Carnegie Mellon University
January 25, 2017

Nagin Honored for Influencing Scientific Thought

Renowned criminologist has helped to change long-held beliefs

By Michael Cunningham

Carnegie Mellon University faculty member Daniel S. Nagin, today received the 2017 National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Reviewing. He is the first CMU faculty member to receive the award, which was established in 1977.

Dan NaginThe award recognizes authors whose reviews have synthesized extensive and difficult material, rendering a significant service to science and influencing the course of scientific thought. The field rotates among biological, physical and social sciences, and includes a $20,000 prize.

"This is a very special recognition that is both gratifying and humbling," said Nagin. "Gratifying because the National Academy of Sciences is our nation's premier honorary society, and humbling because it is a reminder of how much there is to understand."

A leader in criminology and related fields, Nagin, the Teresa and H. John Heinz III University Professor of Public Policy and Statistics at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, has spent more than 30 years upending long-held beliefs about criminal justice.

Nagin's reviews of scientific literature focusing on the crime-prevention effects of criminal and social sanctions have shown that the benefits of lengthy prison sentences are not sufficient to justify their social and economic costs, the experience of incarceration appears to increase rather than decrease the likelihood of re-offending, and research on the deterrent effect of the death penalty is so flawed that it provides no useful information on the death penalty's impact on homicide rates. He also has concluded that research evidence shows that increases in police numbers and their strategic deployment can materially affect crime rates.

"Dan is an outstanding scholar who has the rare ability to explain complex and deep scientific concepts with great clarity and understanding. He joins Nobel Prize winners and renowned scholars in receiving this award from the NAS," said Ramayya Krishnan, dean of the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.  "I am delighted that he is a recipient of this award and very proud to have him known him as a colleague for almost three decades at the Heinz College."

Among his accomplishments, Nagin has served as a co-author of the 1978 National Research Council (NRC) report, "Deterrence and Incapacitation: Estimating the Effects of Criminal Sanctions on Crime Rates," and the 2012 NRC report, "Deterrence and the Death Penalty," for which he also served as committee chair.

Throughout his career, Nagin's reviews have altered the course of criminological theory and empirical research. Nagin has also greatly informed the analysis of public policy, arguing that efforts should be shifted from corrections to policing in order to lower crime rates and reduce incarceration.

He is the 2006 recipient of the American Society of Criminology's Edwin H Sutherland Award, and in 2014 he was awarded the Stockholm Prize in Criminology.