$3M Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to fund gun violence research

Multidisciplinary Brown & Black Collective will focus on marginalized communities most affected by gun violence


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded UC Davis Health a three-year, $3 million grant. The prestigious award will fund research into the causes, complexities, and potential solutions to gun violence in disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities.

The grant will support studies conducted by the Black & Brown Collective, a multidisciplinary network of several institutions co-founded by Shani Buggs. Buggs is the principal investigator for the award. She is a health and public policy scholar in the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

“This award allows UC Davis to continue our efforts to reverse the negative impacts of racism and violence on disproportionately impacted communities of color,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May. “The project allows us to build diversity, support the success of scholars from racially and ethnically marginalized backgrounds and develop programs to support the overall health equity and well-being of our national population,” May said.

A group of 18 people stand together in front of a beige brick wall with a metal sculpture.
The multidisciplinary Black & Brown Collective will study gun violence in racially and ethnically marginalized communities.

Gun violence is a public health crisis in the U.S.

Gun violence is increasingly recognized as a significant public health crisis in the United States, where it is the leading cause of premature death. Although no communities are spared, gun violence has significantly and negatively impacted predominantly Black and Brown communities for decades.

The grant will support research projects by racially and ethnically marginalized community violence prevention scholars. This group has been underrepresented and under-resourced in research funding, scholarly discourse and policy creation.

“Research is stronger and more beneficial to the communities it serves when it is conducted and disseminated by a diverse collective of cross-disciplinary researchers and community partners,” Buggs said. “This helps ensure that research processes and methodologies are valid, culturally appropriate, and inclusive of the historical and cultural contexts essential to understanding and redressing inequities and power dynamics.”

Shani Buggs
Research is stronger and more beneficial to the communities it serves when it is conducted and disseminated by a diverse collective of cross-disciplinary researchers and community partners.”Shani Buggs, assistant professor, Department of Emergency Medicine

Supporting the next generation of scholars

The Black & Brown Collective will also work to support the emerging generation of racially and ethnically underrepresented violence prevention scholars, engaging them in networks with collective members and elevating their roles as thought leaders. The collective will focus on four key activities over the next three years:

  • Create an equitable framework and training materials for community violence prevention research
  • Develop a network and pipeline of scholars from racially and ethnically marginalized backgrounds
  • Deliver grants related to equitable community violence research
  • Provide research support and mentorship for selected scholars

Joseph Richardson, Jr. is a co-leader of the three-year award. He is the MPower Professor of African-American Studies, Medical Anthropology and Epidemiology at the University of Maryland. Richardson is also a recent inductee into the National Academy of Medicine for his career as a gun violence researcher.

A seated man is talking into a microphone while a woman next to him watches.
Joseph Richardson, Jr., left, and Shani Buggs, right, co-lead the Black & Brown Collective.

“The Black & Brown Collective is both necessary and timely in addressing the historic marginalization of gun violence researchers of color, and the translation of innovative research into transformative culturally responsive interventions and policies to reduce harm in communities most impacted by violence, both structural and interpersonal,” Richardson said.

Richardson is also the principal investigator for the evaluation of community violence intervention (CVI) street outreach programs in Washington, D.C. In addition, he is the founding co-director of PROGRESS, a gun violence research initiative that focuses on gun violence reduction in and around the District of Columbia.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest philanthropic organization in the U.S. focused solely on health. The grant to UC Davis aligns with the foundation’s goal to build a national Culture of Health that will enable longer, healthier lives for every individual, now and for generations to come.


The UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) is a multi-disciplinary program of research and policy development focused on the causes, consequences and prevention of violence. Studies assess firearm violence, the social conditions that underlie violence, and the connections between violence, substance abuse and mental illness. VPRP is home to the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center, which launched in 2017 with a $5 million appropriation from the state of California to conduct leading-edge research on firearm violence and its prevention. For more information, visit health.ucdavis.edu/vprp/.