Information Collection

A survey being conducted at Mount Rushmore National Monument.
A survey being conducted at Mount Rushmore National Monument.

Submissions for Programmatic Information Collection Review Is Now Open

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The Social Science Branch is now accepting submissions for FY 2014 programmatic review of National Park Service–sponsored social science information collections.

Starting with the FY 2014 submission process, all information collection submissions will only be accepted through the Survey Request Tracking Solution (SRTS). Electronic package submissions will no longer be accepted by email. In order to use SRTS, you will have to register as a user and follow all instructions to submit your collection for consideration. This new system was designed to automate the submission process as well as to provide increased tracking capabilities during the NPS and OMB review process. Information on navigating this new system is located on the SRTS Help pages.

For more detailed information on the submission process, please read this memorandum (PDF 1.15 MB) from the Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science.

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The National Park Service (NPS) sponsors social science surveys of the public to provide park managers with information needed for park planning and management. Various review processes and research permits apply to surveys conducted, funded, or sponsored by the NPS, and to independent research conducted in parks.

The NPS has developed, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Interior (DOI), a programmatic review process for NPS-sponsored surveys of the public. The programmatic review process is a separate process from the standard Paperwork Reduction Act process for NPS-sponsored surveys that collect data from park visitors, potential park visitors, and/or residents of communities near parks that cover specific, pre-approved topic areas.

Surveys outside the scope of programmatic review require approval through the standard information collection review process outlined by the Paperwork Reduction Act. This process takes 6-9 months. For more information, please contact the collection review coordinator.

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Preparing a Submission for Programmatic Review

The information below is intended to answer frequently asked questions regarding the programmatic review process, in particular for principal investigators and park managers who are preparing to submit or have submitted social science studies. More detail is available in the Guidelines and Submission Form for Programmatic Review for NPS-Sponsored Public Surveys, Focus Groups and Field Experiments (revised June 2011 - PDF - 521KB).

Does my study need OMB approval?

OMB approval is required of all NPS-sponsored information collections when ten or more individuals are being asked the same question(s). NPS-sponsorship of a study is not limited to financial support, but also includes any involvement in a study that could give the impression of NPS-sponsorship (such as in-kind support, surveying help, involvement in instrument development, etc). All studies (focus groups, surveys, interviews, etc.) involving the public require OMB approval; studies of NPS employees (while on duty) or studies in which information is collected about people solely through observation are exempt from the review process.

Does my study qualify for programmatic review?

The program of programmatic review applies to NPS-sponsored surveys designed to furnish useful knowledge to NPS managers and planners. Questions asked under the programmatic review must show a clear tie to NPS management and planning needs. The programmatic review may only be used for non-controversial surveys that are unlikely to attract or include topics of significant public interest in the review process. Investigators who are unsure if a study qualifies under the programmatic review are strongly encouraged to contact the Social Science Branch for clarification early in the planning process.

The program of programmatic review is limited to three specific segments of the public: park visitors, potential park visitors, and residents of communities near parks. To qualify for the programmatic approval, all questions in a survey must fit within one or more of the approved topic areas and must be approved by the NPS and OMB. When submitting a study, please remember that each question within the designed information collection instrument must include the corresponding topic area identifier and label. Topic area identifiers and labels are listed in the Pool of Known Questions. (PDF - 722KB)

My study qualifies, what do I do next?

Once it's determined that your study qualifies under programmatic review for NPS-sponsored surveys, you must prepare a submission package, which includes filling out the programmatic review form (DOCX - 135KB) and attaching your data collection instrument, as well as all relevant supporting materials (e.g., introductory scripts, non-response logs, photos, maps, etc.). Remember to carefully read the instructions for preparing programmatic submissions as presented in the Guidelines and Submission Form for Programmatic Review for NPS-Sponsored Public Surveys, Focus Groups and Field Experiments (revised June 2011 - PDF - 521KB).

Please Note: Qualifying survey submissions under the programmatic review for NPS-sponsored public surveys must be submitted to the NPS Social Science Branch a minimum of 60 days prior to the first day the survey is to be administered in the field. There tend to be an increased number of submissions during the months of May, June, and July. During these busy months, survey review and approval may be somewhat delayed. Please plan accordingly and get submissions in as early as possible.

Important Reminders

  • All supporting materials must be included in a submission. A submission package is not complete (and cannot be reviewed) unless it contains all materials relevant to the study (including a completed programmatic review form, scripts, PRA compliance sections, questions with relevant topic areas, non-response logs, photos, etc).
  • Expected response rates require justification. Projected response rates for studies, as outlined within the programmatic review form, must be based on response rates from previous studies of a similar nature. For example, if a study is being done of day hikers at Yosemite National Park, the projected response rate should be a realistic estimate based upon other studies done with hikers at Yosemite or a similar park. These previous study response rates must be cited within the programmatic form.

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Review Materials and Information

Helpful documents include:

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Annual Reports

The NPS Social Science Branch prepares an annual report about the programmatic review program each year. Currently available reports include:

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Last Updated: December 11, 2013