Frequently Asked Questions

Information Collection Request FAQs

OMB approval is required anytime 10 or more individuals are asked the same set of questions in an NPS-sponsored information collection request (ICR). NPS-sponsorship refers to any financial or in-kind support (e.g., housing) the NPS may provide in pursuit of the collection of information; this also includes any action or activity that may give the appearance of NPS-sponsorship. If the questions are standardized in nature and will be used to inform management or planning decisions, OMB approval must be obtained. One notable exemption is information collections of federal employees. It is best to consult the NPS Information Collection Review Coordinator early in your project to determine if your study falls within the scope of the Paperwork Reduction Act and to determine the appropriate review process. 

The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) requires federal agencies to submit proposed collections of information for review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under the PRA, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviews agency information collection requests for approval, modification, or disapproval.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA, pronounced "oh-eye-ruh") administers the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, which calls for clearance and assessment of information collection requests by agencies. OIRA is part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OIRA is responsible for reviewing information collection requests throughout the federal government. OIRA seeks to ensure that the benefits of federally-sponsored information collections justify the cost and burden placed on the public.

An agency conducts or sponsors an information collection if the agency collects the information using its own staff and resources or causes another agency or entity to collect the information, including entering into a contract or cooperative agreement to obtain the information. If the agency requests the collection directly or indirectly through another entity or contractor or exercises control over those collecting the information, the agency is conducting or sponsoring the collection.

NPS-sponsored information collection requests (ICRs) are subject to one of four review processes: Programmatic Review, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Fast-Track Qualitative Feedback, or Regular Review. The individual parameters of your ICR will determine the appropriate review channel.

The NPS Programmatic Clearance Process applies to all public social science information collections, sponsored by the NPS and intended to furnish useful and applicable knowledge to managers and planners. It is designed for information collections that focus on the awareness, understanding, attitudes, preferences, or experiences of NPS visitors, potential visitors, or other stakeholders relating to existing or future services, products, or communication materials. This process is limited to applied research that is non-controversial and will not attract attention to significant, sensitive, or political issues. Further, all questions included in an information collection must fall within the pre-approved topic areas. The Programmatic Review pages outline the requirements in more detail. 

Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Fast-Track Qualitative Feedback only apply in specific circumstances. If you think your study may qualify under one of these processes, please reach out to the NPS Information Collection Review Coordinator before you begin filling out an application to ensure you are using the correct process. 

The purpose of the Regular Review Process is to allow for information collection requests that are not within the scope of the current generic clearance processes (i.e., NPS Programmatic Clearance Process, Fast-Track Qualitative Feedback, and Customer Satisfaction Surveys). 

Reach out to the NPS Information Collection Review Coordinator early in your planning processes to discuss your study and confirm that you are using the appropriate review process. 

A submission under the Programmatic Review Process must be submitted to the NPS Social Science Program at least 90 days prior to the desired start date. Please consult the Programmatic submission status bar on the top of NPS Programmatic Clearance Process page to determine the status of the Programmatic Review Process. Also, reach out to the NPS Information Collection Review Coordinator early in your planning process to understand the requirements and obtain information about current processing times.  

If your information collection request (ICR) does not qualify under the Programmatic Review Process you need to go through the Regular Review Process. This process is longer and more in-depth than the Programmatic Process. It includes the publication of a 60-day and 30-day Federal Register Notice (FRN), which allows for public comment on the proposed information collection. Concurrent with the publication of the 60-day FRN, the supporting statement and information collection instrument(s) will be reviewed by the NPS. Once the 60-day comment period has ended, the NPS will consider any public comments and make any necessary revisions to the collection. The final submission package will be reviewed by the Department of Interior (DOI). Upon the completion of that review, the NPS will publish the 30-day FRN and submit the proposed collection to OMB. Only after OMB assigns a control number and expiration date, may the agency proceed with the collection.

Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), a respondent is any member of “the public.” This includes, but is not limited to, individuals, partnerships, corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations, and state, local, and tribal governments, as well as other associations and organizations, whether foreign or domestic. Federal agencies are not included in the definition of the public. OMB clearance is not required to collect information from NPS employees (acting in their official capacities) or other federal agencies unless the information will be used for general statistical purposes. 

Information collections approved under this program are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. The Department of the Interior has no statutory authority to exempt studies from such requests. Therefore, confidentiality cannot be pledged. However, any information on surveys that identifies respondents can be removed or stored separately from survey databases so that the two are not linked. These steps should be disclosed to respondents.

Generally, no. 

While incentives are used in the private sector, most federally-sponsored surveys do not provide incentives to respondents. The use of incentives by federal agencies has raised a variety of concerns about their cost, the use of taxpayer funds, impact on survey responses, and implications for the "social contract" between the federal government and citizens. The regulations implementing the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1980 prohibited the use of incentives for respondents to federal surveys unless agencies could demonstrate a substantial need. The regulations implementing the 1995 reauthorization of the PRA require agencies to justify any payments to respondents. Under certain circumstances, non-monetary incentives can be used when the agency provides a clearly justified need for the incentive and can demonstrate positive impacts on responses and data quality by using an incentive. You should contact the NPS Information Collection Review Coordinator to discuss your proposed use of an incentive in your survey.

Yes, but only in limited circumstances, such as when an agency collects contact information to have follow-up contact with a respondent. And in those limited circumstances, the agency may collect PII only to the extent that its necessary. Moreover, in such circumstances, the agency must comply with the applicable requirements, restrictions and prohibitions of the Privacy Act and other privacy and confidentiality laws that govern the agency's collection, retention, use, and/or disclosure of such PII.

Use of web surveys as an option for respondents is acceptable. The web should not be the only method of survey administration. There are restrictions on surveys of website users. If you intend to do a survey of this population, please contact the NPS Social Science Branch early in your planning process. Further, in terms of sample selection, the web should not be the means by which a sample population is recruited, since this will bias the sample. An exception occurs when the population being surveyed consists of visitors to a website, such as Contact the Information Collection Review Coordinator if you are planning such a survey.

Not usually. No clearance is needed if the attendees are just asked to comment or give suggestions on the program or subject in question. However, if the group is gathered for the purpose of having attendees respond to a specific set of formatted questions, then the PRA does apply and the information collection is required to have OMB approval.

Pre-testing of survey instruments and methodology is encouraged. If pre-testing involves collecting the same information from ten or more members of the public, clearance for the pre-test is required. The request for approval of the pre-test can be submitted separately or with the final survey package, whichever is appropriate.

OMB approval is required if the study is conducted, sponsored, or funded by the NPS. Approval by university Institutional Review Boards is not a substitute for OMB approval. However, research occurring in national park units that is funded by external sources (e.g., independent grants) and is not sponsored by the NPS does not require OMB approval.

Regardless of Paperwork Reduction Act status and subsequent OMB review, all research being conducted within a unit of the NPS does require an NPS Research Permit. Visit the National Park Service Research Permit and Reporting System (RPRS) to register for an account and apply for a research permit.

Unobtrusive observations are exempt from the review and PRA approval process if no systematic information is solicited from the public.

The Federal Register is the official daily publication for notices of federal agencies and organizations, as well as for Executive Orders and other presidential documents. The Federal Register is published by the Office of the Federal Register within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). In the context of social science research, Federal Register Notices are required to be published for information collection requests going through the Regular Review Process. To learn more, visit the Federal Register website

  1. Go to the OMB/GSA Information Collection Review web page.
  2. Near the top of the web page you will see a section called "Current Inventory."
  3. Click on the downward-pointing arrow in the "Select Agency" box below the "Current Inventory" heading.
  4. Select "National Park Service" from the list of agencies presented in the "Select Agency" box.
  5. Click the "Submit" button to the right of the "Select Agency" box.
  6. A list of NPS information collections currently approved by OMB will be displayed. Click on an OMB Control Number or ICR Reference Number to display detailed information about each collection.

  1. Go to the OMB/GSA Information Collection Review web page.
  2. Look for the section of the web page called "Currently Under Review."
  3. Click on the downward-pointing arrow in the "Select Agency" box below the "Currently Under Review" heading.
  4. Select "National Park Service" from the list of agencies presented in the "Select Agency" box.
  5. Click the "Submit" button to the right of the "Select Agency" box.
  6. A list of NPS information collection requests (ICRs) under OMB review will be displayed. Click on an ICR Reference Number to display detailed information about the ICR.

Last updated: October 17, 2022


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