The Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies (BELS) web page is a good source of information for those seeking funding for empirical research. Most information below is pulled from the BELS site.
FEDERAL GRANT-MAKING AGENCIES
All discretionary grants offered by the 26 federal grant-making agencies can be found on Grants.gov/. Grants.gov is also the site for submitting federal grant applications online.
For ELS researchers one of the most important federal grants programs is the National Science Foundation’s Social, Behavioral and Economics Sciences Division’s Law and Social Sciences Program, with regular deadlines semi-annually at January 15 and August 15.
The National Science Foundation accepts applications through its own online system, FastLane as well as through Grants.gov.
NSF’s Law and Social Sciences Program Guidelines
The Law and Social Science Program at the National Science Foundation supports social scientific studies of law and law-like systems of rules, institutions, processes, and behaviors. These can include, but are not limited to, research designed to enhance the scientific understanding of the impact of law; human behavior and interactions as these relate to law; the dynamics of legal decision making; and the nature, sources, and consequences of variations and changes in legal institutions. The primary consideration is that the research shows promise of advancing a scientific understanding of law and legal process. Within this framework, the Program has an “open window” for diverse theoretical perspectives, methods and contexts for study. For example, research on social control, crime causation, violence, victimization, legal and social change, patterns of discretion, procedural justice, compliance and deterrence, and regulatory enforcement are among the many areas that have recently received program support. In addition to standard proposals, planning grant proposals, travel support requests to lay the foundation for research, and proposals for improving doctoral dissertation research are welcome.
The Law and Social Science Program continues to solicit proposals that take account of the growing interdependence and interconnections of the world. Thus proposals are welcome that advance fundamental knowledge about legal interactions, processes, relations, and diffusions that extend beyond any single nation as well as about how local and national legal institutions, systems, and cultures affect or are affected by transnational or international phenomena. Thus, proposals may locate the research within a single nation or between or across legal systems or regimes.
The review process for the Law and Social Science Program is approximately six months. It includes appraisal of proposals by ad hoc reviewers selected for their expertise from throughout the social scientific community and by an advisory panel that meets twice a year. The target dates for the submission of proposals are January 15 for proposals to be funded as early as July and August 15 for proposals to be funded in or after January.
Other Federal Agencies that Provide Grants
The Department of Health and Human Services is the Grants.gov program’s managing partner, and allows access to the 26 federal grant-making agencies available through this convenient E-Government initiative. Below are the links to those agency websites. If you would like to learn more about grants specific to these agencies, please click here.
Agency for International Development
The Agency for International Development is an independent federal government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 100 countries to ensure a better future for us all.
Corporation for National and Community Service [EXIT Disclaimer]
The Corporation for National and Community Service is the nation’s largest grant-maker supporting service and volunteering. Through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America programs, the Corporation is a catalyst for change and offers every American a chance to contribute through service and volunteering.
Department of Agriculture
Established in 1862, the Department of Agriculture serves all Americans through anti-hunger efforts, stewardship of nearly 200 million acres of national forest and rangelands, and through product safety and conservation efforts. The USDA opens markets for American farmers and ranchers and provides food for needy people around the world.
Department of Commerce
The Department of Commerce fosters and promotes the nation’s economic development and technological advancement through vigilance in international trade policy, domestic business policy and growth, and promoting economic progress at all levels.
Department of Defense [EXIT Disclaimer]
The Department of Defense provides the military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of the United States through five major areas: peacekeeping and war-fighting efforts, Homeland Security, evacuation and humanitarian causes.
Department of Education
The Department of Education ensures equal access to education and promotes educational excellence through coordination, management and accountability in federal education programs. The Department works to supplement and complement educational efforts on all levels, encouraging increased involvement by the public, parents and students.
Department of Energy
The Department of Energy’s goal is to advance national, economic and energy security in the U.S.; to promote scientific and technological innovation in support of that goal; and to ensure environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex.
Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services is the federal government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially to those who are least able to help themselves.
Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security has three primary missions: Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism and minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s mission is to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination. HUD fulfills this mission through high ethical standards, management and accountability, and by forming partnerships with community organizations.
Department of the Interior
The Department of the Interior protects and provides access to the Nation’s natural and cultural heritage, including responsibilities to Indian tribes and island communities. Departmental goals include resource protection and usage, overseeing recreational opportunities, serving communities and excellence in management.
Department of Justice
The Department of Justice enforces the law and defends the interest of the United States, ensuring public safety against threats foreign and domestic; providing federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; seeking just punishment for those guilty of unlawful pursuits; and ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.
Department of Labor
The Department of Labor fosters and promotes the welfare of job seekers, wage earners and retirees by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities, protecting their retirement and health benefits and generally protecting worker rights and monitoring national economic measures.
Department of State
The Department of State strives to create a more secure, democratic and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community.
Department of Transportation
The Department of Transportation’s mission is to ensure fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation that meets vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.
Department of the Treasury
The Department of Treasury is a steward of United States economic and financial systems, and promotes conditions for prosperity and stability in the U.S., and encourages prosperity and stability in the rest of the world.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs strives for excellence in patient care and veteran’s benefits for its constituents through high quality, prompt and seamless service to United States veterans.
Environmental Protection Agency
The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.
Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute serves as a leader in providing services to enhance learning, sustain cultural heritage and increase civic participation.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration serves as the nation’s forefront of such exploration and continues to pioneer in aeronautics, exploration systems, science and space operations.
National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration enables people to inspect the record of what the federal government has done, enables officials and agencies to review their actions and helps citizens hold them accountable.
National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts; bringing the arts to all Americans and providing leadership in arts education. The Endowment is the largest national source of funds for the arts.
National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created to promote the progress of science, to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare and to secure the national defense. The NSF annually funds approximately 20 percent of basic, federally-supported college and university research.
Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration maintains and strengthens the nation’s economy by aiding, counseling, assisting and protecting the interests of small businesses and by helping families and businesses recover from national disasters.
Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration advances the economic security of the nation’s people through compassionate and vigilant leadership in shaping and managing America’s Social Security programs.
NONGOVERNMENTAL SPONSORS OF EMPIRICAL LEGAL RESEARCH
Foundations and other nongovernmental organizations also sponsor law-related research. The kinds of research funded can range from policy- and advocacy-oriented to more basic research. Often the proposal may include a research component along with other more action-oriented components such as conferences and meetings and operational expenses. Some foundations announce programs and invite applications. Some have regular application cycles; others accept letters of inquiry or even full applications on an ongoing basis. An abbreviated list of some foundations and legal organizations that may fund empirical legal research includes:
American Bar Association
Law School Admissions Council
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Smith Richardson Foundation
LINKS TO SOURCES OF GRANT INFORMATION
The SMU Sponsored Projects Office approves and administers all funded research.
A very comprehensive and current source of grant information is the IRIS Database compiled by the Illinois Researcher Information Service.
For nongovernmental agencies, an excellent source is the Foundation Center.
PREPARING GRANT PROPOSALS
The Sponsored Projects Office and the SMU Institutional Review Board (IRB) are there to assist you. Their websites are very informative and their staff members are tremendously knowledgeable about how to ensure your success in submitting grant proposals in a timely fashion.