RESEARCH GRANTS IN THE ARTS: Program Description
Part 1 - Submit to Grants.gov
March 25, 2024, at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time
Prepare application material so that it’s ready to upload when the Applicant Portal opens
Part 2 - Submit to Applicant Portal
March 28-April 4, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time
Earliest Announcement of Award or Rejection
Earliest Start Date for Proposed Project
Research Grants in the Arts: January 1, 2025
Research Grants in the Arts support research studies that investigate the value and/or impact of the arts, either as individual components of the U.S. arts ecosystem or as they interact with each other and/or with other domains of American life.
With these guidelines, the NEA welcomes research proposals that align with at least one of the priority topics and possible questions within the agency’s FY 2022-2026 research agenda. The priority topics, in brief, are listed below:
- What are measurable impacts of the arts on the following outcome areas: health and wellness for individuals; cognition and learning; and U.S. economic growth and innovation? Under what conditions do such impacts occur, through what mechanisms, and for which populations and/or sectors?
- In what ways do the arts contribute to the healing and revitalization of communities? What factors mediate these contributions, and for the benefit of which populations? What are common elements of such programs or practices, and what are appropriate measures of success?
- What is the state of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the arts? What progress has been made in achieving these outcomes for arts administration, employment, learning, and participation? What are some promising practices and/or replicable strategies in these domains, and what are appropriate measures of success?
- How is the U.S. arts ecosystem (e.g., arts organizations and venues, artists and arts workers, and participants and learners) adapting and responding to social, economic, and technological changes and challenges to the sector, including trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic? What are promising practices and/or replicable strategies for responding to such forces, for different segments of the arts ecosystem?=
We encourage projects that originate from or are in collaboration with the following constituencies encouraged by White House Executive Orders:
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities,
- Tribal Colleges and Universities,
- American Indian and Alaska Native tribes,
- Predominantly Black Institutions,
- Hispanic Serving Institutions,
- Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and
- Organizations that support the independence and lifelong inclusion of people with disabilities.
At the end of the grant period, Research Grants in the Arts awardees will be required to submit a 20-50-page research paper (Product Requirement); see Research Grants in the Arts Study Findings page for examples of previous grantees' final research products. For more information related to the Product Requirement, see “Award Administration.”
The selection process for Research Grants in the Arts is rigorous and highly competitive. In recent years, the application success rate has ranged from 31% to 38%. Prior to submitting an application, applicants should consider whether their project is a good fit for the program.
Projects and Research Methods
We welcome applications from diverse research fields (e.g., economics; psychology; education; sociology; medicine, health, and therapy; communications; business administration; urban and regional planning). We expect the funded projects will be diverse in terms of geographical distribution, the artistic and research fields or disciplines involved, and the research topics proposed. We also expect the projects to reflect an array of study designs.
Accordingly, applicants may propose research projects drawing from a range of study designs. In recent years, the NEA has supported a growing cohort of studies that hypothesize a cause-effect relationship between the arts and key outcomes of interest (e.g., in health, education, or the economy). For projects seeking to explore causal claims about the arts, experimental approaches (e.g., randomized controlled trials) are generally preferred. Where experimental approaches are not feasible, then high-quality, quasi-experimental study designs offer an attractive alternative for impact studies about the arts.
In many cases, however, other or different study designs will be preferable. These designs may include, but are not limited to, case studies, complex surveys, mixed methods, and meta-analyses. In particular, we encourage community-based participatory research approaches, where warranted by the research objective. Program evaluations also are eligible for funding.
The NEA research agenda states that, through these awards, the agency will “incentivize the creation of practitioner tools grounded in research.” In keeping with this aim, we especially welcome 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.
Data Sources and Analysis
Projects supported under this program must include data analysis activities that occur during the period of performance, and can include either primary and/or secondary/archival data sources. We do not fund projects that focus exclusively on data acquisition.
Primary data sources refer to research data or information that did not exist prior to the project and that 1) will be actively collected by the applicant during the period of performance and 2) the costs are included in the project budget.
Secondary/archival data sources refer to research data or information that was or will be actively collected outside of the period of performance and primary data collection is not included in the project budget. Examples of this might include an existing dataset or archival information that applicants plan to analyze under an NEA award.
Data analysis may include quantitative, qualitative, and/or mixed-method approaches. Data sources may include, but are not limited to, surveys, censuses, biological or medical experiments, observations, interviews, focus groups, social media activity, 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. Visit the NEA website for a list of publicly available datasets that include arts-related variables. Some of these datasets are also available through the NEA’s public data repository: the National Archive of Data on Arts & Culture (NADAC).
See “Responsible Conduct of Research” for requirements related to primary data collected from human subjects.
We do not fund
- Projects that do not include a focus on a priority topic outlined in the NEA’s research agenda.
- Projects that focus exclusively on data acquisition.
- Projects that do not include data analysis.
- Projects that focus exclusively on conducting a literature review.
- Project activities that include the creation and/or installation of public art as part of the proposed project activities and budget. Public art refers to the commissioning and installation of artwork in public spaces, such as temporary or permanent outdoor furnishings (e.g., benches or market structures), or other artwork such as a sculpture or mural that is temporarily or permanently installed in public spaces. These types of projects are funded through our other grant programs, including Grants for Arts Projects, Challenge America, and Our Town.
- Seasonal or general operating support.
- Costs of physical construction or renovation, or the purchase costs of facilities or land.
See the General Terms and Conditions for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to Organizations for more information on unallowable costs and activities.
Although not required to do so, applicants are strongly encouraged to include project teams that enable substantial input and participation from arts practitioners and researchers/evaluators. If applicants do not already have research staff in their organizations, they are strongly encouraged to collaborate with other organizations, entities, or individuals who will be able to support the technical requirements of the research project. Applicants that do not have an arts practitioner serving on the project are strongly encouraged to collaborate with other organizations, entities, or individuals to provide any artistic or arts field perspectives as needed.
We anticipate awarding 10 to 20 grants, based on the availability of funding.
Grants will range from $20,000 to $100,000.
- For projects that will involve minimal or no primary data collection as part of the project budget, we anticipate making awards in the $20,000-$50,000 range. Projects that include primary data collection as a robust component of the project are eligible for awards between $20,000 and $100,000.
- For requests between $50,000 and $100,000, priority will be given to projects that present theory-driven and evidence-based research questions and methodologies.
We will award very few grants at or above the $50,000 level; we anticipate these projects to be capable of significant scale and impact.
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 applicants to consider the grant award levels 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 projects are recommended for less than the requested funding 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 incurred during your period of performance. Costs associated with other federal funds, whether direct or indirect (e.g., flow down through a state arts agency), cannot 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, 2025, cannot be included in your budget or cost share/match.
All applications submitted and grants made in response to these guidelines are subject to the NEA’s grant regulations and terms and conditions.
Period of Performance
Our support of a project may start on or after January 1, 2025. Grants generally may cover a period of performance of up to three years. Projects that extend beyond one year may be required to submit an annual progress report, and must include proof of updated ethics training on human subjects research protections and Institutional Review Board (IRB) materials as necessary. See “Responsible Conduct of Research” for requirements related to data collected from human subjects.
A grantee may not receive more than one NEA grant for the same activities or costs during the same period of performance.
The lead applicant organization must be a:
- Nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organization;
- Unit of state or local government; or
- Federally recognized tribal communities or tribe.
Colleges and universities that fall under one of these three categories may serve as the lead applicant organization.
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 eligibility requirements below.
To be eligible as the lead applicant, the organization must:
- Meet the NEA’s "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 completed a three-year history of operations prior to the application deadline.
All applicants must have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM, www.sam.gov), and maintain an active SAM.gov registration from the time of application throughout the life of the award, should a grant be made.
The following are not eligible to apply as the lead applicant organization:
- The designated 50 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 NEA 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 for NEA funds 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 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 Museum" may not apply if the ABC Museum applies.
Late, ineligible, and incomplete applications will not be reviewed.
Competition for Research Grants in the Arts is extremely rigorous. It is expected that an applicant organization selected to receive an award will complete the research project. We will not transfer the award to another organization.
- 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.
- Applicants to the Research Grants in the Arts program may apply to other NEA funding opportunities, within the same fiscal year. Each application must be for a distinctly different project.
Applications will be reviewed on the basis of agency-wide criteria of artistic excellence and artistic merit. For the Research Awards programs, artistic excellence and artistic merit can be considered as research excellence and research merit, respectively, as they relate to the bullets below.
The following are considered during the review of applications:
Artistic Excellence of the Project:
- Is the research plan clear and effective? This includes the conceptual framework, research design, description of any arts program or intervention being studied, sampling techniques and/or data sources, and the proposed analytical methods, in addition to the relationship of these elements to the proposed research questions. This also includes the appropriateness of the research questions to the Research Grants in the Arts program.
- Is there a sufficient evidence base for the research plan? This includes evidence that the project 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 plan (including the study design and analytical methods).
- 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, discussion of planned or actual ethics training on human subjects research protections for relevant personnel, and the project’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) plans and/or status. This also includes the appropriateness of the research and/or artistic disciplines represented on the project team.
- 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. This also includes any processes that ensure fidelity of the data collection/analysis and program/therapy implementation through routine monitoring and oversight.
- Have the organization and partners devoted adequate resources to execute the entire project? This includes appropriateness of the budget, other resources, and the degree of involvement by project personnel.
Artistic Merit of the Project:
- Does the project have high potential to bridge arts-related research with policy and/or practice in at least one of the following ways?
- Likely to yield results that are generalizable, even for discrete populations or practitioner groups.
- Likely to spur innovation in arts-related research, policy, or practice—e.g., through the development, testing, and standardization of models, tools, or evidence-based guides.
- Likely to allow more than one field, sector, or population subgroup to benefit from arts-related research.
- Where appropriate, likely to yield results benefiting historically underserved groups/communities, including those for whom there are limited opportunities to experience the arts and arts-related benefits.
- Does the project include effective strategies to promote and disseminate the research 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 NEA’s website. This also may include a record of past accomplishments in publishing or distributing research results, and the data management plan, as appropriate.
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 an open, public session.
The Council makes recommendations to the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Chair 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 the NEA will notify applicants of award or rejection in November 2024. After notification, applicants with questions may contact the staff.
Risk Assessment: All recommended applications undergo a review to evaluate risk posed by the applicant organization prior to making a federal award. The review may include past performance on grants and/or cooperative agreements, meeting reporting deadlines, compliance with terms and conditions, audit findings, etc.