Survey Data Confidentiality and Sharing Statement

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Survey Data Confidentiality and Sharing Statement

Unless otherwise specified, Official Lehigh Surveys are confidential. As stewards of these data, it is the Office of Institutional Data’s responsibility to maintain confidentiality of survey responses and protect respondents’ identities by carefully guarding any information that could be used to identify individual respondents.

To this end, survey responses are analyzed in aggregate form. Reports of survey data are aggregate-level summaries that do not contain any personally-identifiable information. Deidentification of survey data includes the removal of all identifying information and ensuring no Institutional indicators or grouping variables are included that would result in fewer than five respondents being in any one group since this would increase the possibility of identifying individual respondents.

In select cases where identifiable or individual-level responses are required for analysis outside of the Office of Institutional Data, the Office of Institutional Data will only share survey data in this sensitive form with people who are qualified to analyze the data and pledged to protect the confidentiality of respondents. This determination is made at the Office of Institutional Data’s discretion based on the sensitivity of the data and the expected benefit of the additional analyses.

Open-ended text-entry responses are handled with extra care since they are at the individual-level and considered especially sensitive because they are more likely to contain information that could identify a respondent. While examples of and excerpts from open-ended responses that are confirmed to not contain potentially-identifiable information may be shared more broadly, datasets with raw open-ended data are only shared with those who are qualified to conduct qualitative analyses and provide a satisfactory analysis plan for these data that includes additional measures to protect the confidentiality of responses.

Survey data that is intended to contribute to generalizable knowledge and includes identifiable information is considered human subjects research (see What Types of Activities Require IRB Review for more info). As such, approval of the Lehigh University IRB is required for access to identifiable survey data for research purposes. A letter from the Office of Institutional Data specifying details of the data to be shared must be obtained and included with the IRB protocol in order to secure permission to access University survey data for research purposes.