AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative Growing Quickly

By Timothy P. Johnson, Chair, Transparency Initiative Coordinating Committee

Formally launched in early October 2014, AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative admitted its 40th Charter Member on April 16, 2015. AAPOR created the Transparency Initiative to encourage wider and more effective disclosure of research methods. Its goal is to promote methodological disclosure through a proactive, educational approach that assists survey organizations in developing simple and efficient means for routinely disclosing the research methods associated with their publicly-released studies.

The Transparency Initiative formally recognizes organizations that pledge to consistently practice transparency in their reporting of survey-based research findings. In doing so, we make no judgment about the quality or rigor of the methods being disclosed. But we firmly believe that full and effective disclosure improves the ability of consumers to make those judgments.

Disclosure standards for the Transparency Initiative are the same standards found in AAPOR’s Code of Professional Ethics and Practices, which all individual members of AAPOR pledge to follow. The Transparency Initiative applies these standards to organizations, assists them in complying with these standards, and seeks to educate survey sponsors and the public on the importance of transparency.

We’ve designed the process for joining the Transparency Initiative to be as easy and educational as possible. Organizations are asked to designate a liaison and pledge to abide by AAPOR’s disclosure standards, to train their employees to do so, and to document that they understand how to properly disclose the methodology of the public opinion and other surveys they conduct. Organizations that join the Transparency Initiative before October 2015 will be designated as Charter Members.

Participating organizations benefit by receiving formal, public recognition of their voluntary commitment to the practice of transparency. The profession benefits by elevating the transparency, and hence the integrity, of our work. The public benefits by having greater access to detailed information with which to evaluate the quality of survey data being reported.

In a strong show of support for the Transparency Initiative, the editors of AAPOR’s three journals—Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology, and Survey Practice—announced earlier this year that they now require the reporting of all Transparency Initiative disclosure elements as part of each manuscript submitted for peer review. In addition, several related professional associations, including the World Association for Public Opinion Research, have endorsed the Transparency Initiative.

For more details and background about the Transparency Initiative, including access to online educational resources, visit AAPOR’s website at: www.aapor.org.