Research

PAEA Policy Changes Make Data More Accessible and Useful

By Donovan Lessard, MAMay 23, 2018

Image: Shutterstock

Two changes to our data sharing policies should make it easier for researchers to access certain types of data.

Over the past several months, PAEA’s Research Team has been working on changes to our data and reporting policies and practices in an effort to increase your access to useful data for benchmarking, evaluation, and original research. We are excited to share these changes with you.

Summary of Data Sharing Policy Changes

Following a review of comparable associations’ data sharing-policies, PAEA’s Board of Directors approved changes to the PAEA Data Sharing Policies and the Membership Policies and Procedures. This means that benchmarking data on student and faculty demographics will now be available to member programs. This includes providing program-level race and ethnicity data to PA education researchers for analysis. These changes, recommended by the Research MAC, demonstrate the Board’s commitment to identity diversity, as described in the 2017 PAEA Strategic Plan.

The first change classifies student and faculty race and ethnicity data as unrestricted data for publication, in an identifiable manner by programs and comparable to how the AAMC reports this data. The approved change is highlighted in italics below. (Note: The prior policy ended with the previous sentence.)

6.10.01. Ownership and Classification of Data

POLICY: PAEA retains ownership of all data collected via its surveys. These data are classified into three categories: Unrestricted data are easily or generally available through websites, reports, publications, or other means of public access. Student and faculty race and ethnicity data aggregated at the program level will be considered unrestricted data and may be published in reports only available to PAEA member programs in order to track racial and ethnic diversity in PA education.

The second change clarifies the type of information considered sensitive, which cannot be reported or shared unless the aggregate data exceed four values. Prior to the change, the policy was ambiguous and stated that “some student demographics” would be considered sensitive information, and therefore any categories with fewer than five responses could not be reported or released to researchers. The policy was often interpreted to mean that race and ethnicity data were considered to be sensitive. The modified sentence is highlighted in italics below.

6.10.02. Release of Data
POLICY: PAEA will not release restricted or confidential data (as defined in 6.10.01) that identifies any individual, PA program, or institution. Sensitive information, such as faculty salaries and member program finances, will only be reported if the aggregate data (i.e., the “n”) exceed four values. Unrestricted data may be publicly reported by PAEA and may be released on request by the appropriate PAEA staff member. Release of restricted and confidential data must be approved by the Research Mission Advancement Commission (RMAC) or designated PAEA staff. Appeal of a rejection of data release can be made to the RMAC first, and final decision rests with the Board of Directors of PAEA.

Importantly, this gives us the ability to release race and ethnicity data for subsets of programs with fewer than five values to institutional review board-approved researchers and in our reports.

New Student Demographics Report

These policy changes are being made to unchain PAEA’s data and allow it be used to its fullest potential. Accordingly, in winter 20182019, the PAEA Research Team will publish Student Demographics Report 1: PA Graduate Demographics by Program, 2017–2018. This report will contain tables — similar to the AAMC’s tables on race, ethnicity, and sex — summarizing graduate race, gender, ethnicity, and military status frequencies and percentages for each PAEA member program. For example, templates for the gender and ethnicity reports by program, organized by state, can be found here.

The report will only be available to PAEA member programs (individuals and entities not affiliated with PAEA will not be able to download this report). The data will be drawn from programs’ 2018 Program Survey responses. Context is important for this type of data, so each program will be profiled with local comparative race and ethnicity data so that readers will be able to compare the program’s race and ethnicity percentages with the program’s local area.

New Data Portal

When entering data into the 2018 Annual Program Survey, the interface will look a little different (and hopefully more user-friendly) this year. The 2018 Program Survey will be the first to be hosted in a new data portal that PAEA is building. The new survey will not require you to toggle through multiple pages and will allow you to save at any time without fear of data being lost. We believe this new survey delivery system will save you time and headaches in the survey completion process.

We are making this system responsive to your requests. For example, if you completed the 2017 Annual Program Survey last summer, several of the basic program data fields will be pre-filled with your responses from last year, only asking you to verify that the information has not changed. You will only need to enter information that is likely to change from year to year. Of course, if you’re a new PAEA member and have not completed the survey before, you will need to answer all questions.

In addition to increasing the ease of data entry, the new data portal also will function as a dashboard, hosting several comparative data-reporting features allowing you to compare your program’s data to national data as well as groups of programs of your choice. While this will not be available immediately, we will provide more details about the new reporting features as they are developed and go live.

Deadline and Questions

The 2018 Annual Program Survey opens Wednesday, July 18, and closes on Wednesday, September 19. Program directors will receive a link to the survey and will be free to distribute that to any of their faculty who are entered into the PAEA membership database. To prevent overwriting of data, only one person will be able to access each program’s survey at a time. More details will be available closer to launch. Please send questions to research@PAEAonline.org.

Donovan Lessard
Donovan Lessard, MA

Donovan Lessard is PAEA's director of research, overseeing the administration of national surveys for PA programs, students, and faculty, the compilation of research reports, and the administration of research grants and research capacity building programs for PA faculty.