RESEARCH: ART WORKS: Grant Program Description


In September 2012, the NEA's Office of Research & Analysis published its five-year research agenda, supported by a system map and measurement model. Titled How Art Works, the report offers a framework for studying research topics critical to a broader public understanding of the arts' value and/or impact for individuals and communities.

The How Art Works map (see below) presents several different research areas, each ripe for fresh inquiry. To obtain an accurate understanding of each area of the map, researchers can collect and analyze data on a host of variables. Research areas include the system's core components of Arts Participation and Arts Creation; the system's inputs (Arts Infrastructure and Education & Training); and the system's main outcomes, e.g., cognitive or emotional benefits to individuals, or civic or economic benefits to communities.

The map is not prescriptive. It is intended primarily to communicate to potential applicants a cluster of topics and relationships that the NEA aims to explore.

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The Research: Art Works grants program is a vehicle for promoting rigorous study of these research areas, contributing to public knowledge about the arts' role in American life.

Research Opportunity

The NEA's Office of Research & Analysis will make awards to support research that investigates the value and/or impact of the arts, either as individual components within the U.S. arts ecology or as they interact with each other and/or with other domains of American life.

"Value"-oriented research measures or otherwise clarifies one or more factors, characteristics, and conditions of the U.S. arts ecosystem as illustrated above. Examples may include but are not limited to descriptive studies of arts participation and arts learners, artists and art workers, arts organizations and arts industries, and arts funders and arts volunteers. Such research also may probe the underlying conditions and vehicles for arts participation. For instance, it can examine how key inputs such as training, education, and infrastructure directly affect arts creation, arts audiences, or other aspects of arts engagement.

Separately, research on "impact" investigates the direct and indirect benefits of arts participation on individual health and well-being; individual cognitive capacity, learning, and creativity; community livability; or economic prosperity. Such research may also examine the effects of arts participation on broader-level outcomes, such as new forms of self-expression, new outlets for creative activity, and the overall creative and expressive capacity of U.S. society.

Priority will be given to applications that present theory-driven research questions and methodologies that will yield important information about the value and/or impact of the arts. Competitive applications will take into account any extant research that serves as a basis for a theoretical framework, and helps to motivate the proposed project.

By providing financial support to deserving projects, the NEA anticipates that this program will spur growth in the number of people experienced in and knowledgeable about arts-related research in the U.S. To date, some of the most compelling research about the arts has originated in non-arts specialties: cognitive neuroscience, for example, with its discoveries about the arts' role in shaping learning-related outcomes; labor economics, with its lessons about the arts' bearing on national and local productivity; urban planning work that seeks to understand the arts as a marker of community vitality; and psychological studies that posit the arts' relationship to health and well-being across the lifespan.  In this spirit, the NEA encourages applications from diverse research fields (e.g., sociology, economics, anthropology, psychology, medicine and health, education, communications, and urban and regional planning) in addition to projects that address a diverse array of topics concerning the value and/or impact of the arts.

Funds will be given for projects that involve analyses of primary and/or secondary data. In contrast to prior Research: Art Works grant cycles, primary data collection is now an allowable activity under these grants. Projects may include, but are not limited to, primary and/or secondary data analyses; psychological studies that take place in clinical and non-clinical settings; third-party evaluations of an arts program's effectiveness and impact; and statistically-driven meta-analyses of existing bodies of research so as to provide a fresh understanding of the value and/or impact of the arts.

Data Sources

Applicants may propose projects that focus on analyses of qualitative and/or quantitative data gleaned from either primary or secondary sources. These may include surveys, censuses, biological experiments, observations, and interviews and focus groups. Other examples of data sources include archived materials such as written documents, audio/video recordings, or photographs.

Funds will be given for projects that include primary data collection and the purchase of existing data as long as the analyses of these data are also included in the project being proposed for NEA funding. The NEA will not fund projects that focus exclusively on data acquisition.  

The NEA welcomes the use of data in both the public and private domain, including commercial and/or administrative data sources.  For a list of additional publicly available datasets that include arts-related variables, click hereThe NEA is particularly interested in applications that propose to analyze the following new data sources, which are expected to be available by the start of the FY 2014 grant period:

  • 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). Data from the 2012 SPPA, conducted as part of the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, are expected for release by the end of 2013. See a   list of the survey questions
  • General Social Survey (GSS) Arts Supplement. Data from the 2012 GSS Arts Supplement, administered by NORC at the University of Chicago, are available here.

Research about Arts Education

Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the NEA supports the Arts Education Partnership, which has launched an online clearinghouse of more than 200 studies of student and educator outcomes associated with arts education in both in-school and out-of-school settings. If you are interested in submitting a proposal to investigate some aspect of arts education or related outcomes, you are encouraged to explore ArtsEdSearch for summaries of previous studies, criteria for inclusion in the database, discussion of policy implications, and suggested areas for future research.

Responsible Conduct of Research

The NEA is committed to the responsible conduct of research. As such, the agency requires applicants to obtain permissions from all appropriate entities for conducting the proposed project and include evidence of such permissions in the application material. These 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. 

Data collection activities conducted under an award are the responsibility of the recipient organization, and NEA support of the project does not constitute approval of the data collection procedures. The recipient cannot represent to respondents that such data are being collected on behalf of the NEA. However, this requirement is not intended to preclude mention of NEA support of the project in the publication of these data. In publications of the data and the findings, acknowledgment of the National Endowment for the Arts must be prominently displayed. For print and online materials, a phrase acknowledging support from the National Endowment for the Arts is a basic requirement. For more information regarding use of the NEA logo and recommended language for additional publicity formats, see "Award Administration."

Applicants who propose primary data collection as part of their projects are required to complete federally sponsored ethics training on the conduct of human subjects research, including such aspects as the role of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). Evidence of this training must be provided as part of the grant application submission. Evidence can be in the form of a certificate of completion of a training module from the National Institutes of Health (Protecting Human Research Participants, a free module that takes approximately 1 hour to complete), the Department of Defense, or from another U.S. federal agency or department. All applicants must give evidence of such training for each researcher as part of the application. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides additional guidance and resources for learning about the responsible conduct of research.

In addition, applicants that include primary data collection as a proposed project activity are required to provide documentation regarding whether IRB approval is needed to execute the project. If the documentation states that IRB approval is required, then applicants also must indicate the measures they have taken or plan on taking to gain IRB approval.

Data Management and Sharing

The NEA intends primarily for the Research: Art Works program to generate new findings that will inform the public about the value and/or impact of the arts in American life. To help build capacity and continuity for such research in subsequent years, however, the NEA requires applicants to submit a data management plan documenting how any raw data and meta-data resulting from the proposed project will be maintained during and beyond the life of the grant. Research projects that offer plans to make data available to researchers and the public will be given special consideration in the application review process. This emphasis is in keeping with the White House's Open Government Initiative, particularly recent guidance from the Office of Science and Technology about data and findings generated by federally sponsored research. Costs of storing and/or sharing data are allowable if these data management activities take place during the grant period.

Intended Outcome

The agency has determined that all grants awarded under thiscategorywill have the following as their primary outcome:

  • Understanding: Evidence of the value and/or impact of the arts is expanded and promoted.

Organizations are asked to address the anticipated results of their projects in their applications. Grantees will be asked to provide evidence of these results in their final reports. Before applying, please review the reporting requirements on the National Endowment for the Arts Final Descriptive Report form and the “Administrative Requirements” for information about a final work product research report.

Deadline Date

You are required to submit your application electronically through, the federal government’s online application system. The system must receive your validated and accepted application no later than 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on November 5, 2013. We strongly recommend that you submit at least 10 days in advance of the deadline to give yourself ample time to resolve any problems that you might encounter. We will not accept late applications.

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