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American Institutes for Research

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American Institutes for Research
Founded1946; 78 years ago (1946)
FounderJohn C. Flanagan
TypeNonprofit research, evaluation, and technical assistance organization
FocusBehavioral and social science research, and technical assistance in education, health and the workforce.
OriginsCritical incident technique, Project Talent
Area served
United States and international
Key people
Jessica Heppen, President and CEO; Lawrence Bobo, Board Chair

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan behavioral and social science research, evaluation and technical assistance organization based in Arlington, Virginia.[1][2] One of the world's largest social science research organizations,[1] AIR has more than 1,800 staff in locations across the United States and abroad.[3]

In 2010[4] and 2011,[5] The Washington Post selected AIR as one of the top ten nonprofit firms in the Washington metropolitan area.


AIR's founder, John C. Flanagan, a pioneer in aviation psychology,[6] is known for developing the critical incident technique, an innovative method for screening and selecting personnel. While working for the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, Flanagan developed CIT as an aptitude test to identify potential combat pilots.[7] Later, the technique was adapted for other industries, and CIT is still a model for numerous organizations and researchers.[8][9][10][11]

Flanagan established American Institutes for Research in 1946.[12] He focused on workforce education research and launched Project Talent, a longitudinal study following 400,000 high school students across the U.S.,[13] which has continued for the past 50 years and provided data for hundreds of researchers and publications.[14][15]

Charles Murray, the controversial political scientist, worked at AIR, and left after determining his work was not making a difference.[16]

At the end of 2019, AIR sold its student assessment division to Cambium Learning Group, Inc.[17]

In 2020, AIR acquired IMPAQ, LLC (including subsidiary Maher & Maher),[18] and Kimetrica.[19]

Mission statement[edit]

"AIR's mission is to generate and use rigorous evidence that contributes to a better, more equitable world."[20]

Areas of work[edit]

AIR conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance, both domestically and internationally, in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. Specific areas include early childhood; P-K-12 education, including teacher, school and district leadership; juvenile justice; mental health and well-being; higher education and career readiness; adult learning and workforce issues; chronic and infectious diseases; patient and family engagement; trauma informed care; healthcare knowledge translation; refugee and migrant populations; and social and emotional learning, among others.[21]

Some of the work Flanagan and AIR are known for includes: Project Talent, the largest and most comprehensive study of high school students ever conducted in the United States. Data from Project Talent is now being used to conduct research on aging and dementia;[22] core evaluations for U.S. Department of Education programs; technical expertise on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and how federal funds are used; Project A, the largest personnel survey in the history of the U.S. Army;[23] and fully or partially-funded federal projects, including Regional Education Labs (RELs) and Comprehensive Centers, National Center for Family Homelessness, Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), College and Career Readiness and Success Center, Center for English Language Learners, among others.[24]


Jessica Heppen is AIR's seventh President and CEO and the first woman to serve the role in the organization's history. She succeeded David Myers who retired on February 1, 2024.[25]

The twelve-member board of directors is led by Lawrence D. Bobo, a professor of social sciences at Harvard University.[25] He succeeded Patricia B. Gurin, professor emerita of social psychology and women's studies at University of Michigan.


  1. ^ a b "Post 200: American Institutes for Research". The Washington Post. December 15, 2011. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  2. ^ "AIR: Locations". Archived from the original on April 9, 2022. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  3. ^ "AIR: About Us". Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  4. ^ "Post 200: Nonprofits". The Washington Post. December 27, 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  5. ^ "Post 200: Nonprofits". The Washington Post. December 15, 2011. Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  6. ^ "John C. Flannery". American Psychological Association.
  7. ^ Freeman, Karen (April 28, 1996). "John Flanagan, 90, Psychologist Who Devised Pilot Aptitude Test". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  8. ^ Gremler, Dwayne D (August 2004). "The Critical Incident Technique in Service Research". Journal of Service Research. 7 (1): 65–89. doi:10.1177/1094670504266138. S2CID 14683385.
  9. ^ Fivars, Grace & Robert Fitzpatrick, Ph. D. "The Critical Incident Technique Bibliography". American Psychological Association.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Fivars, Grace & Robert Fitzpatrick, Ph. D. "The Critical Incident Technique Bibliography - Complete List" (PDF). American Psychological Association.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Kennedy, Carrie H. and Eric Zillmer (2012). Military Psychology, Second Edition: Clinical And Operational Applications. The Guilford Press. pp. 114–125. ISBN 978-1462506491.
  12. ^ Zimmerman, Barry J. and Dale H. Schunk (2003). Educational Psychology: A Century of Contributions. Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 9781467212960.
  13. ^ "Education: Talent Census". Time. August 24, 1962. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  14. ^ "Project Talent: Bibliography". Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  15. ^ Murray, Charles (2006). Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  16. ^ Deparle, Jason (October 9, 1994). "Daring Research or 'Social Science Pornography'?: Charles Murray". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  17. ^ AIR (August 22, 2019). "Cambium Learning Group to Acquire Assessment Division of the American Institutes for Research". American Institutes for Research. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  18. ^ "American Institutes for Research to Acquire IMPAQ". American Institutes for Research. May 5, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  19. ^ "American Institutes for Research Acquires Kimetrica". American Institutes for Research. November 16, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  20. ^ "AIR: Mission and Vision". Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  21. ^ "About Us". American Institutes for Research. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  22. ^ "Aging Study (2016-2020)". Project Talent. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  23. ^ "Improving the Selection, Classification, and Utilization of Army Enlisted Personnel: Final Report on Project A" (PDF). U.S. Department of Defense Technical Information Center. August 1991. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 3, 2016.
  24. ^ "AIR: Our Topics". Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  25. ^ a b "American Institutes for Research Announces New CEO and Board Chair". American Institutes for Research. February 21, 2024. Retrieved February 28, 2024.

External links[edit]