MIT Institutional Research
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Academic Research Requests

Read the general guidelines for sharing data with others, primarily for academic research.

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These are general guidelines for sharing data with others, primarily for academic research.

 

Types of data collected and sometimes shared:

Public data (typically gathered by someone else)

  1. Examples: IPEDS, NSF

  2. Approvals required: none

  3. COUHES required: no

  4. Data use agreement required: no

  5. Statement of purpose/scope/duration: no

Aggregate data, little risk of identifying person, not of a sensitive* nature

  1. Examples: most overall survey frequency reports, student/staff counts

  2. Approvals required: none

  3. COUHES required: no, unless request is for survey data with small cell sizes (under five)

  4. Data use agreement required: no

  5. Statement of purpose/scope/duration: no

Aggregate data, little risk of identifying person, of a sensitive*nature

  1. Examples: survey crosstabs by demographics (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, department, dormitory), summary registrarial/admissions/financial aid data

  2. Approvals required: yes, see section B

  3. COUHES required: no, unless request is for survey data with small cell sizes (under five)

  4. Data use agreement required: not usually, but may be required depending upon the sensitivity of the data (i.e., request, survey or otherwise, is for small cell sizes under five)

  5. Statement of purpose/scope/duration: yes, brief

Individual-level data, little risk of identifying person

  1. Examples: some survey variables without demographics (e.g., commuting behaviors). Note: it is difficult to guarantee no risk of identifying an individual with most individual-level data.

  2. Approvals required: yes, see section B. If request is for student research (graduate thesis), request must be made by the faculty sponsor, see section C

  3. COUHES required: no

  4. Data use agreement required: yes

  5. Statement of purpose/scope/duration: yes

Individual-level data, medium to high risk of identifying person

  1. Examples: registrarial/admissions/financial aid data with identifiers, survey data with identifiers and/or demographics, survey data with certain combinations of variables (e.g., employer name and income).

  2. Approvals required: yes, see section B. If request is for student research (graduate thesis), request must be made by the faculty sponsor, see section C. This type of data is not available to undergraduate students

  3. COUHES required: yes

  4. Data use agreement required: yes

  5. Statement of purpose/scope/duration: yes

Who “owns” the data and must give approval?

  1. Registrarial data: Registrar or Dean for Undergraduate Education

  2. Admissions data: Dean of Admissions or Dean for Undergraduate Education

  3. Financial aid data: Executive Director of Student Financial Services or Dean for Undergraduate Education

  4. Alumni Association data: Executive Vice President & CEO of the Alumni Association or Director of Communications

  5. Institutional Research sponsored survey data: Director of Institutional Research

  6. Faculty Data: Provost

  7. Employee Data: Vice President for Human Resources or the Executive Vice President

  8. Other survey data: Sponsoring office

General process for requesting individual-level data:

  1. Meeting required between Institutional Research and investigator to discuss project. If a student researcher is involved, the meeting must include the faculty sponsor.

  2. For student researchers, formal request for data must come from MIT faculty sponsor. Data will be disbursed to student through faculty sponsor

  3. COUHES approval (if required) and executed DATA USE AGREEMENT must happen before data are released

Notes about survey data:

  1. Change in confidentiality assurance on surveys and invitations:

    • Previous standard language:
      “The survey is voluntary. You may answer as few or as many questions as you wish. Please be assured that the data will be treated as confidential, and the results will be presented in a way that individual respondents cannot be identified.”

    • Proposed language (additional text bolded):
      “The survey is voluntary. You may answer as few or as many questions as you wish. Please be assured that the data will be treated as confidential, and the results of any research or analysis using the data will be presented in a way that individual respondents cannot be identified. If data from this survey are used for academic research, the same rules of confidentiality and reporting apply."

  2. When Institutional Research releases data to another researcher, that researcher by extension is required to keep any assurances made to survey respondents.

  3. Institutional Research uses FERPA guidelines when sharing individual-level survey data, even if the data are from non-students. Disclosure of individual-level student survey data for the purposes of academic research falls under the “improving instruction” provision of FERPA.

  4. Occasionally, data from surveys are requested by academic researchers. If the request is approved, these researchers are subject to the same rules of confidentiality and reporting as promised to survey respondents at the time of the survey.

*Using COUHES’ definition: “’sensitive’ data include, but are not limited to, data relating to academic performance, religion, ethnicity, sex, alcohol consumption and the use of illegal drugs.”