Evaluation of FGDC's NSDI Grants Program

Executive Summary

This report describes the results of a postal survey of organizations that applied for FGDC metadata clearinghouse grants over the period 1994- 1999. The main goal of the survey was to evaluate the effectiveness of FGDC's grants program. A further goal was to compare the characteristics of successful versus unsuccessful applicants, as well as non-applicants. Key findings include the following:

Among successful grant applicants:

  • 95% indicated that the FGDC grants program had contributed significantly to the success of their metadata projects.
  • post-FGDC-grant investment in project development/maintenance averaged $22,000 per annum per applicant.
  • more than half of the grant recipients indicated that their FGDC- related project had created spillovers to other organizations (demonstration effects were positive).
  • FGDC grants typically covered between 50-60% of project costs for most applicants.
  • most applicants were from the government sector, with few from the private sector.
  • FGDC grants were ranked highly in terms of their contribution to project success.
  • most grant applicants (71%) were first-time applicants.
  • all of the successful applicants have established web-based clearinghouses to support metadata dissemination.
  • a majority of the organizations that were surveyed intend to apply for FGDC funding in the future.
  • most applicants would have proceeded with their projects in the absence of FGDC support, albeit at a slower speed or at a reduced scope.
  • 32% indicated that their project would not have proceeded without FGDC funding (most of these applicants operate with very small GIS units).
  • the chief benefit of FGDC-funding is that it supports full-scale projects

Among unsuccessful grant applicants:

  • unsuccessful applicants typically employed smaller numbers of GIS personnel than successful applicants (this contrast is statistically significant).
  • approximately half of the organizations that were denied FGDC funding proceeded with some variant of their original proposal.
  • because of their limited in-house resources (GIS expertise), unsuccessful applicants were more likely to seek outside help from professionals in other organizations, including private consultants, academics, and other collaborators.
  • most of the unsuccessful applicants intend to apply for FGDC support in the future

Overall, the picture that emerged from our analysis can be summarized as follows. First, FGDC grants contribute significantly to the development of metadata clearinghouses among successful applicants. The existence of a critical mass of in-house GIS specialists appears to be the chief discriminator between successful versus unsuccessful applicants. Second, projects that were supported by FGDC were in most cases associated with spillovers to other organizations (demonstration effects). In addition, virtually all of these projects have been supported by post-grant investment from within the recipient organization itself. Third, FGDC grants have improved the in-house technical capacity (or broadened the range of in-house activities) of many of the grant recipients. Fourth, all of the successful applicants have created metadata clearinghouses. A substantial majority of the successful applicants ranked the importance of FGDC support either highly or very highly. Finally, the main reason that eligible non-applicants failed to submit proposals was that they were unaware of the existence of FGDC grants.

Full Report