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Policy Brief: Accuracy and Validity of Information Executive Summary Proposed addendum to Policy AD47: General Standards of Professional

Ethics. As stated in the University Policy Manual, the purpose of AD47 is: To set forth statements of general standards of professional ethics to serve as a reminder of the variety of obligations assumed by all members of the academic community Statement I: Their primary responsibility to their respective subjects is to seek and to state the truth as they see it. To this end, they devote their energies to developing and improving their scholarly competence. They accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge. They practice intellectual honesty. Statement II: As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold before their students the best scholarly standards of their respective disciplines. They demonstrate respect for the student as an individual, and adhere to their proper role as intellectual guides and counselors. They make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct Statement III: As researchers/scholars, professors recognize that their goal is to discover, develop, and communicate new understanding. Statement V: As members of their institution, professors seek above all to be effective teachers and scholars. Date of last revision: Effective Date: May 10, 1996 Date Approved: June 10, 1996 Even though the statements in Policy AD47 ring true today, just as they did in 1996, our environment has seen unprecedented growth in technology and in the use of the Internet. Because of the extent of these changes and the fact that all educators, rely on the use of technology and the Internet in teaching and in interacting with their students, revisions to this policy are needed in order to govern and guide the use of Internet resources to supplement teaching. As educators, we have a duty to ensure that information gathered and used from outside resources is valid and accurate. We also have the duty to educate our stakeholders on how to evaluate information from these sources.

Context and Importance of the Problem (Critique of existing policy) There is an abundance of information available to Internet users today. The producers of that information may not always adhere to professional standards or ethics, may not have the whole truth, and at times, may be malicious in the dissemination of information. As a University community, a community that is responsibility for delivering valid and accurate information, we have an obligation to make sure that the information we share from the Internet is both valid and accurate. We also have the responsibility to teach our stakeholders how to become self-sufficient in searching for information from outside resources. This proposal is for an addendum to Policy AD47 and is presented to update a current and identified need to our University. Our mission: Mission As a land-grant university, we provide unparalleled access and public service to support the citizens of the Commonwealth. We engage in collaborative activities with industrial, educational, and agricultural partners here and abroad to generate, disseminate, integrate, and apply knowledge that is valuable to society. Policy Recommendation I We currently have an outstanding policy on General Standards of Professional Ethics. My recommendation is to amend this policy include a new statement (Statement 7) to address current issues facing our University system. Statement VII: As teachers/professors and purveyors of educational content to our stakeholders, we have an obligation to provide current, valid, accurate and credible information in the scope of our employment. To extend this, educators also have the responsibility to teach our stakeholders the skills necessary for assessing web-based information to similar standards in order to fulfill our mission. Pro Con Even though this information can be disseminated quickly, it doesnt guarantee that the information will be read by the target audience. This amendment will move the University into the 21st Century and recognize the importance of the growth in, and use of technology and the Internet. The inclusion will bring credibility to the need for focus by practitioners and educators. With the use of technology and the Internet, the process of advising employees of the policy change can be quick if not immediate.

Policy Recommendation II Used in support of Policy Recommendation I, or as a minimum should it not be accepted, steps can be taken to prepare the educator to meet this new standard of behavior. Professional development programs can be developed and offered to address very specific needs including: (for the individuals needs and to teach their stakeholders) Utilize search techniques that can lead to web sites where information fits the criteria below To assess sites and information from the web to ensure that the information is: 1. Relevant: Source should provide content relevant to the project. For example, does it contain the necessary information for the project? 2. Credible: Source should detail the author and his or her credentials. Researcher should ask questions such as: What are the author's credentials? Is the author well-known or credible? Are the authors credentials credible? Does the author cite sources? 3. Accurate: The accuracy of the information provided should be vetted. Questions to ask should include: Is the information current? Is the information comprehensive or are parts left out? Is the information fair and reasonable? 4. Point of View: The point of view of the source should be assessed to determine appropriateness of usage. Questions to ask should include: Is the information presented objective or subjective? Are there opinions included? Are opinions supported? Does the source supply support and research to claims? Is there a conflict of interest? 5. Source: Source should be from a trusted source or publisher. Research may evaluate resource by domain such as is it a .gov, .edu. If it is a .com is the publisher trusted? Is the information current? When was it last updated? 6. Recognition and Support: Researcher may look to see if the resource is supported and cited in other research. Questions to ask should include: Is the resources linked elsewhere? Is the source referenced in trusted and credible site from credible organizations? Are there negative comments regarding the source? Do other sources corroborate the information? To advance the fulfillment of this amended policy I recommend introducing the use of a webevaluation tool such as An assessment of the tool can be completed in xxx months and determined whether to continue using that tool, or develop one more suited to our organizational needs. Pro Con

This recognition and focus will enhance and support the existing policy on ethical behavior by taking into account a resource and tool that is used by all employees. This will increase the level of credibility and the professional reputation as employees conduct the business of the University that supports our mission. There will be financial and time costs associated with the systematic instructional design process for developing a professional development program to teach and implement content on search skills and the evaluation of Internet resources, as well as tools necessary for conducted the evaluations Once implemented the enforcement of the policy must occur

At a minimum, should the Board of Regents deem that this topic does not have to be guided by a policy statement, I recommend that at the very least, a course of professional development for employees is developed to address the deficit of knowledge, skills and/or attitudes. To further our mission, we have a responsibility to our stakeholders to hold them to a higher standard of action and to provide training if there is a deficit in knowledge, skills and attitudes in relation to the validity and accuracy of information they seek from the Internet and the World Wide Web. Sources consulted