Article

  • Article Media Release
  • 01.21.20

Association Publishes Statement of Ethical Principles Guiding the Use of Data in Higher Education

  • by Lisa Gwaltney

January 21, 2020 (Tallahassee, FL) — Today, the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) published the AIR Statement of Ethical Principles, an expression of integrity, professionalism, and fairness intended to guide the use of data in decision-making within higher education.

Building on a nearly 30-year history of attention to the ethical use of data, the organization’s Board of Directors approved the AIR Statement of Ethical Principles to update and modernize the principles that guide its professional community. The new statement replaces AIR’s former Code of Ethics and Professional Practice to maximize the principles’ applicability in today’s complex higher education data landscape and into the future.

Michelle Appel, Director of Assessment and Decision Support at University of Maryland-College Park, who served as AIR President when the new principles were drafted and approved, said this is one of the most important pieces of work the organization has produced in recent memory.

“AIR exists to empower higher education professionals to use data, analytics, information, and evidence to make decisions and take actions that benefit students and higher education,” Appel said. “Those decisions and actions are valuable only when achieved through integrity, professionalism, and fairness. I am so proud that the Board took on this task, and of the collaboration that created these new principles, which will serve as a compass for our actions as we work to bolster student success and support higher education.”

Iris Palmer, Senior Advisor for Higher Education and Workforce, Education Policy Program at New America and AIR member agreed, saying; “I applaud the Association for Institutional Research for putting forward these principles to guide professionals through the ethical challenges that can emerge in the analysis, presentation, and use of data. This type of guidance is important to the field and will help ensure that, as available data continues to expand, they will be used for the benefit of students and the improvement of higher education."

The new principles help communicate the level of professionalism others should expect from those working with data in higher education.

Julie Carpenter-Hubin, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Research and Planning at Ohio State University (Retired) said, “The AIR Statement of Ethical Principles not only provides IR professionals with guidance regarding the ethical use of data and information, it also informs our leadership and our colleagues of the values and behaviors they can and should expect from us.”

As part of the launch of the new AIR Statement of Ethical Principles, the organization will host a live webinar at 2 p.m. EST on January 21, during which Appel and Executive Director & CEO Christine M. Keller will introduce and field questions about the principles. In addition, AIR published hypothetical scenarios from the data community that feature examples of how the ethical principles can be applied. Visit www.airweb.org/ethics for more information.  

The AIR Statement of Ethical Principles does not serve as or substitute legal advice, and the scenarios are not detailed roadmaps for resolving challenges. Rather, the content is intended to build awareness of the ethical implications of data production and use in higher education and provide tangible examples to frame discussion. Those with serious ethical concerns should always contact their institution’s or organization’s legal counsel.

About AIR
The Association for Institutional Research (AIR) represents a worldwide community of institutional research, institutional effectiveness, and other decision-support professionals. Incorporated in 1966, AIR empowers higher education professionals to effectively and ethically use data for better decisions through education and professional development, research, and collective action. For more information, visit www.airweb.org.

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