results - about research and evaluation by describing the differences between research and evaluation, the types of each, issues such as the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process, and who should be engaged to conduct research or evaluate a program. Since researchers and evaluators sometimes seem to be speaking a language of their own, a glossary of terms is also included to familiarize the unfamiliar with words that may come up in discussions.
Note for State Administering Agencies (SAAs)
As a State Administering Agency (SAA) you are expected, at a minimum, to professionally administer one or more federal grant programs, assuring all applicable federal and state requirements are met. Doing so not only involves ensuring funds are expended as planned and agreed to in federal grant plans and proposals but assuring those funds are used to achieve maximum results; that is, to address problems of high importance to your state. Expenditures should also be prudent and benefit the public at large, thereby substantially impacting identified and prioritized public safety concerns.
Sound policy and programs are grounded in and informed by both research and evaluation. Research is a key part of the foundation on which effective programs are built while evaluation helps keep programs on course and assesses whether intended results are achieved. Some understanding of research and evaluation is therefore necessary to be an effective agency administrator. Also helpful is an understanding of “best practice,” a concept with its origin in the treatment community which has since become widely used in the criminal justice, social service and medical professions.
In your capacity as SAA you will be asked to allocate and approve funds for research and/or evaluation components, proposals and projects. As a study or evaluation proceeds you will be given briefings on progress made and be expected to ensure the study stays on course. Finally, you may be expected to describe and apply findings. The information included here will help you:
♦ Select a researcher or evaluator;
♦ Read and comprehend reports;
♦ Ask questions about research undertaken by others and evaluate their results and conclusions;
♦ Avoid misinterpreting results; and
♦ Apply findings.
SAAs are also encouraged to visit the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) Center for Program Evaluation and Performance Measurement for additional guidance and the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) for answers to specific questions. Both are excellent resources for information about current criminal justice research and evaluation.