Comparing Grants and Cooperative Agreements

NIJ may choose to make discretionary awards in the form of grants or cooperative agreements. While many of you are familiar with grants, you may not be as familiar with cooperative agreements. Cooperative agreements are simply 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. The table below shows some of the key differences and similarities between these two funding options.

Comparing Grants and Cooperative Agreements
Grants Cooperative Agreements
Definitions  31 USC §6304 and 31 USC§6305
[1]

An executive agency shall use a grant agreement as the legal instrument reflecting a relationship between the United States Government and a State, a local government, or other recipient when—

  1. The principal purpose of the relationship is to transfer a thing of value to the State or local government or other recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States instead of acquiring (by purchase, lease, or barter) property or services for the direct benefit or use of the United States Government; and
  2. Substantial involvement is ​not expected between the executive agency and the State, local government, or other recipient when carrying out the activity contemplated in the agreement.

An executive agency shall use a cooperative agreement as the legal instrument reflecting a relationship between the United States Government and a State, a local government, or other recipient when—

  1. The principal purpose of the relationship is to transfer a thing of value to the State, local government, or other recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States instead of acquiring (by purchase, lease, or barter) property or services for the direct benefit or use of the United States Government; and
  2. Substantial involvement is expected between the executive agency and the State, local government, or other recipient when carrying out the activity contemplated in the agreement.
Human Subjects Requirements [2]

Award recipients must comply with Department of Justice regulations on confidentiality and human subjects’ protection.

Award recipients must comply with Department of Justice regulations on confidentiality and human subjects’ protection.

See the OJP Funding Resource Center, Requirements Related to Research and Human Subjects and Privacy Protection on NIJ.gov for more information.
OMB and PRA and Data Collection[3]

For grants, there is usually very little federal involvement in the collection of data. Therefore, PRA review and clearance typically are not needed. However, there are exceptions when information collection under a federal grant is considered to be “conducted or sponsored” by an agency. PRA is applicable for grants only if:

  1. The recipient of a grant is conducting the collection of information at the specific request of the agency; or
  2. The terms and conditions of the grant require specific approval by the agency of the collection of information or collection procedures.

With cooperative agreements, OMB PRA review and approval are likely to be required if NIJ has substantial involvement in the design, development of methodology, and analysis of the data collection. Because the level of NIJ involvement may be unclear at the time of application submission, applicants proposing research involving data collection effort(s) involving more than nine (9) respondents should assume that OMB PRA clearance is required and should take this information into consideration when developing the application, including the proposal, research plan, timeline and budget.

NIJ Involvement

For grants, substantial involvement is not expected between NIJ and the award recipient. The grantee is required to work with the assigned NIJ grant manager, who is NIJ’s authorized representative responsible for ensuring the successful management of the grant. Additionally, should the grantee choose to engage NIJ’s scientists for input and guidance on substantive issues related to the grant (e.g., reviewing instruments, translating findings to the field, suggesting publication venues), the grantee will be able to access NIJ scientists at no cost to the grantee.

For cooperative agreements, substantial involvement is expected between the NIJ and the award recipient. The grantee is required to work with the assigned NIJ grant manager, who is NIJ’s authorized representative responsible for ensuring the successful management of the award. Additionally, an NIJ scientist will be assigned to work collaboratively with the awardee’s investigators on substantive issues related to the award — providing assistance, guidance, coordination, and participation in project activities to ensure its success. The NIJ scientist may also co-publish and co-present with the recipient’s investigators as a representative of NIJ.

Benefit to Grantee

With a grant, the grantee has a great deal of autonomy. Although grantees are still required to submit regular progress reports, among other grants administrative requirements, the level of involvement with NIJ is substantially lower.

A cooperative agreement is a type of project under which joint action or collaboration between the federal awarding agency and the recipient during project performance is considered necessary or desirable to achieve successful project implementation.

This collaboration is programmatic in nature and may provide benefits (e.g., technical and subject matter expertise) that otherwise would be unavailable to the recipient. Ultimately, cooperative agreements provide assistance and establish relationships between organizations and the sponsor, in which both parties collaboratively pursue stated purposes or activities. In a cooperative agreement, NIJ is a vested partner in the research effort.

Meetings and Conferences

Grant recipients do not require prior approval to hold a conference as part of their award. See the Financial Guide, accessible via the OJP Funding Resource Center, for information on rules and policies applicable to DOJ-award-funded conferences, and for a definition of “conference.”

Recipients of a cooperative agreement must request and receive prior approval to hold a conference. This potentially impacts research activities, including proposed working group meetings, round-table events, and focus groups that meet the definition of a “conference” under DOJ’s policy. See "Conference Approval, Planning, and Reporting" from the OJP Financial Guide.

Notes

[note 1] Substantial involvement means that, after award, scientific or program staff will assist, guide, coordinate or participate in project activities. Generally stated, under cooperative agreement awards, responsibility for the day-to-day conduct of the funded project rests with the recipient in implementing the funded and approved proposal and budget, and the award terms and conditions. Responsibility for oversight and redirection of the project, if necessary, rests with NIJ. That being said, substantial involvement is a relative rather than an absolute concept. How involved NIJ will be on a cooperative agreement project depends on the circumstances. Examples include NIJ review and approval of the awardees implementation, monitoring, and evaluation plans; NIJ review and approval required at the completion of one stage of the work before moving on to subsequent phases; NIJ review and approval of subcontracts or subgrants; and joint action and collaboration or participation, as between NIJ and the awardee, in accomplishing certain of the technical activities involved in implementing the funded project.

[note 2] All research supported by the Office of Justice Programs, which includes NIJ, must comply with all Federal, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs, and NIJ regulations and policies concerning the protection of human subjects and the DOJ confidentiality requirements. See the OJP Funding Resource Center Requirements Related to Research and Human Subjects and Privacy Protection on NIJ.gov for more information.

[note 3] Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) clearance is the term used for the process of obtaining approval from the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for federally sponsored data collections, as required by the PRA. PRA exists to ensure that federal agencies do not overburden the public with federally sponsored data collections.

Date Created: June 12, 2014