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Frequently Asked Questions About Applying for Grants and Cooperative Agreements

These questions and answers will help you prepare your application for grant funds.

Applying for Funding: Before Beginning

Because solicitations are competitive, NIJ staff cannot have individual conversations concerning the solicitation with prospective applicants.

For assistance with a specific solicitation, contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Response Cent​er: toll-free at 1-800-851-3420; via TTY at 301-240-6310 (hearing impaired only); email [email protected]; fax to 301-240-5830; or web chat.

All proposed projects must be submitted through an applicable and posted solicitation. The proposal must respond to the objectives and requirements in the solicitation. We encourage you to review the current and forthcoming funding pages for solicitations under which your idea might fit.

In general, NIJ funds evaluations of programs, not program delivery or development. But funding may be used to support the collection of data by program staff, for example. At the same time, NIJ encourages researcher/practitioner partnerships for the purpose of developing evidence-based practices and policies. A general rule is that the higher the percentage of funds that appears to support the program itself, the less likely it is that reviewers will consider the application to merit research and evaluation funding from limited resources.

Generally, NIJ provides funding to:

  • Educational institutions.
  • Public agencies.
  • Nonprofit organizations.
  • Faith-based organizations.
  • Individuals.
  • Profitmaking organizations willing to waive their fees.
  • Federal agencies, unless specifically stated otherwise in the solicitation document.
  • Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFDRC). If the solicitation does not indicate that applications from “federal agencies” will be accepted, the FFRDC has the option of applying as its private sector entity type, whatever that may be (for-profit, non-profit, etc.), and a grant or cooperative agreement could be awarded to the entity that administers the FFRDC.

Some solicitations have special eligibility criteria, which are defined in the solicitation.

Non-U.S. entities are not eligible for awards. All grant awards are made to U.S. institutions. Where appropriate, however, a U.S. grantee may subcontract with a non-U.S. institution or individual for work necessary to complete project tasks. Such subcontracting is usually anticipated and included in the original grant proposal.

NIJ typically does not fund proposals that are primarily to purchase equipment, materials, or supplies. However, exceptions follow:

  • You may budget for such items if they are necessary to conduct applied research, development, demonstration, evaluation, or analysis.
  • Funds from various laboratory enhancement funding programs, e.g., funds from the National Forensic Science Improvement Act, can be used to purchase equipment and supplies for eligible crime laboratories. Visit NIJ's Forensic Laboratory Enhancement Web pages for more information.

Typically, NIJ funds may not be used for training. However, funds from various laboratory enhancement funding programs, e.g., the National Forensic Science Improvement Act, can be used by eligible crime laboratories for training. Visit NIJ's Forensic Laboratory Enhancement Web pages for more information.

If your needs for training do not fall under these exceptions, the following resources may be of help:

You may apply to each of the several solicitations that carry the same OMB number, but each solicitation is separate and independent and requires a separate application. OMB numbers are administrative or inventory number that applies to multiple solicitations.

Yes. If you are resubmitting a proposal that was submitted under a different solicitation, you can indicate that under Type of Application as you fill out your online application. In the abstract, that your proposal is a revision of a proposal that was submitted before. Also, you should prepare a one-page response to the earlier panel review that includes (1) the title, submission date, and NIJ-assigned application number of the previous proposal; and (2) a brief summary of responses to the review and/or revisions to the proposal. Insert the response after the abstract. The one-page response does not count toward your page limitation.

NIJ follows standard practice with regard to intellectual property. In general, this means that an awardee may retain the entire right, title, and interest throughout the world to each invention developed under an award with Federal funding, subject to the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 203. With respect to any such invention in which the awardee retains title, the Federal government shall have a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice or have practiced for or on behalf of the United States the subject invention throughout the world.

The respective rights of the Federal government and the prospective awardee regarding intellectual property will be detailed in one or more award special conditions. If those conditions are not acceptable to the prospective awardee, it has the option of not accepting the award.

Applying for Funding: About Online Applications and the SF-424

With few exceptions, applications must be submitted to NIJ online through Grants.gov. Paper copies are not accepted.

Grants.gov. NIJ strongly encourages potential applicants to begin the application process as soon as possible, especially if you are a first-time user. Instructions for applying using Grants.gov are available at Get Registered on Grants.gov. For assistance with the electronic application process, call Grants.gov technical support at 1-800-518-4726.

OJP Grants Management System (GMS). When indicated in the solicitation, applications must be submitted through the online GMS. We suggest that you begin the process early, especially if this is the first time you have used the system. Each application requires a separate GMS registration. To learn how to begin the online application process, go to OJP's GMS Training and Technical Assistance. For additional information, please call the GMS Help Desk at 1-888-549-9901.

The registration process can take 1 to 3 weeks depending on your organization. Many factors contribute to this timeframe. See Get Registered on Grants.gov for details and instructions.
Grants Management System. About 3 to 5 days, but you should begin the application process as soon as possible, especially if you are a first-time user. For assistance with the electronic application process, call the GMS toll-free hotline at 1-888-549-9901. The hotline is available from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday.

On G​rants.gov, go to Search Grant Opportunities on Grants.gov.

On the OJP Grants Management System, go to "OJP Application Process." This site links users directly to GMS and the GMS Application Procedures Handbook, which gives step-by-step instructions. Click on the solicitation that interests you. Then select "Logon directly to the Grants Management System (GMS)" to apply for grant funding. If you have not previously used GMS, click on "New User? Register Here" and follow the onscreen instructions to register. After you register, select the name of the solicitation you are responding to.

Grants.gov and Grants Management System. You will need a Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number to register. Your application will not be considered complete until you provide a valid DUNS number.

EXCEPTION: Individuals who would personally receive a grant or cooperative agreement from the Federal Government apart from any business or nonprofit organization that they may operate are not required to obtain a DUNS number. If this exception applies, enter any nine digits into the space provided.

You can receive a DUNS number at no cost by calling the dedicated toll-free DUNS number request line at 1-866-705-5711. If you have questions, contact OJP's Office of the Chief Financial Officer's Customer Service Center at 1-800-458-0786.

Grants.gov has additional registration requirements. See Get Registered on Grants.gov for details.

Only if your password has expired.

Yes.

No. You can submit a collaborative proposal but it must be a single application and the award would be made to a single agency, which would have to establish means to fund the collaborating agencies.

Yes. However, the person in your organization who has signing authority to accept Federal grant funds is your organization's Authorized Representative (also referred to as the Signing Authority). This person must be empowered to receive funds on behalf of the organization and must be legally authorized to enter into agreements on the organization's behalf. If you are not the Authorized Representative, you must enter information about that person when you register.

If a single point of contact for your State is listed on the OJP Applicant Information Regarding Intergovernmental Reviews , then your application is subject to review.

No. The start date is the date you estimate that work on the proposed project will begin. Thus, your start date should be at least 6 months after the closing date of the solicitation to allow for NIJ's decision- and award-making processes.

See the specific solicitation to which you are applying for any file type limitations.

Grants.gov. The number of files you can upload to Grants.gov varies depending on the application package.

Grants Management System. GMS now allows you to upload any number of files. Please reference the specific solicitation for details on what must be included in your uploaded files.

Applying for Funding: About the Program Narrative

The Program Narrative includes an abstract, table of contents, main body, and appendixes. Each solicitation defines the page limit for the program narrative. The page limit does not include the bibliography/references or appendixes, list of key personnel, resumes of key personnel, list of previous and current NIJ awards and products, charts, tables, or other necessary appendixes (such as letters of cooperation from collaborating organizations). You may include additional substantive material in a technical appendix but are advised that reviewers may not read beyond the page limit. All parts of the Program Narrative should be converted to one file for uploading into GMS. Please reference the specific solicitation for details for more detail on what is required.

Yes. NIJ uses abstracts for several purposes, including assigning proposals to an independent peer review panel. The abstract becomes public if the proposal receives an award. The abstract should serve as a succinct, stand-alone, and accurate description of the proposed work and should not exceed 600 words. See the NIJ Project Abstract template (pdf, 3 pages) for instructions on what should be included in the abstract.

No.

NOTE: Generally for social science research and evaluation projects, NIJ-funded projects tend to range from 1 to 3 years with all funds awarded at once.

NIJ provides objective, independent, evidence-based knowledge and tools to improve criminal justice policy and practice. NIJ accomplishes this mission chiefly through competitively awarded grants, cooperative agreements and contracts. NIJ must be assured of an awardees' ability to identify and to effectively manage the factors that could affect the objectivity and independence of their work.

Research independence and integrity pertains only to ensuring that the design, conduct or reporting of research funded by NIJ grants, cooperative agreements or contracts will not be biased by any financial interest on the part of the investigators responsible for the research or on the part of the applicant. We strongly encourage applicants to review each solicitation document for specific requirements.

The application must explain the process and procedures that are the applicant has put in place to identify and manage potential financial conflicts of interest on the part of its staff, consultants and/or sub-grantees and sub-contractors. The application must also identify any potential organizational financial conflicts of interest on the part of the applicant with regard to the proposed research. If the applicant believes that there are no potential organizational financial conflicts of interest, the applicant must provide a brief narrative explanation of why it believes that to be the case.

Where potential organizational financial conflicts of interest exist, the application must identify the safeguards the applicant has put in place to address those conflicts of interest.

A thorough discussion of process and procedures related to identifying and managing potential financial conflicts of interest on the part of researchers can be found on the National Institutes of Health's Conflicts of Interest Web page. Though this information solely reflects the policies of the National Institutes of Health, the guidance offered may be helpful to NIJ applicants. It is offered purely as an example of best practices.

Applying for Funding: About the Budget

If the total amount available is known, it will be noted in the solicitation, but often the amount depends on future congressional appropriations.

NOTE 1: In general, funding for science and technology research development projects rarely exceeds $500,000 annually, though total funding for projects requiring several years to complete has exceeded $1 million or more. If feasible, NIJ recommends that applicants divide the proposed work into discrete phases, with each phase resulting in the delivery of a measurable deliverable. Applicants should try to structure the phases so that the funding required in any fiscal year will not exceed $500,000. This will enable NIJ to fund the proposed work incrementally, depending on: the quality of the deliverable at the end of each phase, emerging priorities, and the availability of funds. However, applicants should not divide their work if it is not feasible to do so without impairing the technical and programmatic soundness of their approach.

NOTE 2 : Deliverables (e.g., technical reports, proof-of-concept demonstrations, prototypes, etc.) will be required at the end of each phase to enable NIJ to assess the progress of the work and make reasoned determinations as to the suitability of funding the next phase of the work.

A grant made by NIJ under this solicitation may account for up to 100 percent of the total cost of the project. You must indicate whether you believe it is feasible for you to contribute cash, facilities, or services as non-Federal support for the project. Your proposal should identify generally any such contributions that you expect to make and your proposed budget should indicate in detail which items, if any, will be supported with non-Federal contributions.

If your organization spends $750,000 or more of Federal funds during the fiscal year, you must submit an organization wide financial and compliance audit report as specified in DOJ Grants Financial Guide, 3.19 Audit Requirements. The audit must be performed in accordance with the U.S. Government Accountability Office Government Auditing Standards. Detailed information regarding the independent audit is available in 2 CFR part 200.

Your Budget Detail Worksheet should clearly present a breakdown of costs associated with each of nine budget categories. Itemize where necessary. For more detail on what is required, reference the specific solicitation. Although it is not required, NIJ strongly recommends that you develop the Budget Detail Worksheet (pdf, 24 pages) using the provided template. The template includes an example of a worksheet and descriptions of the details for each category.

Allowable costs are listed in the Financial Guide. Interpretations or clarifications on the Financial Guide can be addressed to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer's Customer Service Center at 1-800-458-0786.

No. However, a basic consideration in funding decisions is the expected yield relative to the total cost of the project, including indirect costs.

The Negotiated Rate Agreement refers to the grantee's indirect cost agreement. This agreement establishes the rate you will need to budget your indirect costs. Further details can be found in the Financial Guide, see Indirect Costs.

Participant support costs, which include stipends, are allowable for some social science research funded by NIJ. See Participant Support Costs and Incentives for Social Science Research for details.

Incentives are generally unallowable because they are considered gifts. Under very specific circumstances, NIJ may approve the use of incentives provided the incentive and amount proposed meet the definition of reasonable. See Participant Support Costs and Incentives for Social Science Research for details.

Human Subjects and Privacy Requirements

Research that involves collecting or analyzing information obtained from an individual person whose responses about themselves are the object of the study is considered human subject research. Some examples of human subject research, common to NIJ-funded research, include when participants complete questionnaires about themselves; they participate in interviews designed to collect information about themselves; their behavior is observed; and their opinions of their activities are studied. The use of identifiable data about individuals and studies that involve human tissues and DNA for research purposes may also qualify. The regulations at 28 CFR 46.102 (d) define research as "a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge." Human subject is defined in section 46.102(f) as "a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) Data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) Identifiable private information." Intervention includes both physical procedures by which data are gathered and manipulations of the subject or the subject's environment that are performed for research purposes. Interaction includes communication or interpersonal contact between investigator and subject. Private information includes information about behavior that occurs in a context in which an individual can reasonably expect that no observation or recording is taking place, and information which has been provided for specific purposes by an individual and which the individual can reasonably expect will not be made public (for example, a medical record).  Private information must be individually identifiable (i.e., the identity of the subject is or may readily be ascertained by the investigator or associated with the information) in order for obtaining the information to constitute research involving human subjects.”

You are required to complete the Privacy Certificate and Protection of Human Subjects Assurance Identification/IRB Certification/Declaration of Exemption form and include them with your grant application. When completing the Privacy Certificate, following the insertion of your project description you will need to state "No data identifiable to a private person will be collected."  You may also insert "Not applicable since this study is not collecting any individually identifiable data" in the subsequent boxes. Do not leave form sections blank or insert Not Applicable without providing a reason. 

In Box 8 of the Protection of Human Subjects Assurance Identification/IRB Certification/Declaration of Exemption form insert "This project will not involve human subjects."

Both forms must have the appropriate signatures and date.

 No. However, you are strongly encouraged to do so. If your project does not involve human subjects or the collection of identifiable data and these forms are completed correctly and attached to the grant application to be funded, funds can be made available at the time the award is made.  If the forms are not included, the award is likely to have funds withheld until the forms are received. Before funds can be disbursed, a proper Privacy Certificate must be submitted with the signatures of the principal and co-principal investigators and an authorized institutional representative. Documentation that the study is exempt from the human subject protection requirements under 28 CFR 46.101(b)(1-4) by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or that the study has been or will be reviewed and approved by an IRB with a current valid Federalwide assurance must also be submitted. The IRB review and submission of the Privacy Certificate may occur after the grant has been awarded, but no funds will be released for research activities involving the human subject component of the study until NIJ's Human Subjects Protection Officer receives the required documentation listed above and the special conditions placed on the award to protect human subjects are removed.  Funds can be released for activities unrelated to the direct involvement of human subjects.   Failure to provide IRB and privacy documentation in a timely fashion may cause significant delay in the start-up of a funded research award.

They are removed when NIJ's Human Subjects Protection Officer has received the required documentation and approved a grant adjustment notice lifting the conditions. Grantees should contact their NIJ grant manager for assistance. It should be noted that the researcher cannot and should not begin human subjects research or the collection of identifiable data based on their institution's IRB approval alone. The special withholding conditions must be removed for research involving human subjects and/or the collection of identifiable data to begin.

It is important that the grantee (both the office of sponsored research/office of grants and contracts and the researcher) abides by the standard and special conditions that are required by NIJ. The standard and special conditions can be found in all award packages and accessed electronically in the Grant Management System (GMS). NIJ grant monitors will be available to review these conditions immediately after the award is made.

You can search for commercial IRBs that review research on the Web. While NIJ does not endorse or recommend the use of any particular commercial IRBs, NIJ does accept the findings of commercial IRBs that review studies for compliance with the DOJ human subjects protection and confidentiality regulations.

Yes. It is suggested that NIJ-funded researchers provide links to the DOJ regulations in their IRB applications. Review these regulations on our website.  Awardees should be aware that the DOJ regulations for human subjects protection at 28 CFR Part 46 are different from the Revised Common Rule, that went into effect 1/21/19.  NIJ can only accept IRB determinations based on 28 CFR Part 46.

A: If you believe your project is exempt from the human subjects protection requirements as described in 28 CFR 46.101(b) (1-4) and if your institution has a current FWA, you must apply to your own institution’s IRB or a commercial IRB for an exemption.  If you are granted an exemption from IRB review, you must still comply with the notification requirements in 28 CFR Part 22.27.  NIJ must review and approve all consent-related documentation under 28 CFR Part 22 even if your research has received an exemption under 28 CFR Part 46.

If you believe your project is exempt from the human subjects protection requirements as described in 28 CFR 46.101(b) (1-4) and if your institution has a current FWA, you must apply to your own institution’s IRB or a commercial IRB for an exemption.  If you are granted an exemption from IRB review, you must still comply with the notification requirements in 28 CFR Part 22.27.  NIJ must review and approve all consent-related documentation under 28 CFR Part 22 even if your research has received an exemption under 28 CFR Part 46.

No. However, you are strongly encouraged to do so. A letter submitted on institution letterhead that addresses the relevant items from the form signed by the IRB chairperson and including the FWA number will also be acceptable. Studies deemed exempt by an IRB require an IRB exemption letter.

: Yes, all research sponsored or conducted by NIJ must meet these requirements.

A: No. NIJ does not issue or accept Certificates of Confidentiality issued by National Institutes of Health or HHS. Grantees must submit a Privacy Certificate, which is reviewed and approved by the funding agency. Under the DOJ confidentiality statute (34 USC 10231(a)), this makes the identifiable data collected immune from any legal action. Neither the Privacy Certificate nor the informed consent documentation should contain language about Certificates of Confidentiality. The Privacy Certificate and consent forms should accurately describe that the identifiable data collected is immune from legal process because the researcher submitted a Privacy Certificate; it was approved by NIJ and is, therefore, covered by DOJ statute.

A: No. NIJ has a Human Subjects Protection Officer who reviews IRB approvals from awardees to ensure that the IRB has reviewed the study protocol in compliance with the DOJ human subjects protection regulations (28 CFR Part 46), the informed consent documentation in compliance with the DOJ regulations at 28 CFR 46.116 and the notification requirements in the DOJ confidentiality regulation (28 CFR Part 22). The NIJ Human Subjects Protection Officer will accept the findings of the awardee’s IRB provided the findings comply with the DOJ regulations cited above.

A: Researchers need to follow the general requirements for informed consent found at 28 CFR 46.116.  For instance, subjects need to be informed that study participation is voluntary and that identifiable data collected with NIJ funds can only be used for research and statistical purposes, and no other purpose without the subject’s consent. They should also be informed that the study is funded by NIJ. If the award has a data archiving special condition, the subjects should also be told that the de-identified study data will be archived at the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD).  Other notification requirements can be found in 28 CFR Part 22.27.

Current or past abuse is not reportable, unless a separate consent to allow reporting is obtained from the research subject; this is in addition to a consent to participate in the research study. Please contact your grant manager and/or the NIJ Human Subjects Protection Officer if you have any further questions regarding this issue.

DOJ anticipates completing the process of amending the Department’s own regulation 28 CFR Part 46 at some time in the future in order to be consistent with the changes made for other agencies in the Revised Common Rule. However, until such time DOJ signs on, IRBs reviewing NIJ- or OJP-funded research must use and cite 28 CFR Part 46. Of particular note, in the Revised Common Rule there are changes made to the exemption categories, which will not apply and cannot be accepted for NIJ- or OJP-funded research. Please contact your grant manager and/or the NIJ Human Subjects Protection Officer if you have any further questions regarding this issue.

Selecting and Awarding Funds

Each solicitation estimates how much money will be available and how many awards might be made.

All proposals are reviewed by independent peer review panels consisting of researchers and practitioners. Panel members read each proposal, assess the technical merits and policy relevance of the proposed research, and meet to discuss their assessments. Panelists are asked to base their reviews on criteria set forth in the solicitation. The panel assessments and any accompanying NIJ staff reports are submitted to the NIJ Director. All final grant award decisions are made by the Assistant Attorney General (AAG).

Cooperative agreements are another vehicle to support high-quality research on crime and justice. Cooperative agreements enable us to take full advantage of the expertise of the NIJ scientists and support innovative research. See Comparing Grants and Cooperative Agreements to learn more.

The application review process (including peer review, decisionmaking, and other considerations) may take 6 months or longer. Notices of award and nonaward are sent about 6 months after the closing date of a solicitation. Information regarding the status of awards is not available until notifications have been sent. Awards are posted annually.

If your project is funded, you will be required to submit several reports and other materials. See Post Award Reporting Requirements.

Also, you will be required to report information relevant to program performance measures established by NIJ to help measure the performance of Federal funding. See specific solicitations for details.