Data and Report Guidelines
Many requests for information about the University come to us from external entities, including federal and state government, consortia, higher education organizations, publishers of admissions guidebooks, researchers, parents, alumni, members of the public, news media, etc. We recognize our responsibility to provide accurate information to those who need it. One of the important roles of the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment, & Planning is to serve as a clearinghouse of information about the institution. The goal of this function is to ensure the accuracy and consistency of the information that we provide, using commonly accepted definitions and guidelines for reporting. This role has been affirmed by the Stewardship Council.
This role may lead to some practical concerns. Should the Office of Institutional Research & Planning (IRAP) be responsible for every piece of information that flows off the campus? If not, under what circumstances should it not? There is a need for a clear guideline that can be shared with the campus community. That guideline depends on the needs and concerns of the University.
Closely tied to this issue is when the IRAP office should respond to an internal request for data directly (e.g. from faculty, students, or staff) versus when that response should come from another office on campus.
This document attempts to outline the areas and extent of IRAP involvement in responding to internal and external requests for information about UMKC, and to provide a guideline. "General Principles" are followed by very important "Exceptions." While many situations will be clear-cut, others won’t. In those cases, the guidelines can be a starting point for discussions about the best way of accomplishing the goal of providing appropriate and meaningful information that is accurate to those who need it.
While reporting is often done through the Institutional Research, Assessment, & Planning office, it should be remembered that the IRAP office seldom "owns" the data that it uses. While all data on campus is theoretically open to IRAP personnel, they must take special care to use it correctly and wisely. There will necessarily be frequent consultations with the information managers. Therefore, the IRAP staff must depend on the expertise, guidance, cooperation, and good will of the information managers in each area.
Except for requests from the news media, which should go through the Director of Public Communications, all requests for official or public data should go through IRAP, with specific exceptions noted below. Whether the IRAP office completes the request or coordinates the request with another office will be based on the staff expertise in the topic area, access to relevant UMKC data, and expertise in working with the particular UMKC data (discussed below).
What is data? "Data" refers to numerical summaries of aspects of our institution, for example, number of students enrolled, graduation rates, or percentage of faculty who are women. Examples of items that would generally not be considered data are directory information about staff or faculty, or narrative descriptions of programs, policies, or facilities.
What are official or public data? Figures are considered official or public if they are mandated by state or federal guidelines (e.g. the national Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or "IPEDS"); are collected routinely by recognized higher education agencies or consortia (e.g. AAUP); or will appear in publications that are widely available (e.g. Student Profile).
With the exception of IPEDS reporting, mandated routine reporting specific to an individual area should be conducted by that area. (The responsible official in that area should, however, consult with the IRAP office whenever figures outside of that area (e.g. enrollments) are required for a form.) Examples of reporting that should by conducted by the appropriate office rather than by IRAP include: athletics reporting, crime reporting, tax forms, human resource work utilization reporting, etc. In general, straightforward office-to-agency reports should go through the appropriate office. If the information requested on a form may be of general interest or may be made public, it would be helpful if a copy were provided to IRAP. When information may be used in various other ways, the IRAP office should be involved.
Who gathers the data
Whether a particular external request should be done in IRAP versus sent to another office for completion will be based on the office’s knowledge of the area, access to the data, and knowledge of the data. For example, currently all state and federal reporting are coordinated through IRAP. This does not mean that the IRAP office completes every form. A number of forms are sent to other officials on campus for their response and returned to IRAP for forwarding to the requesting agency. On these forms, it is generally the official who completes the form who signs off on it.
Area Knowledge: This guideline will depend on the person in charge of IRAP and the role of institutional research at the University. An institutional researcher is bound by a professional code of ethics to not accept assignments outside of his or her realm of expertise. At the same time he or she should seek training in areas deemed by the institution to be important to the Institutional Research role. In areas where the IRAP personnel have some knowledge or expertise, it may be reasonable for them to fulfill a request. In areas where the IRAP personnel do not have expertise, it should be sent to the appropriate expert on campus.
Access to Data: In the situations where the IRAP personnel have little or no access to the particular type of data, they should not attempt to complete a request, but rather forward it to the appropriate office. Requests for such information will be sent to assigned information manager for the area.
Knowledge of the Data: It makes sense for the IRAP office to be the one reporting data that is commonly used by the IRAP office, because in order to use these data effectively the IRAP staff should be very knowledgeable about it. This is more than knowledge or expertise in a particular area – it is about knowing the particular data on this campus very well, both in form and in content. The IRAP office is therefore in a position to accurately provide meaningful information about these areas to outsiders.
These guidelines are meant to clarify the role of IRAP in reporting University information. These guidelines may evolve somewhat over time, however, they should serve as a good starting point. We are fortunate to work in an institution that highly values collegiality. Guidelines such as this are not meant to replace or even reduce the valuable discussion that takes place here, but to help us all to make sure that we are handling requests for information as effectively as possible.