RESEARCH GRANTS IN THE ARTS: 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.

Research Grants in the Arts support research that investigates the value and/or impact of the arts, either as individual components of the U.S. arts ecology or as they interact with each other and/or with other domains of American life.

Research Grants in the Arts provides an opportunity to engage with the National Endowment for the Arts’ five-year agenda for 2017-2021. The research agenda offers guidance on the types of study questions and topics that to appeal to the agency’s long-term research goals.

We are interested in research that identifies and examines:

  • Factors that enhance or inhibit arts participation or arts/cultural assets;
  • Detailed characteristics of arts participation or arts/cultural assets, and their interrelationships;
  • Individual-level outcomes of arts participation, specifically outcomes corresponding with the following domains:
    • social and emotional well-being
    • creativity, cognition, and learning
    • physiological processes of health and healing; and
  • Societal or community-level outcomes of arts/cultural assets, specifically outcomes corresponding with the following domains:
    • civic and corporate innovation
    • attraction for neighborhoods and businesses
    • national and/or state-level economic growth

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.

Projects

Projects may include, but are not limited to:

  • Primary and/or secondary data analyses
  • Economic impact studies
  • Organizational research
  • Psychological and physical health-related or therapeutic studies that take place in clinical or non-clinical settings
  • Education studies in a variety of contexts (e.g., classrooms, informal venues, distance learning, or home-school environments)
  • Dosage studies
  • Third-party evaluations of an arts program's effectiveness and impact, such as applied evaluation studies/analyses that measure the impact or effectiveness of an organization’s arts program or project
  • Comparison studies of arts interventions
  • Statistically-driven meta-analyses of existing research that can yield a fresh understanding of the value and/or impact of the arts
  • Translational research that moves scientific evidence toward the development, testing, and standardization of new arts-related programs, practices, models, or tools that can be used easily by other practitioners and researchers

Research methodologies may include analyses that use primary and/or secondary data, and quasi-experimental or experimental designs.

Primary data collection projects must include:

  • Data analysis. We do not fund projects that focus exclusively on data acquisition.
  • Plans to ensure fidelity of the data collection and program/therapy implementation through routine monitoring and oversight.

Experiment and Quasi-Experimental Projects

For projects that explore the causal links between the arts and individual or community outcomes, experimental approaches such as randomized controlled trials are generally preferred. When experimental approaches are not feasible, then high-quality, quasi-experimental design studies offer an attractive alternative.

Information on experimental and quasi-experimental design studies can be found in a number of federal resources, such as the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse's Handbook and the Clearinghouse for Labor Evaluation and Research's Causal Evidence Guidelines.

We are especially interested in projects that use experimental/quasi-experimental design methods that include at least one arts-based intervention group and at least one non-arts-based control/comparison group. 

Below are examples of arts-based intervention groups and non-arts-based control/comparison groups:

  • A painting group compared to a no-intervention group or to a social interaction group.
  • A music group compared to a soccer group.
  • A fiction reading group versus a non-fiction reading group versus a no-reading group.

The following examples are groups that are arts-based only, and will not be prioritized for funding:

  • A visual arts group compared to a theater arts group.
  • An active music engagement group, such as a singing group or an instrument-playing group, versus a music appreciation or music-listening group.

Data Sources and Samples

Applicants may propose projects that focus on quantitative, qualitative, and/or mixed-method approaches using data gleaned from primary or secondary sources. These may include but are not limited to, surveys, censuses, biological or medical experiments, observations, interviews, focus groups, social media, administrative data, and transactional/financial data. Other examples of data sources include archived materials such as written documents, audio/video recordings, or photographs and images.

We welcome the use of data in both the public and private domain, including commercial and/or administrative data sources. For a partial list of publicly available datasets that include arts-related variables, click here. Some of these datasets are also available through the Arts Endowment’s public data repository: the National Archive of Data on Arts & Culture (NADAC).

Recommended Partnerships

We are committed to supporting research teams that demonstrate interdisciplinary partnerships between arts practitioners and researchers/evaluators. Although not required, applicants are strongly encouraged to include project teams of arts practitioners and researchers/evaluators. If applicants do not already have research staff in their organization, then they are encouraged to form collaborations with other organizations, entities, or individuals who will be able to support the technical requirements of the research project.

Award Information

We anticipate awarding 10 to 15 grants, based on the availability of funding.

Grants will range from $10,000 to $100,000. Award amounts will be based on the level of artistic excellence and merit demonstrated in the proposal, as outlined in the Review Criteria. Although most awards will be between $10,000 and $30,000, higher amounts will be awarded to experimental or quasi-experimental projects that include at least one arts-based intervention group and at least one non-arts-based control/comparison group. Higher amounts also will be awarded for applied evaluation studies/analyses that measure the impact or effectiveness of an organization’s arts program or project, and that have potential for high utility to arts practitioners, policy-makers, or the general public.

Our grants cannot exceed 50% of the total cost of the project. All grants require a nonfederal cost share/match of at least 1 to 1. These cost share/matching funds may be all cash or a combination of cash and in-kind contributions, and can include federally-negotiated indirect costs. You may include in your Project Budget cost share/matching funds that are proposed but not yet committed at the time of the application deadline.

In developing an application, we urge all applicants to consider the level of recent awards and to request a realistic grant amount. Applicants should review the lists of grants on our website to see recent grant award levels and project types.

Applicants whose grants are recommended for less than the requested amount will have 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 January 1, 2021, can't be included in your budget or cost share/match.

We expect our awards portfolio to be diverse in terms of research focus area, research design, and geographical distribution.

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

Period of Performance

Our support of a project may start on or after January 1, 2021. Grants generally may cover a period of performance of up to two years, with an exception for projects that include primary data collection as part of the proposed activity. Projects that include primary data collection may request up to three years. Projects that extend beyond one year will be required to submit an annual progress report, and must include updated human ethics training and Institutional Review Board (IRB) materials as necessary.

A grantee may not receive more than one National Endowment for the Arts grant for the same project during the same period of performance.

Applicant Eligibility

Official applicant organizations must be nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organizations; units of state or local government; or federally recognized tribal communities or tribes. This may include, but is not limited to, colleges and universities.

For projects that involve 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 grant. Partnering organizations are not required to meet the same eligibility requirements as the official applicant organization.

To be eligible, the official applicant organization must:

  • Meet the National Endowment for the Arts' "Legal Requirements," including nonprofit, tax-exempt status 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/agents.)
  • Have three consecutive years of operating history prior to the application deadline.
  • Have submitted acceptable Final Report packages by the due date(s) for all National Endowment for the Arts 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 a grant be made, throughout the life of the award.

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

  • The designated fifty state and six jurisdictional arts agencies (SAAs) and their regional arts organizations (RAOs). SAAs and RAOs may serve as partners in projects. However, they may not receive National Endowment for the Arts funds (except as provided through their designated grant programs), and SAA/RAO costs may not be included as part of the required cost share/match. SAAs and RAOs are eligible to apply through the Partnership Agreements guidelines.
  • An organization whose primary purpose is to channel resources (financial, human, or other) to an affiliated organization if the affiliated organization submits its own application. This prohibition applies even if each organization has its own 501(c)(3) status. For example, the "Friends of ABC Museum" may not apply if the ABC Museum applies.

Ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Competition for Research Grants in the Arts is extremely rigorous. It is expected that an applicant selected to receive an award will complete the research project. We will not transfer the award to another organization.

Application Limits

  • An organization may submit more than one application under these Research Grants in the Arts guidelines. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project. However, an organization will not receive more than one Research Grants in the Arts award in any given cycle.
  • You may apply to other National Endowment for the Arts funding opportunities, including NEA Research Labsin addition to Research Grants in the Arts. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project.

Application Review

Review Criteria

Applications will be reviewed on the basis of agency-wide criteria of artistic excellence and artistic merit.

The following are considered during the review of applications:

Artistic Excellence of the Project:

  • Is the research plan clear? This includes the conceptual framework, research design, sampling techniques, and/or data sources, and the proposed analytical methods, in addition to the relationship of these elements to the proposed research questions.
  • Is there an evidence base for the research plan? This includes evidence that the research plan is informed by a literature review and/or citations of previous work or research (either published or unpublished) that support the conceptual framework and proposed research approach.
  • Is there novelty within the research plan? This includes evidence that the project has a high likelihood to add significant new knowledge to the field of arts-related research. This may include evidence that the study design, methods, and/or data sources have high potential to spur innovations in the field of arts-related research.
  • Are the organization, its partners, and project personnel qualified to execute the research plan? This includes credentials and past accomplishments in conducting research of the type proposed. As appropriate, this also includes active personnel ethics training in human research, and the project’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) plans and/or status.

Artistic Merit of the Project:

  • Does the project have a potential to elevate the public profile of arts-related research in at least one of the following ways:
    • Create novel partnerships, with potential for different fields or sectors to contribute to and benefit from arts-related research.
    • Heighten the relevance and significance of arts-related research to policy and practice, suggesting high potential for generalizability of findings, even for discrete populations or practitioner groups.
  • Does the project include effective strategies, including quality control measures, to document progress and success during the period of performance? This includes any milestones that the organization plans to achieve during the project as well as beyond the life of the grant.
  • Does the project include effective strategies to document and disseminate the project results, products, and data? This includes distribution strategies to make the research findings, products, and data accessible to the public and to other researchers and practitioners, beyond the materials that would be posted to the National Endowment for the Arts’ website. This also may include a record of past accomplishments in publishing or distributing research results, and the data management plan, as appropriate.
  • Have the organization and partners devoted adequate resources to execute this particular project? This includes appropriateness of the budget, other resources, and the degree of involvement by project personnel.

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 grants in all funding categories and makes the final decision on all grant 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.

After notification, applicants with questions may contact the staff. Any applicant whose request has not been recommended may ask for an explanation of the basis for denial. In such instances, the National Endowment for the Arts must be contacted no later than 30 calendar days after the official notification.