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NCJ Number: 51454 Find in a Library
Title: RESOLVING PRIVACY, ACCESS AND OTHER PROBLEMS IN THE AUDIT AND REANALYSIS OF SOCIAL RESEARCH FOR POLICY
Journal: EVALUATION  Dated:SPECIAL ISSUE (1978)  Pages:31-35
Author(s): S S BARATZ; K E MARVIN
Corporate Author: Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation, Inc
United States of America
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 5
Sponsoring Agency: Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation, Inc
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: ISSUES OF CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY THAT AROSE AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL AS SOCIAL RESEARCH MOVED INTO THE PUBLIC POLICY PROCESS ARE EXAMINED.
Abstract: THE ADVENT OF THE PLANNING, PROGRAMMING, AND BUDGETING SYSTEM BROUGHT AN EXPANSION OF THE ROLE OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE (GAO) IN THE AREA OF PROGRAM REVIEW AND EVALUATION IN SUPPORT OF THE CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT FUNCTION. WITHIN GAO, THERE WAS AN INCREASED EMPHASIS ON AUDITING AND EVALUATING THE RESULTS OF ONGOING PROGRAMS, INCLUDING SOCIAL EXPERIMENTS. GAO'S ATTEMPTS TO DETERMINE THE ADEQUACY OF EXISTING PROGRAM DATA AND TO REANALYZE THE DATA FOR AUDITING PURPOSES BECAME ENTANGLED WITH CONCERNS ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY AND ABOUT THE PROTECTION OF SOCIAL RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS AGAINST UNWARRANTED USE OF DATA ON THEM. THESE ISSUES, TOGETHER WITH A NUMBER OF RELATED ACCESS AND PRIVACY CONCERNS, WERE PART OF A GENERAL LACK OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THE GAO AND THE SOCIAL RESEARCH COMMUNITY. IN MAY 1976, GAO STAFF MET WITH SOCIAL RESEARCHERS TO EXPLORE HOW GAO COULD MEET ITS RESPONSIBILITIES TO CONGRESS RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS THAT DATA ON THEM WILL NEITHER BE REPORTED IN IDENTIFIED FORM NOR USED TO MAKE INDIVIDUAL DETERMINATIONS ABOUT THEM AS A RESULT OF A PROGRAM AUDIT. GAO HAS ESTABLISHED POLICIES ON AUDIT PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES THAT RECOGNIZE THE SOCIAL RESEARCH COMMUNITY'S BELIEF THAT CONFIDENTIALITY PLEDGES ARE NECESSARY IF RELIABLE, CANDID RESPONSES ARE TO BE OBTAINED FROM PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS. GAO AUDITORS AND SOCIAL RESEARCHERS HAVE ACHIEVED WHAT APPEARS TO AND AT THE SAME TIME MINIMIZE PROBLEMS CREATED BY ITS AUDITS OF SOCIAL EXPERIMENTS. THE CENTRAL QUESTION CONCERNED ACCESS TO CONFIDENTIAL DATA FOR AUDITING PURPOSES. THERE WAS DISAGREEMENT ON THE NEED FOR AUDITORS TO OBTAIN INDIVIDUALLY IDENTIFIED DATA -- SPECIFICALLY, THE NEED FOR AUDITORS TO REINTERVIEW RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS. TO ADDRESS THIS IMPASSE, THE SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH COUNCIL WAS INVITED TO STUDY ALTERNATIVES TO REINTERVIEW FOR GAO. THE RESULT WAS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A FUNCTIONAL SEPARATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE DATA FROM RESEARCH AND STATISTICAL DATA, WHICH SMOOTHED THE WAY FOR CONFIDENTIALITY PLEDGES THAT ASSURE RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS THAT DATA ON THEM WILL NEITHER BE REPORTED IN IDENTIFIED FORM NOR USED TO MAKE INDIVIDUAL DETERMINATIONS ABOUT THEM AS A RESULT OF A PROGRAM AUDIT. GAO HAS ESTABLISHED POLICIES ON AUDIT PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES THAT RECOGNIZE THE SOCIAL RESEARCH COMMUNITY'S BELIEF THAT CONFIDENTIALITY PLEDGES ARE NECESSARY IF RELIABLE, CANDID RESPONSES ARE TO BE OBTAINED FROM PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS. GAO AUDITORS AND SOCIAL RESEARCHERS HAVE ACHIEVED WHAT APPEARS TO BE A BALANCE BETWEEN PROTECTION OF PRIVACY AND PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY. HOWEVER, THE QUESTION OF THE POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF THE PRESENCE OF AN AUDIT TEAM DURING THE CONDUCT OF A RESEARCH PROJECT OR SOCIAL EXPERIMENT REMAINS UNRESOLVED. IT IS NOTED IN CONCLUSION THAT SOCIAL RESEARCH MUST BE AUDITED IF IT IS TO PLAY A PART IN NATIONAL DEBATES ON TOPICS OF SOCIAL CONCERN, BECAUSE CONGRESS WILL USE SOCIAL RESEARCH DATA ONLY IF IT KNOWS THE DATA ARE VALID AND RELIABLE. (LKM)
Index Term(s): Behavioral and Social Sciences; Data security; Evaluation; Federal government; Federal programs; Privacy and security; Research; US Government Accountability Office (GAO)
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=51454

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