As part of their 2019 Leadership Series, Inside Higher Ed hosted an event called “Higher Ed in the New Congress” in February to generate discussion around key issues that higher education institutions will face with the new Congress, likely agendas in the new Congress, and key strategies for colleges to address current challenges in higher education. Included in the materials shared with event attendees were copies of IRIS’s Executive Director Jason Owen-Smith’s new book, Research Universities and the Public Good. The event featured keynotes by Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Robert “Bobby” C. Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, and Donna E. Shalala, U.S. Representative for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, and Jason was invited to present on a panel titled “Eroding Public Trust and What Colleges Should Do About It” with Stephanie Marken, the Executive Director of Education Research at Gallup.

Marken highlighted 2018 Gallup findings that only 48% of U.S. adults expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education, a drop from 57% in 2015. Greg Toppo (@gtoppo), a senior editor at Inside Higher Ed, tweeted Marken’s comment during the panel that in higher ed, “public perception has really been driven by anecdotes” and an overall call for “better data” was a common theme throughout the event. The IRIS platform was developed precisely to answer this call. As Jason pointed out on this panel and has discussed at greater length in his book, “we need to turn our best research on ourselves and subject the workings of our institutions and their effects to rigorous, systematic, and public scrutiny.”

Visit our IRIS Membership page for more on how your institution can join in the IRIS mission to develop the data to better understand, explain, and improve the public value of higher education, and help us lead the public discussion about research and its value at all levels.