University Survey Policy
Approved by the Georgetown University Faculty Senate in March 2021.
Georgetown University has adopted a new University Survey Policy in order to balance the demand for surveys with the burden that they impose on students, faculty, and staff. To achieve this balance, the Office of Assessment and Decision Support (OADS) manages a review process that coordinates and limits the number of surveys that members of the Georgetown community are invited to take.
Surveys sent to at least 100 Georgetown students, faculty, and/or staff must undergo an application and review process.
The process aims to:
- Reduce survey fatigue and unnecessary survey proliferation.
- Coordinate the timing of the surveys to maximize their effectiveness.
- Promote good survey design, sampling, and administration that conforms to methodological best practices.
- Ensure that survey research at Georgetown is done ethically and respects our community members’ time and attention.
- Prioritize surveys that benefit the broader interests and goals of the University as a whole.
- Verify that the survey complies with FERPA guidelines and meets IRB requirements.
The review is conducted by a joint faculty, staff, and student committee, the Survey Coordinating Group (SCG), and typically takes one week from the time a complete application is received. SCG members review the timing, sampling, ethics and data security, and design of the proposed survey project and then make a final determination. OADS facilitates this review process and communicates the decision of the SCG to the survey project PI(s).
The SCG also makes determinations on all non-Georgetown University researchers conducting surveys of the Georgetown community. Surveys conducted by outside researchers must be administered in collaboration with OADS or with a Georgetown faculty member serving as a PI.
Visit the Survey Application for details about the process and to submit your survey for review by the SCG. For more information or to inquire about whether your survey project might be exempt from review, contact OADS at email@example.com. If you are considering a survey at Georgetown, we urge you to discuss the project with OADS early in the project’s development. OADS can provide guidance on survey and sampling design, which will aid in a swift review by the SCG.
Why does Georgetown have a University Survey Policy?
The goal of the policy is to ensure high quality and useful surveys, as well as to protect community members from “survey fatigue.” With the proliferation of surveys comes declining response rates, which, in turn, lead to potentially questionable survey results. Despite this proliferation, however, surveys continue to play an important role at Georgetown in gathering critical information from our students, faculty, and staff. To understand the opinions, beliefs, attitudes and perspectives of our community members, surveys often offer the only practical approach.
To whom do the University Survey Policy apply?
The policy applies to students, faculty, staff members, groups/committees, and off-campus researchers hoping to collect survey data from the Georgetown community. Georgetown students wishing to survey Georgetown students, faculty, and/or staff must submit a request in collaboration with a sponsoring faculty member or advisor.
What is the composition of the Survey Coordinating Group (SCG), and how are members appointed?
The Survey Coordinating Group is composed of four faculty members, three administrative staff, and two students. Faculty appointees include one representative from each of the Georgetown campuses—Main Campus, Medical Center, and Law Center—and one faculty represented appointed by the Faculty Senate. Faculty members representing each campus will be selected by the Associate Vice President for Institutional Data Analytics in consultation with the Vice Provost for Faculty (Main Campus), the Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs (GUMC), and the Associate Dean for Research and Academic Programs (Law). Staff representatives with survey research expertise will be selected by the Associate Vice President for Institutional Data Analytics in consultation with the Office of the Provost. Two student representatives will be selected from recommendations made to OADS by program directors and department chairs. Each term is one year, following the academic calendar; appointees may serve multiple terms.
What if I need an expedited review?
The Survey Coordinating Group (SCG) recognizes that certain circumstances or events may create a need for campus leaders to conduct surveys on a compressed timeframe for the purposes of campus-wide strategic-response or planning. Under these circumstances, a survey of Georgetown students, faculty, or staff may proceed through an expedited SCG review process. For more information about an expedited review, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens when my survey is approved?
Once the Survey Coordinating Group has reviewed the application, OADS will notify the applicant of its decision. For approved survey proposals, OADS will provide a mailing list required for the survey if applicable. The mailing list should be used exclusively for sending invitations to individuals to complete the survey; using email addresses to communicate results would require additional approval. Unless there are compelling reasons to employ a census, the list should be produced using a randomly drawn sample. The PI(s) will work with OADS to determine the target audience and the minimal sample size needed to yield statistically significant results. Note that no other office may provide email addresses without the consent of OADS. The mailing list should not be redistributed or used for any other purposes without authorization of OADS.
PI(s) are encouraged to share results of the survey with OADS and the Survey Coordinating Group when possible. OADS can provide guidance on articulating methodology and sampling procedures. No official “sign off” or approval is required by OADS or the Survey Coordinating Group before results are shared.
Are any surveys exempt from the University Survey Policy?
Surveys conducted by Georgetown faculty, staff, or students are exempt from SCG review if they fall into any of the following categories:
- Surveys of less than 100 Georgetown students, faculty, and/or staff members
- Surveys involving the collection of data from persons who are not Georgetown students, faculty, or staff
- Surveys of alumni or membership of alumni groups (although we encourage you to consult with OADS on alumni surveys)
- Surveys conducted by College/School leadership exclusively for administrative and internal decision-making purposes regarding their respective College/School populations
- Student evaluations of courses or end-of-course surveys or feedback forms
- Surveys conducted within one classroom or course
- Surveys conducted within the membership of a student organization, committee, working group, or academic department
- Surveys conducted for academic department reviews that include individuals related to the department being reviewed
- Feedback or evaluation forms for events, workshops, seminars, or other programs if conducted among attendees/participants at the conclusion of—or soon after—the event, workshop, seminar, or program
- Surveys conducted by Georgetown faculty or staff in a unit exclusively for assessment or evaluation purposes to identify areas for improvement for a specific program or service offered by that unit or to elicit related programmatic needs
- Other types of data collection efforts, including web-based questionnaires/polls function as registration/RSVPs for events or activities, web-based elections, focus groups/interviews, and administrative data collection (e.g., requesting contact information)
Applicants are encouraged to contact OADS if there are questions about whether or not a project is exempt.
Is IRB approval required for my survey?
This process is distinct from the Georgetown Institutional Review Board (IRB), whose primary role is to safeguard the rights and welfare of all human subjects who participate in research studies conducted by Georgetown faculty, staff, and students. Academic research studies employing surveys of Georgetown students, faculty, and staff must be reviewed and approved/exempted by the appropriate IRB. Official IRB approval or exemption is required before any email lists are released for administration of surveys being conducted for academic research purposes.