Data held by the Office of Institutional Research is governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the terms of informed consent given by research participants, and standards of ethical research practice. For this reason, the office limits the release of institutional data to researchers and students.
When Smith community members or others want to study the institution, we work individually with researchers to help identify or locate appropriate sources of data. However, given the sensitivity and privacy considerations of some institutional data, requests are evaluated on a case by case basis for approval, and many are not approved. Researchers interested in conducting their own surveys should also contact the office to find out about the process for obtaining permission to conduct research on campus.
Institutional Research has access to a wide variety of data in a range of formats, such as detailed administrative data, survey results in both summary and unit record form, and summarized statistics. Much of this data is owned by other offices and often contains highly confidential and sensitive information.
Smith does not readily release this information to researchers; however, in some cases, non-individually-identifiable data of a non-sensitive nature can be provided to legitimate researchers, particulalry those on campus.
Before Making a Request
To avoid duplication of efforts, we recommend that researchers consider publicly-available sources of data. Is the data that interests you available through the Common Data Set, or any other information document made available on the Institutional Research website? Are there reliable public sources for this information like IPEDS, U-CAN, or other sources?
If the information is not publicly available, and cannot be found easily via internal methods, please contact the office to make a data request. Researchers should be aware that the approval process takes time, and should plan their research timelines accordingly.
Once you have made initial contact with the office, and we have determined that the data you wish to work with is available and that your project is likely to be approved, you will need to complete a set of steps designed to ensure that you understand your responsibilities in handling data.
- If you haven't already done so, you should familiarize yourself a little with the IRB process here at Smith. Most researchers will need to follow the IRB process in addition to requesting data from IR. IRB approval does not imply approval to access data, nor does approval to access Smith data imply IRB approval.
- Smith College requires researchers to complete a CITI online training course in order to apply for IRB approval. Our office also requires that any individual approved to handle student data also complete this training. Please follow the steps in section two of the IRB application process, which will require you to complete the Basic Human Subjects-Social and Behavioral Focus course.
- Complete a tutorial on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA tutorial).
- Meet with a member of our staff to review and sign our nondisclosure agreement about protected data.