Research confidentiality and integrity

Updated: July 2016

Education Futures LLC conducts research to increase general knowledge, improve public policy, train the next generation of thought leaders, and improve data collection methods. We collect data for academic, non-profit, and government clients. Human subject research in our work often involves surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups.

We adhere to commonly accepted standards regarding the rights of human subjects, in particular:

  • Voluntary, informed consent: Each participant has a voluntary decision whether or not to participate in our research
  • Respect for persons: Individuals are treated as autonomous agents
  • The right to end participation in research at any time
  • Right to safeguard integrity
  • Benefits of research should outweigh the cost
  • Protection from physical, mental, and emotional harm
  • Access to information regarding research
  • Protection of privacy and well-being

Respondent confidentiality

Data that we collect is always subject to the rules of confidentiality set out by Education Futures LLC and its partner institutions that protect the rights of persons who participate in research. No results may be shared that link individual respondent identities to the content of the data they supplied unless respondents agree to this. Normally Education Futures LLC will maintain all identifying and contact information required for data collection separately from the data themselves, and will destroy contact information at the end of the data collection period. Exceptions include contact information retained over time for longitudinal studies, information retained at the request of the respondent for participation in future studies, and contact information related to receipts and accounting that has no link to individual studies. We typically supply clients with data separated from individual contact information.

Anonymous surveys and confidential surveys

We want to assure you that participant responses in surveys designated as anonymous are completely anonymous. Responses to anonymous surveys cannot be traced back to the respondent. No personally identifiable information is captured unless the participant voluntarily offer personal or contact information in any of the comment fields.

Confidential surveys may collect personally-identifiable information for further analysis. In both anonymous and confidential survey research, individual responses are combined with those of many others and summarized in our reporting to further protect the anonymity of each respondent.

Training and oversight

Staff members are trained in the protection of human subjects in research and the importance of preserving the confidentiality of all respondents in all data collection. This is a commitment we take very seriously. Education Futures LLC primary investigators are required to obtain Ph.D.-level, institutional research board training and/or certification prior to engaging in any study on behalf of Education Futures LLC. Research assistants are supervised closely by permanent staff and reminded regularly of confidentiality precautions. All persons not employed directly by Education Futures LLC are only allowed in our space when accompanied by a staff person.

Protecting identities

When we conduct focus groups, interviews, observational work or qualitative work including transcriptions or field notes, notes and transcripts are dis-identified. This means that names are not associated with responses and that references to named people, places or things that might identify a participant are removed or made “generic.”

In the course of certain idea- and action-generative research activities (i.e., “World Café” sessions), we may take photographs of participants after obtaining their permission. In the selection of photographs for reporting, all efforts are made to disassociate individuals from specific ideas illustrated. Furthermore, under no circumstance will we identify an individual by name in a photograph from such an activity.

Data on paper

Data collected on paper are stored securely when not in current use. When projects are completed, personally-identifiable information required for data collection are destroyed securely for confidentiality purposes.

Electronic data

Whenever possible, Education Futures LLC uses its in-house suite of tools for data collection and storage. Electronic data are kept in one or multiple the following secure systems:

  1. A shared, network drive on one of the servers maintained and serviced by Education Futures LLC. Access to files are limited to employees only.
  2. A server hosted in a secured data center. Data stored on Education Futures LLC Web server are protected through sets of firewall rules that govern access to the server’s network adapters—each minimalized to its specific function. The only types of network traffic that the server accepts are https (SSL-encypted web traffic) and SSH (secure shell access). All unsecured http traffic to educationfutures.com is automatically re-routed to the secured https channel. Research data transferred online use a TLS connection with the highest, commonly supported bit encryption possible and RSA as the key exchange mechanism.