NEA RESEARCH LABS: Program Description

Part 1 - Submit to Grants.gov March 30, 2020
Prepare application material so that it’s ready to upload when the Applicant Portal opens
Part 2 - Submit to Applicant Portal April 2-9, 2020
Earliest Announcement of Award or Rejection November 2020
Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance Research Grants in the Arts: January 1, 2021

NEA Research Labs: March 1, 2021

To allow time to resolve any problems you might encounter, we strongly recommend that you register/renew your Grants.gov/SAM registration by at least March 9, 2020 and submit to Grants.gov by at least March 20, 2020.

The National Endowment for the Arts’ five-year research agenda aims to build public knowledge about the arts’ contributions to individuals and society. Through NEA Research Labs, we extend this agenda and its impact by cultivating a series of transdisciplinary research partnerships, grounded in the social and behavioral sciences, to produce and report empirical insights about the arts for the benefit of arts and also for non-arts sectors such as healthcare, education, and business or management. Institutions of higher education and/or nonprofit research and policy organizations may submit applications to be NEA Research Labs.

NEA Research Labs will define their own related agendas, conduct project activities to implement that agenda, and prepare reports that will contribute substantively to a wider understanding of one of three areas of special interest to the Arts Endowment:

  • The Arts, Health, and Social/Emotional Well-Being
    • Therapeutic Approaches and Benefits
    • Non-Therapeutic Approaches and Benefits
  • The Arts, Creativity, Cognition, and Learning
  • The Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation

NEA Research Labs serve as “hubs” or centers of excellence in the domain of interest. Each NEA Research Lab will develop a pipeline of projects or products, including a website, while conducting at least one major study. In addition, NEA Research Labs also may be required to provide ad hoc analyses or fulfill information requests from the Arts Endowment concerning the research agenda. Such requests will not involve new data collection and will take place only during the Arts Endowment’s period of performance.

Each NEA Research Lab must include these activities:

  1. Design and publish an evidence-based research agenda;
  2. Plan and implement a keystone study, or a series of studies;
  3. Produce at least one research report for each research study;
  4. Provide ad hoc analyses or fulfill information requests concerning the NEA Research Lab’s research agenda; and
  5. Disseminate study findings, research products, data, tools, or services to other researchers, arts practitioners, and the general public

Competitive applications will, as appropriate:

  • Demonstrate the capacity to design and implement a series of studies based on theory-driven research questions and methodologies that will yield important information about the impact of the arts within the selected topic area.
  • Take into account any extant research that serves as a basis for a theoretical framework and helps to motivate the proposed studies.
  • Propose novel and promising research approaches, such as rigorous analyses of organizational or social networks, and/or social media data, and statistically driven meta-analyses.
  • Involve translational research that moves scientific evidence toward the development, testing, and standardization of new arts-related projects, models, tools, or techniques that can be used easily by other practitioners and researchers.

Research methodologies may include approaches such as quasi-experimental or experimental designs, or analyses that use primary and/or secondary data. We welcome use of data in either the public or private domain, including commercial and/or administrative data sources. For a list of publicly available datasets that include arts-related variables, click here

NEA Research Lab awards will be made as cooperative agreements. The Arts Endowment uses two types of awards to fund project activities: cooperative agreements and grants. A cooperative agreement is different from a grant in that the Arts Endowment is substantially involved with a cooperative agreement. Therefore, the Arts Endowment will be substantially involved in the direction and accomplishments of NEA Research Labs. 

The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and fostering mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all individuals and groups.

Required Partnership

We aim to make arts-relevant research a shared endeavor (with shared benefits) for academic researchers, arts practitioners, and policy-makers. As such, NEA Research Labs require a confirmed partnership between the official applicant organization and a nonprofit arts organization at the time of application.

Applicants are also strongly encouraged to partner with other non-arts or arts organizations (for-profit or nonprofit entities) with expertise in the proposed research topic area. We welcome organizations from sectors such as health, business, and science, and educational entities such as school districts or individual schools.

Responsibilities of a NEA Research Lab

Each NEA Research Lab will work with the Arts Endowment Project Director, and through the Arts Endowment Project Director with other agency staff as appropriate, on all aspects of the project. The Arts Endowment’s Project Director will be the Director of Research & Analysis or a designated official within the Office of Research & Analysis. The NEA Research Lab will consult with, and will secure the approval of, the Arts Endowment Project Director in carrying out the responsibilities below.

Each NEA Research Lab will design and execute:

Research Agenda, Keystone Study, and Related Projects

  • Develop a multiyear research agenda to be completed within the period of performance. The research agenda may include, but need not be limited to: key research questions, including an evidence-based rationale and/or hypothesis for each question; research designs, methods, and personnel that will be used to answer the questions; project schedules; a list of products that will result; and an annotated references list. The final research agenda should show alignment with the Arts Endowment’s own research agenda.

  • Plan and conduct a keystone research study, or series of studies, in one of the three topic areas below. At least two of the questions within the proposed topic area below must be addressed.

    The Arts, Health, and Social/Emotional Well-Being

        a. Therapeutic Approaches and Benefits

    • What changes in physical or mental health outcomes are experienced by subjects receiving creative arts therapies to treat one or more diseases, disorders, or health conditions?
    • What is the physiological or psychological mechanism of action for a creative arts therapy in treating a disease or disorder or in improving symptoms for a chronic disease, disorder, or health condition?
    • What are the comparative therapeutic benefits of creative arts therapies relative to each other or to non-arts-based interventions?
    • What is the comparative cost-effectiveness of a creative arts therapy and one or more non-arts-based interventions?
    • How does dosage (i.e., frequency, duration, or intensity) of a creative arts therapy relate to individual or program-level outcomes?
    • How does creative arts therapy benefit caregivers or family members?

      “Creative arts therapy” refers to a gamut of arts-based therapies including visual art therapy, music therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, and poetry therapy, and the use of trained and credentialed arts therapists to deliver/implement therapy. For projects investigating creative arts therapies, we especially welcome proposals involving one or more of the following study populations: individuals with cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, substance use disorders, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, and other health conditions. Families or caregivers of these individuals may be among the populations studied.

        b. Non-Therapeutic Approaches and Benefits

    • What are the social, emotional, physical, and/or physiological health benefits of the arts for individuals, groups, or societies?
    • What physiological or psychological mechanisms or group dynamics are at work in achieving those benefits or related outcomes?
    • What kinds of art forms are invoked in these relationships, and at what levels of participation?
    • How do these benefits or related outcomes vary by age, socioeconomic characteristics, other demographic and behavioral patterns, and/or by health or disability status?
    • How do these benefits and related outcomes compare with those achieved by other health and wellness strategies or interventions?

    The Arts, Creativity, Cognition, and Learning

    • What is the relationship between one or more forms of arts participation and other forms of creativity?
    • What are the cognitive and/or social processes of arts-based creativity, and how do they affect learning-related outcomes?
    • How do learning-related outcomes associated with arts participation vary by age, socioeconomic characteristics, other demographic and behavioral patterns, and/or by health or disability status?
    • How do these benefits and related outcomes compare with those achieved by non-arts approaches to learning (e.g., non-arts extracurricular programs; non-arts integrated curricula)?
    • What are the most effective neurocognitive tests and technologies to measure those outcomes?
    • What are the benefits and related outcomes for specific approaches to arts learning in formal or informal settings?

    The Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation

    • How do entrepreneurship and innovation reveal themselves differently in the arts relative to other sectors? What about similarly?
    • What is the link between artists (including designers) and broad societal innovation, particularly with regard to economic and job growth?
    • How does the nonprofit arts sector contribute directly to innovation in commercial settings, within or outside the arts?
    • What role do arts and cultural assets play in promoting civic and/or corporate innovation in a community?
    • What individual, organizational, or regional characteristics can positively affect the arts’ relationship to entrepreneurship and innovation?
    • In which industries, sectors, or geographic areas is arts-driven innovation visible and measurable?
    • How do nonprofit and for-profit organizations; federal, state, and local governments; and/or fiscal sponsorships affect how artists and/or arts organizations function and innovate?
    • How do the benefits and related outcomes of arts-based entrepreneurship and innovation compare with those achieved by non-arts approaches?
  • Produce at least one research report that documents the methods and findings of each research study.

Products and Services

  • Develop a public website housed with the NEA Research Lab, specifically about the NEA Research Lab. This website will have additional materials beyond what is included on the website hosted by the Arts Endowment. All website content must be approved by the Arts Endowment Project Director. The NEA Research Labs visual identifier should be included in a prominent area of the website, and the NEA Research Lab funding source should be clearly acknowledged.
  • Disseminate quarterly research reports or other products, tools or services, data, or communications (e.g., literature reviews, research or policy briefs, white papers, blog posts, podcasts, webinars, and technical guides) to researchers, arts practitioners, and the general public.
  • Prepare and deliver at least two presentations per year, one to a community of researchers and the other to a community of arts practitioners.

Administration

  • Work with the Arts Endowment Project Director to refine the details and schedule of all project components.
    • Submit, revise, and refine a research agenda within six months of award receipt; submit the research study report(s) and conduct the needs briefing six months before the conclusion of the period of performance.
  • Provide the Arts Endowment Project Director with NEA Research Lab activity updates, in a mutually agreed upon format and schedule.
  • Respond in a timely manner to ad hoc requests from the Arts Endowment for analyses or information concerning the research agenda being pursued at the NEA Research Lab. Such requests will not involve new data collection.
  • Through discussions with the Arts Endowment’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA), facilitated by the Arts Endowment Project Director, produce all reports in a format and style compatible for dissemination through the agency's website and other online platforms.
    • All public communications, materials, presentations, and press releases, as well as speaking engagements, contacts with press, and publications, must be approved by the Arts Endowment Project Director in consultation with the OPA.
    • In any and all written and oral communications, the NEA Research Lab and the Arts Endowment will credit project activities as such: “The NEA Research Lab is a project of the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with [NEA Research Lab Name].” Include appropriate disclaimers, depending on the nature of the product. To the extent possible, include the NEA Research Labs visual identifier in all materials.
  • Establish and support a technical working group, including representatives from partner organizations and other experts in your field or a related field, to offer feedback to the NEA Research Lab on key project deliverables to the NEA Research Lab. The technical working group will periodically review the activities conducted under this agreement and report back to the NEA Research Lab.
  • Participate in transdisciplinary NEA Research Lab meetings that include multiple Labs awarded under the NEA Research Labs program. This will include a tele-web conference every six months. The Arts Endowment will organize and schedule these meetings.
    • As part of, or in addition to, these transdisciplinary Lab meetings, one meeting per year may be in person. Cost for travel for these meetings will be covered by the Arts Endowment using funding outside this cooperative agreement, pending availability of funds.
  • Secure approval from the Arts Endowment Project Director of any staff, consultants, contractors, technical working group members, or partner organizations that will be working on project activities, before these entities are engaged.
  • Maintain regularly updated, detailed, and accurate records of all activities carried out under the cooperative agreement to date, including a work and data management plan. Provide monthly research work and data management updates, and quarterly project activity updates to the Arts Endowment Project Director, and any other project information requested by the Arts Endowment in a timely manner.
  • Follow the NEA Research Lab's approved written procurement policies if consultants or vendors are selected by the NEA Research Lab as part of the project activities. In addition, the NEA Research Lab should be aware of and comply with all requirements of the Uniform Guidance procurement standards described in 2 CFR 200.318. Consultants or vendors engaged by the NEA Research Lab as part of this project will be required to agree that any information gathered will be used only for the purposes described in the cooperative agreement. The NEA Research Lab will coordinate and make payment for all travel arrangements of consultants or vendors selected by the NEA Research Lab as part of this project.
  • Obtain any necessary intellectual property rights, permissions, consents, licenses, and releases as appropriate to the project activities (the “Rights”), and provide to the Arts Endowment Project Director. The Rights may include, but are not limited to, approval from Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), and/or data licensing for the acquisition of existing data, as may be required (see Responsible Conduct of Research section below). If relevant, the Arts Endowment Project Director will coordinate discussions or meetings between the NEA Research Lab and the Arts Endowment Office of General Counsel to ensure that the rights secured meet the Arts Endowment’s needs. The Arts Endowment reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to determine whether the Rights provided are satisfactory to it. The NEA Research Lab accepts sole responsibility, and will defend, indemnify and hold harmless the Arts Endowment from, any liability arising from deficient Rights and/or the NEA Research Lab’s warrants or statements about the Rights.
  • No later than 90 days after the completion or termination of the cooperative agreement, submit, through the NEA Research Lab’s Arts Endowment REACH account, a Final Descriptive Report (FDR) and a Federal Financial Report (FFR), Standard Form 425. The FDR must include recommendations for the future.

Responsibilities of the Arts Endowment Project Director

The Arts Endowment Project Director will:

  • Work with the NEA Research Lab, along with designated Arts Endowment staff, to refine the details and schedule of all project components, serving as liaison between the NEA Research Lab and any other Arts Endowment staff (e.g., Offices of General Counsel, Public Affairs, etc.) that might be involved in this NEA Research Lab.
  • Make recommendations on, review, and/or approve, as relevant:
    • Project staff, consultants, contractors, and technical working group members to carry out all aspects of the project.
    • Evidence-based research agenda.
    • Project summary report for the Arts Endowment’s website.
    • Research study report(s) and briefs.
    • Briefing on future research-infrastructure needs.
    • All public communications (overall strategy, resource materials, press releases, presentations, as well as speaking engagements, contacts with press, and publications). Review and approval of all communications will be in conjunction with the Arts Endowment’s Office of Public Affairs, as appropriate.
    • Research work/data management reports and quarterly project activity reports from the NEA Research Lab.
  • Facilitate discussions between the NEA Research Lab and the Arts Endowment’s Office of Public Affairs to ensure that research reports, research data, and project resource materials are in a format and style ready for public dissemination and use by ORA.
  • Provide crediting requirements to the NEA Research Lab.

Award Information

Based on the availability of funding, cooperative agreements of up to $150,000 will be awarded. The Arts Endowment’s legislation and policies generally require that each cooperative agreement includes a nonfederal match/cost share of at least 1 to 1. At its discretion, the Arts Endowment may choose to negotiate a lesser match/cost share rate at the time of the award. Matching/cost share funds cannot include funds from any federal sources, including the Arts Endowment. 

Applicants whose projects are recommended will work with the Arts Endowment to develop and agree to the specific plans, schedules, activities, and terms for the cooperative agreement before it is finalized. This will include the opportunity to revise the project budget to reflect any necessary changes to the project, based on the recommended funding amount.

We reserve the right to limit our support of a project to a particular phase(s) or cost(s). All costs included in your Project Budget must be expended during your period of performance. Costs associated with other federal funds, whether direct or indirect (e.g., flow down through a state arts agency), can't be included in your Project Budget. No pre-award costs are allowable in the Project Budget. Costs incurred before the earliest project start date of March 1, 2021, can't be included in your budget or cost share/match.

All applications submitted and cooperative agreements made in response to these guidelines are subject to the National Endowment for the Arts' cooperative agreement regulations and terms and conditions.

Period of Performance

Our support of a project may start on or after March 1, 2021. The period of performance is a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 24 months. Applicants whose projects are recommended will work with the Arts Endowment to develop and agree to the specific plans, schedules, activities, and terms for the cooperative agreement before it is finalized. An awardee may not receive more than one National Endowment for the Arts award for the same project during the same period of performance.

Subsequent Awards

The Arts Endowment may enter into up to four subsequent awards with the recipient of a NEA Research Lab cooperative agreement for a project consistent with the intent of the program. At its discretion, the Arts Endowment may choose to issue subsequent awards as grants and not cooperative agreements. Any such future awards, however, would be subject to agency priorities, the availability of funds, awardee performance, and the agency’s regular review process.

Applicant Eligibility

The official applicant must be an organization with research and policy as a principal focus for its core components, either as the primary work or as part of a transdisciplinary mission. Eligible official applicants are:

  • U.S. institutions of higher education, or
  • Nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organizations with a three-year history of commissioning and conducting research in the behavioral or social sciences, and communicating research findings and policy implications through reports and/or convenings, at the time of application.

NEA Research Labs require a partnership that involves multiple organizations. One organization that meets the eligibility requirements below must act as the official applicant, submit the application, and assume full responsibility for the cooperative agreement. Partnering organizations are not required to meet the same eligibility requirements as the official applicant organization.

To be eligible, the applicant organization must:

  • Meet the Arts Endowment’s "Legal Requirements" at the time of application. (All organizations must apply directly on their own behalf. Applications through a fiscal sponsor/agent are not allowed. See more information on fiscal sponsors/agent.
  • Have submitted acceptable Final Report packages by the due date(s) for all Arts Endowment award(s) previously received.

All applicants must have a DUNS number (www.dnb.com) and be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM, www.sam.gov) and maintain an active SAM registration until the application process is complete, and should an award be made, throughout the life of the award.

The following are not eligible to apply as the official applicant organization:

  • Organizations that served as the official applicant for any previous NEA Research Labs award in any topic area. For a listing of previously awarded NEA Research Labs, see the NEA Research Labs webpage.
  • Organizations whose primary purpose is to channel resources (financial, human, or other) to an affiliated organization if the affiliated organization also submits its own application. This prohibition applies even if each organization has its own 501(c)(3) status. For example, the "Friends of ABC Organization" may not apply if the ABC Organization applies.
  • Organizations whose partnership organizations (see “Required Partnership” section, below) are listed on more than one application for this opportunity. For example, two different organizations may not both apply listing the same nonprofit arts partner. This prohibition applies, as listed in the paragraph above, to organizations whose primary purpose is to channel resources to an affiliated organization if the affiliated organization is also a partner on another application.

Ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Competition for NEA Research Labs is extremely rigorous. It is expected that an applicant selected to receive a cooperative agreement will complete the proposed research project activities. We will not transfer the award to another organization.

Application Limits

  • An organization may submit more than one application under these NEA Research Labs guidelines. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project. However, an organization will not receive more than one NEA Research Labs award in any topic area. If more than one research team within an organization is interested in applying, we encourage the teams to work together to submit one application on behalf of the organization rather than separate applications.
  • You may apply to other National Endowment for the Arts funding opportunities, including Research Grants in the Artsin addition to NEA Research Labs. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project.

Application Review

The following are considered during the review of applications:

The artistic excellence of the planned project activities, specifically the:

  • Clarity of the research agenda and project activities, including short- and long-term project objectives. This includes the appropriateness of the research project/s for the NEA Research Labs program.
  • Clarity of the proposed keystone research study, including the conceptual framework, research design, and analytical methods to be used, and the relationship of these elements to the proposed research questions. This includes, if relevant, the keystone study’s Institutional Review Board plans and/or status.
  • Degree to which the mission and experience of the proposed research partners, or the nature of the interdisciplinary collaboration, advance the purposes of the NEA Research Lab program and the proposed keystone study.
  • Qualifications of the key project personnel, including active ethics training certificates as appropriate, as well as the proposed technical working group.
  • Research qualifications of the applicant organization, including current or recent activities in research and distribution of findings/results.

The artistic merit of the planned project activities, specifically the:

  • Potential of the project activities to yield empirical insights about the arts for the benefit of arts and non-arts sectors alike.
  • Plans for creation and timely dissemination throughout the period of performance of novel research reports or other products, tools or services, data, and communications for the benefit of arts and non-arts sectors alike. This includes distribution strategies, including novel and/or creative communication strategies, that make the research findings, products, and data accessible to both the public and to other researchers and practitioners.
  • Potential for raw- and/or meta-data to be shared with other researchers and the public, as applicable.
  • Ability to carry out the project on time and within budget, including the reasonableness of the budget.
  • The potential for a sustained research program beyond the period of performance.

What Happens to Your Application

After processing by our staff, applications are reviewed, in closed session, by interdisciplinary research and evaluation advisory panelists. Each panel comprises a diverse group of arts-research experts and other individuals, including at least one knowledgeable layperson. Panels are convened remotely. Panel membership changes regularly. The panel recommends the projects to be supported, and the staff reconciles panel recommendations with the funds that are available. These recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts, where they are reviewed in open session.

The Council makes recommendations to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Chairman reviews the recommendations for awards in all funding categories and makes the final decision on all awards. Applicants are then notified of funding decisions. It is anticipated that applicants will be notified of award or rejection in November 2020.

NOTE: All recommended applications undergo review to evaluate risk posed by the applicant prior to making a federal award. This may include past performance on grants, meeting reporting deadlines, compliance with terms and conditions, audit findings, etc.