The Current State of IR

Project Overview

AIR is conducting a study to provide data to AIR members for benchmarking, internal improvement, and to document the current state of IR. This project is a critically important effort to document the work that defines institutional research across all titles and variations represented in the AIR membership.
A key step is to identify the tasks involved in the work of IR. What do hiring authorities need AIR members to do? What do AIR members do? How much is what we do worth?
Between October 2012 and May 2013, a draft typology of IR positions and work tasks was developed through analysis of job descriptions and position announcements contributed by AIR members. Nearly 2,000 unique tasks were extracted from the job descriptions and announcements reviewed. The tasks represent a wide view of institutional research as a key educational field grounded in data and decisions, and not all elements apply to every position.
The tasks were sorted into 18 domains: Ability, Accountability, Accreditation, Analyze, Assessment, Collaboration, Grants, Integrity, IPEDS, IRB, IT, Planning, Presentations, Priority Setting, Reporting, Research, Survey, and Supervision. The 18 domains and the relevant tasks were presented at the 2013 AIR Forum in a session titled Defining IR: Identifying Work Tasks, Describing the Field, and Establishing Baseline Comparisons.


Between June and October 2013, the first list of tasks was refined. Of note: the verbs in the task list are actual words used in the job descriptions and position announcements analyzed in the first phrase of this study. Unique identifiers were assigned to each task to create a data key for future management and analysis. Stratified random assignment was used to create 15 unique survey lists.
AIR members have been randomly assigned to 15 survey lists. Survey respondents are asked to reflect on their current positions as they rate approximately 95 tasks that may be part of their current job duties. A 5-point scale is used (very low to very high) with an additional option indicate none or not applicable.
Many AIR members are not directly involved in day-to-day IR functions, but have related interests in the field. A screening question directs those members to a secondary survey about the field of IR. We need and value the participation of all members, regardless of current role, including retired members.
All AIR members will have access to the summarized study results. We anticipate that the information will help AIR members write job descriptions for IR, inform the work of search committees charged with hiring new IR staff, and assist campus leaders in setting IR priorities and allocating resources to the campus IR function.
AIR thanks Fred Lillibridge and the scores of AIR members who have assisted in this project to date. Also, a special thanks goes to our colleagues at Educational Benchmarking, Inc. for their generous support of technical assistance to conduct this large-scale survey.
Please direct questions about this project to