The Reporting Role

The Role of the Research and Reporting Office in External Reporting and Responding to Internal Requests

This document attempts to outline the areas and extent of the Research and Reporting Office’s involvement in responding to internal and external requests for information about North Central Texas College. The "General Principles" presented here are followed by very important "Exceptions," and examples are provided to help clarify. It is our hope that these guidelines will 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 Research and Reporting Office, it should be remembered that this office is first and foremost a research office. The office seldom "owns" the data that it uses. While all data on campus is theoretically open to this office, the Research and Reporting staff must take special care to use it correctly and wisely. There will necessarily be frequent consultations with the data owners. Therefore, the Research and Reporting staff must depend on the expertise, guidance, cooperation, and good will of the owners of the data in each area.

External Requests

Except for requests from the news media, which should go through the Marketing & Public Relations Office, all external requests for official or public data should go through Research and Reporting. Whether the Research and Reporting office completes the request or coordinates the request with another office will be based on their expertise in the topic area, access to relevant NCTC data, and expertise in working with the particular NCTC data.

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 information 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 Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board or "THECB"; the national Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or "IPEDS"); are collected routinely by recognized higher education agencies or consortia; or will appear in publications that are widely available (e.g. admissions guidebooks).

Exceptions: With the exception of THECB and 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 Research and Reporting whenever figures outside of that area (e.g. enrollments) are required for a form. Examples of reporting that should be conducted not by Research and Reporting, but by the appropriate office 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 Research and Reporting. When information may be used in various other ways, the Research and Reporting office should be involved.

Who gathers the data?
Whether a particular external request should be handled by Research and Reporting versus sent to another office for completion will be based on the Research and Reporting office's knowledge of the area, access to the data, and knowledge of the data. For example, currently most state and federal reporting are coordinated through Research and Reporting. This does not mean that the Research and Reporting office completes every form himself/herself. A number of forms are sent to other officials on campus for their response and returned to Research and Reporting for forwarding to the requesting agency. On these forms, it is generally the official who completes the form who signs off on it. Examples of this are the IPEDS-Finance Form and the IPEDS Library Form. The Research and Reporting officer does complete forms for other kinds of data, including student enrollments, degrees, degree programs offered, graduation rates, and student residency.

Area Knowledge: This guideline will depend on the staff in Research and Reporting and the role of institutional research at the College. 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/she should seek training in areas deemed by the institution to be important to the Institutional Research role. In areas where the Research and Reporting officer has some knowledge or expertise, it may be reasonable for him or her to fulfill a request. In areas where the Research and Reporting officer does not have expertise, it should be sent to the appropriate expert on campus.

Access to Data: In the situations where the Research and Reporting officer has little or no access to the particular type of data, he/she should not attempt to complete a request, but rather forward it to the appropriate office. One example of this is data about the Library. Currently, these data are not centrally maintained and are not accessible to the Research and Reporting office. Requests for such information will be sent to the Librarian or his/her designee. Access involves not only being able to retrieve data, but also access to the data coding and field definitions. Though the Research and Reporting office theoretically has access to all data in the Jenzabar system, it does not necessarily have a complete "dictionary" of what all the data fields mean, how they are populated, and how they relate to each other. Where this kind of mapping has not been made available, data, though technically accessible, cannot be used.

Knowledge of the Data: It makes sense for the Research and Reporting office to be the one reporting data that is commonly used by the Research and Reporting office, because in order to use these data effectively the Research and Reporting officer 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 Research and Reporting officer is therefore in a position to accurately provide meaningful information about these areas to outsiders.

Non-Routine External Requests for Study Participation

Increasingly we are asked to participate in research on higher education by everyone from dissertation students to higher education agencies. These requests may range from completing a simple one page form to providing very complex historical data to providing data files at the individual level. NCTC must balance the value of the research effort to the public, to the higher education community, and to itself against the burden it presents on College resources (especially staff time) in responding. (This discussion is not meant to include the more informal peer-to-peer type of requests, e.g. queries posted on electronic discussion lists).

Because of the expertise of the Research and Reporting office in conducting higher education research, any request for such a study should go to the Research and Reporting office for a response strategy. In cases where the institutional burden is minimal, the Research and Reporting office may make the decision of whether or not to participate. In cases where the institutional burden is higher, he/she will notify the Chancellor's Executive Team, telling them:

  1. Who is requesting the study
  2. Nature of the data requested
  3. The purpose and intended use of the information
  4. What offices will need to be involved and to what extent
  5. What peer institutions are known to be participating
  6. Deadline(s) for responding
  7. Benefits (if any) of participation
  8. His/Her recommendation regarding NCTC's participation

Chancellor’s Executive Team should then inform the Research and Reporting office of its judgment, or whether it needs to be discussed further. (A subset of this group most closely involved with the subject matter may be consulted in lieu of the full group.) If the Research and Reporting office decides that NCTC should participate in the study, the Research and Reporting office will notify all affected offices immediately, providing them with all the relevant materials. If the Research and Reporting officer will be directly involved in providing data, he/she may serve as the study liaison, coordinating the responses of other involved offices. If the Research and Reporting officer is not involved in providing data, a judgment will be made whether the response should go through him/her or whether it would be more appropriate for another officer on campus to serve as the liaison, using the same guidelines as described above under "exceptions."

Internal Requests

These issues lead to the question of who should respond when an internal requestor needs information. For example, when the Research and Reporting office and the ITS Department have equal access, expertise, and facility to respond to a particular data request, who should do it?

General Principle: Research and Reporting should conduct research and analysis in support of planning and decision-making critical to the College. Providing raw data for others to use, and providing simple summaries can be research or a reporting function. For example, a request for simple trends over time in enrollments in science courses can be done by the Registrar's office. Examining those trends to see if differences by gender are statistically significant, and comparing it with national data would normally be done by the Research and Reporting office. The Research office does not have the authority to release to anyone data on individuals (students, faculty, staff, etc.). Requests for data about individuals should go to the responsible office which may include the Reporting part of the Research Office.

Exceptions

Official data: Research and Reporting should usually assemble data that should be based on "official" figures. (Example: Degrees awarded in the sciences for use in a grant proposal.)

Information across areas: Research and Reporting should conduct most analyses that involve combining data across areas. (Example: Relating retention and graduation rates to SAT scores and financial aid received.)

Public Data: Research and Reporting should usually assemble data that will appear publicly and therefore ought to be consistent with "official" figures. (Example: Fact Sheet, total enrollments that appear in Admissions publications.)

Conclusions

These guidelines are meant to clarify the role of the Research and Reporting office in reporting College information. These guidelines may continue to evolve 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.

Examples of Information Requests and Recommended Action

Example One

Request: An editor at the Denton Record Chronicle calls to ask for our current enrollments.

Recommended Action: The call should be directed to the Marketing and Public Relations Office. They should refer to Fact Book or contact Research and Reporting for "official" enrollment figures.

Reason: This is an external request for data from the news media, so the Marketing and Public Relations Office should handle it. Since the figure will be made public, it should be based on our official data, which Research and Reporting is responsible for providing.

Example Two

Request: A department chair would like to know about the enrollments in a particular introductory course in her department over the past decade, in order to plan for the next few years.

Recommended Action: The Registrar Staff or the Research Staff can provide this.

Reason: This is an internal request for simple summary data (no analysis or tying to other institutional data). There is no obvious need for it to be based on public/official data, and it will likely not be used for other purposes.

Example Three

Request: The US Department of Education requests the reporting of crime statistics.

Recommended Action: The survey should go to the Office of Emergency Management, who should confer with the Research and Reporting office for any enrollment, staff counts, etc. that may be requested. A copy of the completed survey should be sent to Research and Reporting.

Reason: This is an office-to-agency report that requests data for which the Research and Reporting office has no access or expertise. A copy should go to Research and Reporting since these data are publicly available and it's easy to conceive of it being used in ways other than intended by the collecting agency. (For example, a college ranking publication may decide to add crime rate to the factors considered.)

Example Four

Request: Someone from another college calls to see if our applications for admission are up or down as of a certain point in time.

Recommended Action: The Admissions Office should handle this.

Reason: This is an informal request for unofficial data from a peer. Since data at a point midway through the admissions cycle are not yet official, the Admissions Office is also in the best position to decide whether the information is too sensitive to release.