A DECLARATION ON INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH by SIDNEY SUSLOW ESSO EDUCATION FOUNDATION and the ASSOCIATION FOR INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH © 1972 Association for Institutional Research (http://www.airweb.org/print.asp?page=82) (page ii) A Declaration on Institutional Research A document based on a special conference on the future of institutional research sponsored by the Esso Education Foundation and the Association for Institutional Research held at Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, March 29 through April 1, 1971. (page iii) Conference Participants: CHESTER ALTER Chancellor Emeritus University of Denver EDWIN D. DURYEA Professor of Higher Education State University of New York - Buffalo J. B. HEFFERLIN Co-Director, Academic Administration Project Ellis L. Phillips Foundation PAUL JEDAMUS Professor of Management Science Graduate School of Business Administration University of Colorado< ARNOLD K. KING Vice President, Institutional Studies University of North Carolina JOHN KING Professor of Education Southern Illinois University DONALD C. LELONG Director, Institutional Research University of Michigan THOMAS R. MASON Director, Office of Institutional Research University of Colorado GORDON OSBORN Assistant Vice Chancellor, Management State University of New York - Albany RICHARD R. PERRY Associate Executive Vice President University of Toledo WILLIAM M. SIBLEY Vice President, Planning and Special Assignments The University of Manitoba BARRY L. SNOWDEN Assistant to the Vice President The University of Lethbridge SIDNEY SUSLOW Director, Office of Institutional Research University of California, Berkeley LORING M. THOMPSON Vice President and Dean of Planning Northeastern University G. EMERSON TULLY Director, Educational Research State University System of Florida Acknowledgments The Association for Institutional Research, as well as the author,is deeply in debt to the participants of this special conference for their enthusiasm, their persistence and, above all, their real contributions. This document is a record of their efforts. My sincere gratitude is given to the Esso Education Foundation, in particular Frederick deW. Bolman, Executive Director, for their willingness to support an idea fostered by an individual speaking for an Association untested by time. Thomas R. Mason, President of A.I.R., 1969-70, deserves recognition for his personal efforts to assist in obtaining the foundation grant. Special acknowledgment goes to Alfred D. Cavanaugh, of my staff at Berkeley, who contributed much before, during, and after the conference, and Eleanor Langlois, also of my staff, who was a very effective pre- and post-conference critic. The members of the 1969-70 and 1970-71 Executive committees have my appreciation for their patience in listening to my arguments and for their forbearance in reading original and later proposals for the conference. Warm regards are extended to the entire staff of Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, for their hospitality and excellent service. I extend a very special thanks to Mrs. Robert L. Morris, Manager of Shakertown, and Mr. Earl D. Wallace, President of the Board of Trustees. Their individual efforts helped to make the conference a very enjoyable and productive one. Foreword Early in 1970, I proposed to the Executive Committee of the Association for Institutional Research that funds be sought to bring together a special conference of researchers and administrators to discuss the future of institutional research. The Executive Committee agreed that current opinions within and without the field of institutional research have not presented a clear concept of the nature and the role of institutional research. They agreed further that the objectives of the Association and the scope and nature of its services needed reevaluation and redefinition. Specifically the conference had as its objective the publication of a statement of proposals for (a) the establishment of precise conceptual boundaries of the definition of institutional research, (b) the description of the natural set of tasks assignable to institutional research consistent with its definition, (c) the exploration of new or reemphasized tasks which heretofore have not existed or been prominent in this field of higher education,(d)the improvement of the effectiveness of the institutional research efforts in the colleges and universities, and (e) change in the role of the Association for Institutional Research to improve its service function to the specific activity of institutional research and to higher education in general. The conference participants included higher education researchers and administrators from the United States and Canada with backgrounds in university administration, management science, academic administration, academic planning, educational research, and institutional research. The charge given the participants was a long and difficult one, and it is not surprising that in a short period of time not all problems could be dealt with adequately; nevertheless, there seemed to be a consensus that significant interpretations of institutional research had been explored and a rather fresh statement was possible. This document does not attempt to go beyond the discussions at Shakertown; however, in general, the author undertook the role of elaborator and synthesizer to make the deliberations into a coherent and hopefully useful document. Sidney Suslow President Association for Institutional Research 1970-71 SECTION 1 Institutional Research Is an Attitude The successful practice of institutional research depends upon the individual who has a broad knowledge of diverse disciplines, in intense understanding of his institution, and, above all, an attitude which commits him to the value of his institution's purpose in society. The institutional researcher's basic role encompasses the systematic appraisal of the higher education effort. The institutional researcher serves higher education and, in turn, his institution through critical appraisal and careful investigation of its processes and programs. No single or simple combination of disciplines provides sufficient knowledge to analyse the effectiveness of universities and colleges in a systematic and critical manner. The range of problems associated with assessing higher education's effectiveness preclude a limited methodology. The quality of the institutional researcher lies in his ability to discern which methodologies are appropriate to the problem with which he is concerned: adroit application of advanced tools of management science may be grossly inappropriate when applied to certain problems of student behavior, and subtle psychological analysis may lack merit when applied to certain problems of institutional governance. In addition to complexities of level and nature, institutional research may be concerned with evaluation of past activities, monitoring of current programs and policies, and modeling and assessment of future possibilities. No one individual or agency can encompass all of this. A total institutional research effort depends on a widespread assumption of an attitude of critical and systematic appraisal by practitioners in line or staff relationship to institutional administration, members of centers for the study of higher education, coordinating agencies, and state, regional, or national offices concerned with higher education. The dependency of a total research effort by numerous individuals and agencies performing diverse functions should not detract from the fundamental role of direct and effective application of the institutional research attitude at the institutional level where the concept of institutional research had its origins and where its main thrust must be made. An institutional research agency must not be given a task assignment orientation, for although it may have utility, it will have no direction, and the result will be a circular fulfillment of assignments which will generate as many problems as are solved. If there is no underlying attitude of constructive criticism, the institutional research agency can only function through the abilities of its staff to choose their methods carefully in order to provide one or more acceptable resolutions for each task. A task-oriented agency models its attitudes in conformity with dominant biases and vested interests of the institution, and although it may have high utility for an institution, it cannot be called institutional research. An institutional research agency may accept tasks for which there cannot be discerned any relationship with the goals of higher education, but such acceptances must not be a dominant feature of the agency's efforts if it is to retain the institutional research name. The Implication of this last statement is important, and it should be clearly delineated. The institutional research function must not be defined as an array of routine, periodic, or special tasks unrelated to any fundamental concern with the purpose and quality of higher education. Functions to exist as operational entities which sustain academic and administrative activities without regard to their purpose and quality. Sustenance of this kind is important to the continued existence of the institution, but the transitory and essentially aimless role of this type of operational agency does not encompass a sufficient boundary for institutional research. 2 No implication is intended that institutional research agencies formulate purposes and values superior to those already common to the institution. A necessary conceptual boundary for institutional research is that it incorporate those purposes and values; but this incorporation is not sufficient, and it must nor be slavish. There must be within the institutional research role a sufficient degree of independence which permute it to fully examine and criticize the institution, including its purposes and values. This aspect alone would not establish the institutional research role as unique, for higher education institutions have not lacked for critics. Its uniqueness rests in the combination of its role as a positive critic concerned with the enhancement and advancement of higher education and its role as a researcher, quantifier, and assessor of quantitative and qualitative information about the institution. As noted at the opening of this section, the individual practitioner of institutional research must bring a blend of skillful training and commitment to the institution. While higher education is filled with skillful and committed men and women, it is not their role, as it is the institutional researcher's, to devote daily effort in the examination of the functions and processes of the institutions by means of systematic factual appraisal. This definition of the institutional researcher does not limit the place, time, or person, but it does define a meaningful conceptual boundary. If the appraisal is not systematic and factual, if it is not concerned with commonly accepted higher education values, if it is not more or less continuous, then it is not institutional research. The future of institutional research is dependent in large part on the extent to which the institutions of higher education are continually concerned with their purposes and values as well as their efficiencies and productivities. 3 SECTION 2 Institutional Research Is an Active Role Institutional research must play an active role in the academic and administrative arenas centered around the analysis of the functions and processes of institutions of higher education in a systematic and critical way. Regardless of any controversy over which arena has greater concern with the vitality of the institution, the institutional research role cannot have vitality itself if it ignores either academic or administrative functions and processes. An active concern requires participation with major officers and councils in determinations of criteria for institutional effectiveness and in formulations of general programs for the production of information essential to a continuing analysis of effectiveness. An active institutional research role also requires the sustenance of an efficacious symmetry between activities prescribed by its service to the institution and opportunities for exploration in areas responsive to its own insights and interests. Creativity is an active process which requires a degree of autonomy that must be real and sufficient to insure the potential for creation. Without this fundamental ingredient, the composition of the institutional research role lacks potency. To insure its vitality, institutional research, from time to time, should consciously divorce itself from preoccupation with routine concerns and activities of the institution and seek to obtain broad perspectives of higher educational processes. 4 Such speculative and potentiallyinnovative actions are not superfluity; they are imperative to the maintenance of a balanced frame of reference between the dynamics of higher education and the restricted abstractions in which much of the institutional research activity is confined. There are now extant published guides which suggest specific service functions for an institutional research effort. While these published guides may be helpful to those educators who arc uncertain as to what is popular, in some ways they do a disservice to the proper understanding of the institutional research role. A particular service or array of services performed by institutional research should depend entirely on the specific needs of the institution; they may change over time, but they should be neither the reason for the existence of institutional research nor the foundation for its formation. While an active role in constructive evaluation dictates some participation in policy formulation, institutional research should not determine, establish, or control institutional functions; but, it should participate in the formulation of policies which lead to their development and use. To study and to evaluate are roles quite distinct from ones which determine and decide, but the dichotomy for institutional research can be a viable one if the latter two roles are carefully delineated. Institutional research can help identify and gain consensus on issues and problems faced by the institution if it assists the policy formulation process by specifying feasible actions with respect to the issues and problems and if it analyzes the probable utilities and disutilities of each action. There should be no dilemma for the individual practitioner of institutional research who is concerned with involvement in policy formulation; for, if evaluations hare been achieved through objective study and research, the practitioner should feel free to state a preference for one alternative over another either independently or when called upon to do so by another agency. Extensive or continuous participation in policy formulation will negate the primary role of the institutional researcher, although neither specific guidelines nor any dearly defined boundaries are available to 5 him to judge when his role has ceased to be institutional research and has become entirely different. The institutional research practitioner is not, per se, an administrator; and, if his work within his own institution is to be accepted without suspicion or hostility, he must not act in such a way as to pre-empt or appear to pre-empt the prerogatives of the administrators. On the other hand, it also must be stressed that the administrator is not,per se, a researcher. The researcher who has been scrupulous in developing a set of options for final evaluation and decision, allowing for points of view and evaluations other than his own, has been as objective as is humanly possible. His subsequent participation in the administrative process need not impair the rational quality of his initial contribution at the research stage. Whenever that participation becomes more or less continuous and goal-directed, the researcher role has been vacated and the administrator role is dominant. A common misconception is that extensive involvement in day-to-day administrative problems represents an active role for institutional research and brings it closer to policy formulation in higher education. In their daily jobs, academic and non-academic administrators take or fail to take numerous courses of action. These active or passive responses to the flow of information and activity which confront each administrator can be modified quantitative information and analyses supplied by institutional research. The misconception lies in the assumption that daily reactions of administration constitute a major influence on policy formulation. Since most daily acts or failures to act have consequences which are predictable and unnoteworthy, institutional research products which may influence the nature of these acts have little durable value. The conceptual error is the equation of an active role with industrious behavior. Institutional research cannot and should not attempt to avoid daily industry, but it must not allow this function to possess all of its resources. An active role in policy formulation can be best achieved for institutional research through careful research and presentation of major studies. These activities require resources, time, and freedom from continuous interruption. Pursuit of these activities of thorough research and production of paramount studies must be made assertively by institutional 6 research if it is to be distinguished from those institutional agencies whose roles require frequent convulsive responses and if it is to have an important, though restricted, impact on policy formulation. As noted previously, any listing of specific institutional research functions must be suspected of unintentional biases; however, it is important to make special note of some current functions charged to institutional research which are unproductive. Regardless of the organization of the institutional research program at any institution, there will be limited resources, both of staff and expendable funds. To conserve its energies, institutional research should not perform the functions of generator or maintainer of routine and extensive data files, but should be involved in the initial description of data and monitoring their quality, validity, and reliability. Institutional research should participate in the development and monitoring of the institution's management information, but it should not be called upon to maintain any information system on a day-to-day basis nor should it be asked to manage the computer facility or facilities associated with any system. These functions are necessary and they require trained staff, but they are processes, not products, of information. The limited resources of any institutional research effort can be rapidly dissipated if that effort becomes burdened with repetitive, routine data collection and large systems maintenance. If these functions are called institutional research, they are incorrectly named. 7 SECTION 3 Institutional Research and Its Effectiveness The preceding section touched on the role of institutional research in its participation with other campus agencies in determinations of criteria for institutional effectiveness. These criteria vary from institution to institution and in many instances have no commonality, but there should be some criteria of effective performance common to institutional research efforts. Institutional goals vary, but institutional research, in assisting the institution to reach those goals, must have effective means. A self-evident requirement is that institutional research will have no effect on the institution unless its products are acceptable to potential users. In practice this axiom loses some of its clarity, for some institutional research products seem destined for no particular market. Acceptable products need not be solicited products, for users cannot always anticipate which products are needed or which ones will have high utility; nonetheless, an obvious measure of effective performance is the extent to which users seek the products of institutional research. To be sought after, institutional research must demonstrate concern for she problems that are of significance to those responsible for the affairs of the institution, and it must be capable of timely response. Institutional research evaluations and analyses will bring more order and rationality to administrative and academic processes if they accurately assess commonly perceived problems. 8 If institutional research is incapableof perceiving those problems seen by others in the institution and focuses on myopic issues instead, its performance will be ineffective; and if it employs data which present distorted reflections of real phenomena, its performance becomes less than purposeful. To be accepted, the institutional research agency must perform objectively, and its objectivity is manifest through observable methodologies and verifiable facts. T function would be, but a distinction must be made between those agencies which routinely distribute their products and those which do not. Unlike academic departmental research, much institutional research is used oriented and a user may defer any wide distribution of the institutional research products. A criterion for effective institutional research is the degree to which it participates in producing undistributable reports, for the more it does the less effective it is and the less it should be called institutional research. Regardless of the methods used and the objectivity of the work, clandestine operations are antitheses to institutional research since it must serve the complete educational program. An effective institutional research program must include education of its users in the correct interpretation of its products as well as its own self-education as to the constitution of its users. Responsible users will help insure that communications are initiated and maintained between themselves and institutional research. In carrying out its role of evaluator of institutional programs, institutional research is effective when it identifies for academic and administrative users those programs that vary to an unacceptable degree from what was planned, spells out the probable causes of the variance, and arrays alternative actions to improve the implementation of the program, or suggests changes in the objectives. Institutional research should identify those institutional programs that may be operating as planned but which no longer have objectives of sufficient utility to warrant the resources they consume. A particularly felicitous effective action occurs when institutional research identifies emerging needs that arc not bang met by any existing program. 9 Lest the reader conclude that a formidable task has been assigned to an agency with obviously limited expertise, resources, and omniscience, the foregoing statement on effective institutional research efforts should not be interpreted as describing a comprehensive activity which subsumes the institution's academic and administrative programs. While there should be no conceptual limit to the number of campus agencies which can be involved in institutional research and, therefore, which can assist in evaluatory exercises, the practical requirements of institutional programs and operations preclude universal involvement. The effectiveness of institutional research is inversely proportional to the magnitude and diversity of the projects it undertakes. Perhaps this is a truism for any enterprise, but its application to institutional research has exceptional significance due to almost unlimited variety and number of institutional problems. Also, the service nature of institutional research insures that, unlike academic departmental research, demands will be made of it which cannot be ignored. There should be no conflict between the broad aims and laudable purposes of institutional research and its limited role and bounded enterprise. Institutional research should solve some of the institution's problems, but it cannot solve them all. And, it certainly should not be expected to solve numerous problems simultaneously. 10 SECTION 4 Institutional Research's Location This document would be incomplete without a discussion of the specific location and primary focus which distinguishes the institutional research function from other higher education functions. The ambiguities of the references to institutional research in the preceding sections of this document were deliberately intended, for while it is true that institutions of higher education increasingly have funded specialized agencies, institutional research should be encouraged wherever it can be fostered and whenever it can be productive. For this reason, specific mention of "bureaus of","offices of," or "institutes of" institutional research were avoided in the foregoing pages; however, regardless of the location, whether central or diffuse, institutional research must have those attributes of attitude, activity, and effectiveness already noted. Without equivocation, in those institutions large enough to support and utilize a formal, organized unit, an Office of Institutional Research should be attached in a staff relationship to the most appropriate, highest administrative officer who has an across-the-institution responsibility. This may be, in some cases, the President or Chancellor, in others the Executive Vice-President or Executive Vice-Chancellor. To locate the office officially and administratively in a secondary (or at least limited) functional area would reduce its availability to agencies of the institution other than that in which it is located, diminish its objectivity and therefore its credibility in some circles, and result in a restricted and specialized interest rather than a broad interest which is a necessary characteristic of institutional research. 11 For any given office, the degree of integration with the executive center can be described as a point on a continuum, from an involvement in day-to-day staff work to an autonomous status which is detached from the processes of policy formulation. Neither of these extremes are suitable for the Office of Institutional Research. To perform its role and satisfy its purposes, the office must operate in an intermediate position. On the one hand, if the office is too involved in administrative matters it may lose credibility and objectivity and have no time for research bearing on significant policy changes. On the other hand, too complete isolation or detachment may result in irrelevance or failure to support the goals of the institutions. An intermediate role emphasizes the relative objectivity required to sustain a creditable performance in institutional research. Although this document has stressed the dual responsibility which the field of institutional research has to academic and administrative functions, an Office of Institutional Research must have, as a practical matter, a final responsibility to one agency. As already noted, this agency must be the executive officers who are accountable for all sectors of the administrative and academic functions. Final responsibility to these chief executive officers of the institution should never mean that the Office of Institutional Research must be prostituted to their interests alone. These officers will be best served if the Office sustains the confidence of all sectors of the institution in its reliability, honesty, and plausibility. If the Office is to make measurable contributions to the institution through its evaluations, analyses, and research, it must have a conscious detachment from any one special interest in the institution, it must be concerned for the integrity of its research methods and results, and it must not eschew critical evaluations of policy issues. The delicate balance between responsibility to the institution's administration and responsibility to professional integrity can be sustained if integrity is recognized to be in the best interests of the institution. 12 SECTION 5 Institutional Research: Its Name; Its Role The matter of identity cannot be lightly dismissed for any individual or enterprise. The name "institutional research" has neither euphony nor clarity, but objections to the name based on these attributes are erroneously conceived. The name suffers not so much from lack of desirable characteristics as it does from lack of recognition. Although neither the name nor the actual activity of institutional research are new to higher education, there is no doubt that both have ascended from relatively obscure positions to relatively consequential positions in a very short period of time. This prominence does not include universal recognition, for the function of institutional research has not touched most individuals in higher education directly, although they may have been affected by its products. The lack of recognition produces an identity problem common to esoteric names; nevertheless, current observers are aware that recognition of the name institutional research has grown rapidly in recent years and with it an easy acceptance of its denotation. There are important factors that support retaining the term. The broad, inclusive nature of institutional research involving a wide variety of research problems on an equally varied number of institutional programs requires a name which can subsume all of it. Institutional research has been in use for a number of years, and despite its obscureness to some, it has had a 13 growing acceptance among all types of higher education institutions associations, government agencies, and non-profit educational services. Most important, perhaps, is that the name may offer a challenge to the individual practitioner as a constant reminder that he should be involved in research, and his primary responsibility is to the institution he serves. One of the main purposes of this document is to dispel current equivocation about the nature and role of institutional research. Lengthy discussions about the name institutional research are trivial and unproductive. Suffice it to say, the name institutional research has meaning, it has a growing acceptance, it has uniqueness, and it is here to stay. A discussion of the role of institutional research seems inevitably to lead to a consideration of the attitudes which characterize this higher education activity. This topic is developed in Section 1, but further discussion on some specific characteristics are needed to more completely define the boundaries of institutional research. Planning and evaluation are not synonymous terms. More critically, they arc often incompatible activities or attitudes. Institutional research is primarily evaluation, but if it is to achieve the fundamental goal of enhancing academic and administrative processes, it must work closely with institutional agencies which have institution-wide responsibility for planning and policy formulation. Contemporary planning in most colleges and universities entails coordination and integration of all aspects of planning--academic, physical, and financial--and one of the chief functions of institutional research is to contribute to this coordination and integration. These contributions may take various forms, such as rognostications, simulations, models, and explorations, and the individual researcher may be called upon to play an active role in the whole planning process; however, as with the problem of administration versus research discussed in preceding pages, institutional research diminishes to the extent that it becomes involved in the implementation of academic plans. The difficulty for some researchers is their inability to extricate themselves at the proper stage of the planning process. They do not appreciate the problems which arise from the inconsonant attitudes of objective evaluator and committed implementor. 14 Functional units which operate entirely under the institutional agency responsible for planning and which are called institutional research are incorrectly named. Institutional researchers and academic planners share many common attributes and are equally concerned with the mission of the institution. Unless the researcher stops short of implementation in the planning process, he relinquishes his influence as an objective evaluator and he assumes a partisan role. A specific role which institutional research can play in planning is in its concern for the effects which short-range actions have on long-range goals. Through its analysis and research it should strive to forewarn the planners whenever impending short-range actions may prejudice or militate against achievement of long-range goals already adopted by the institution. Concomitantly, nstitutional research should seek to insure that specific objectives and values sought through long-range planning are included, when appropriate, in the limited objectives and values sought in short-range planning. If institutional research is not planning, per se, it is also not management science, systems analysis, record management, computer programming, or a host of other essential but technical functions. Institutional research must incorporate some aspects of these functions in its research and evaluations; but concern with the institution's goals cannot be limited to applications of methodologies or expertise untempered by educational values. The novelty of defining the educational process in computer language has caused disruptions and distortions in the way education should be appraised. A consequence of this effect is that the educator unfamiliar with the application of computer technology, management science, and systems analysis in the educational process is not equipped to resist the implications of quantifiable information as they apply to qualitative objectives, regardless of their potential merits or defects. As more state agencies and other funding authorities staff their offices with management-oriented technologists, the educator is forced to justify his programs to individuals who do not clearly understand his language. With sufficient knowledge of the practices and 15 methodologies of the technologists, institutional research should serve as a mediator between them and the educator-administrator. By providing a communication link, institutional research can help prevent mismanagement which results from inaptly applied quantification and formalization of those educational processes which are essentially qualitative and, at times, informal. At the same time, this communication link can serve to assist the educator to appreciate and use those technical tools and products which may have benefit for the institution. Perhaps more critical to the current problems in higher education is that this mediator role for institutional research can be considered as a third force between the force of the educators whose basic interests, goal motivations, and philosophies differ from the force of the management scientists, system analysts, and similar technologists. The pressures generated by the latter two forces are likely either to cancel each other or produce adverse effects in higher education. The thirdforce concept and role for institutional research puts an informal communication pathway into action to channel the pressures into productive areas. To be an effective third force it is incumbent on institutional research to actively assess the contribution of special techniques which may have utility when used in evaluations of higher education's programs. Such techniques as decision models, goal programming, technological forecasting, and systems analysis are important, but developments in psychology, economics, and sociology, for example, could be of equal or even greater importance. No single researcher can embrace all of these technologies, nor is it likely that a formally organized Office of Institutional Research can be staffed to encompass them all. This implies that the individual researcher should develop active association with faculty in germane disciplines so that he can understand the basis of the methodologies, exercise judgment as to which techniques might have value, and identify experts in the field upon whom he can rely to implement the techniques. If institutional research is neither management science nor social science, if it is neither administrator nor data gatherer, what is it? 16 Institutional research is a special kind of educational research in colleges and universities focused on the institution, and its products are largely directed toward academic planning and administrative activities. While institutional research may be more goal directed than most educational research, there are no inherent obstacles which prevent it from generating new concepts. Arguments as to whether institutional research is applied or pure research have little practical significance, for it is neither one nor the other and inevitably it will involve a lot of both. A discussion of the role and nature of institutional research seems to lead to a consideration of the attitudes or, if you will, characteristics of this activity in higher education. Only a collection of characteristics can adequately define the mission of institutional research so as to distinguish it from other activities. For purposes of discussion, here is one such collection: pursuit of goals neither mundane nor perfunctory, detachment from day-to-day policy formulations and implementations; active assessment of the long-range effects of existing or proposed policies and their implementations; constant quest for new methodologies and their purposeful applications; enthusiasm for proposals made by others for new methods and new utilizations, but a vigilant skepticism for partisan, mediocre, or reputedly consummate solutions; willingness to assume a spectrum of responsibilities and requests to provide assistance to academic and administrative functions of the institution. 17 SECTION 6 An Active Role for the Association for Institutional Research Although the primary emphasis of the conference was on the activity called institutional research, there were careful deliberations regarding the Association for Institutional Research. This concern with the Association was not intended to be self serving simply because the Association helped support the conference. The concern was real, for among activities and organizations which support them, institutional research probably has a more unusual symbiosis between its activity and organization than most other functions in higher education. While there is no doubt that the activity of institutional research preceded the formal organization of institutional research, there is equally no doubt that the formation of the Association was the genesis of the very rapid propagation of agencies of institutional research. Perhaps not unexpectedly this rapid growth brought with it debate over the nature, the role, and the value of institutional research. Ten years have passed since the first forums of institutional research were held. The beginning of a new decade is an appropriate point to search for means of improving the activity of institutional research and concomitantly the Association which was formed in direct response to serve this higher education function. Every occupation or profession as it develops creates the means for communication among its members. The Association for Institutional Research has evolved to meet this need of institutional researchers. It has become 18 the professional association for individuals concerned with higher education institutional research, academic planning, institutional analysis, and related functions. The membership of the Association has always had a high heterogeneity of specific higher education occupational titles. This heterogeneity represents the broad mission of institutional research as well as the diverse locations where it has been practiced. More importantly, the variety of individuals strengthens the role chosen by the Association "to benefit, assist, and advance research leading to improved understanding, planning, and operation of institutions of higher education." Membership diversity and individuality are the best avenues to provide the most effective means of sustaining and enhancing the role of the Association. The continuous growth in membership may add measurably to the influence the Association will have in higher education; but while a populous association cannot be ignored, its size is no guarantee for effective change, a thesis which many groups can confirm. More than any other element, the cornerstone of the Association's influence rests on its individual membership; that is the foundation for the Association's current and potential programs for improving research and planning m higher education depends on its organization as an individual rather than an institutional membership. The programs and proposals which may emanate from the Association carry no implication of special interests being served. The members are partisans in their desire to improve their profession and their contributions to higher education, but they are not satellites to my institution or group of institutions. In order to understand the recommendations which follow for future developments of the Association for Institutional Research, it is useful to consider a single characteristic which describes individual members. Institutional researchers can be thought of as information specialists who are intensely concerned with information purposes and values and less concerned with information quantities or mechanisms. While this description has little practical significance, its usefulness here resides in the type of contributions which the collective membership can make to higher 19 education. The Association should help improve communication not only among its own researchers in the held but also among allied specialists who are involved in higher education academic and administrative evaluations and planning. It should encourage and stimulate meetings not only at the national level through its forums, but through local meetings, state conferences, and regional assemblies. It should stimulate the flow of information services, such as bibliographic lists, abstracts, and monographs, by initiating an inquiry center where members and non-members can find information about studies at various institutions. In their role as higher education information specialists, the members should use the Association to establish regional, national, and international advisory groups to assist governmental agencies in development of procedures and definitions for the collection and reporting of information from higher education institutions. Actions of this kind have already taken place a: the national level in the United States. The Association should support similar actions in Canada and in various regional areas wherever it is appropriate to do so. The collective advice of such groups must be recognized as impartial insofar as service to special institutional interests is concerned. The diversity of opinion and the multifarious needs of each institution precludes he probability that an advisory group made up of several Association members would present self-serving recommendations. Of course, their recommendations would assist all of them as well as all other institutions by reducing requests which have conceptual errors and poorly conceived procedures, but presumably the reduction of requests with these characteristics is also in the interest of governmental agencies. In addition to groups of advisors, the Association should develop mechanisms to identify and provide procedures for use of qualified practitioners of institutional research in assisting regional associations with their self-study requirements, data gathering operations, and their examination of institutional research and academic planning at individual institutions. A service of this type also needs to be developed for individual institutions whose resources 20 prohibit stalling for diverse contingencies. Although emerging colleges and universities may have the greatest need for consultants, most institutions from time to time have need of specialists who are neither staff members nor readily identified through current contact sources. The Association's role in providing a service of this kind is manifest by its heterogeneous and egalitarian membership and by its impartiality. A very specific role which the Association can play in improving the flow of information is to establish some mechanism, such as a standing committee, to review upon request any questionnaire from any source which is planned to be sent to colleges and universities. This body should make recommendations regarding these questionnaires, and permit their authors to state that the questionnaire has been found acceptable by the Association. Additionally, individual members could be encouraged to consider sympathetically those surveys fount acceptable by the Association. The facilitation of the flow of information is a very direct method by which the Association should help improve planning and research in higher education. Indirectly, it can achieve equally beneficial results through programs designed to improve the quality of the discipline and the professional practitioner. The Association should provide in-service education for members of the field, not only through its existing Forums but also through other training programs and educational materials, such as special regional seminars on particular issues and problems, and work-book manuals or lessons on special analytic techniques. These training programs are the primary means of continuing to upgrade the work of the field and should be the prime responsibility of the Association. No other means, such as doctoral programs in institutional research, will ever meet this need for in-service education. These two functions of education and communication are the bare minimum for an adequate association for the field of institutional research. By themselves they will require increased funding for the Association. The Association should seek funding for adequate staff to undertake these services, not only from the individual members of the Association, but from philanthropy. 21 Lastly, the Association should assume the responsibility of devising a statement of professional standards for practitioners of the field of institutional research.