American Institutes for Research

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American Institutes for Research
MottoMaking research relevant
Founded1946; 73 years ago (1946)
FounderJohn C. Flanagan
TypeNonprofit research, assessment, and technical assistance organization
FocusEducation, student assessment, health, human development, international development, work and training
OriginsCritical Incident Technique, Project Talent
Area served
United States and international
Key people
John C. Flanagan, David Myers (current president and CEO)
More than 1,800

American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan behavioral and social science research, evaluation, assessment and technical assistance organization based in Washington, D.C.[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]

AIR ran a Defense Department-funded counter-insurgency program in Thailand during the Vietnam War years, which involved designing programs that supported "assassinating key spokesmen [and] strengthening retaliatory mechanisms and similar preventative measures."[16] Charles Murray, the controversial political scientist, worked on this AIR program[17] and claimed the experience was formative in his later advocacy.[18]

Mission statement[edit]

"AIR's mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving peoples' lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged."[19]

Areas of Work[edit]

AIR Assessment
develops student tests, score reports, and online reporting tools for students, teachers, parents, and administrators in states across the U.S. Psychometricians and statisticians provide data and analysis for policy and curriculum decisions.
Research and Evaluation, Technical Assistance and Policy, Practice & Systems Change - Domestic and International
AIR practice areas include early childhood; P-12 education including teacher, school and district leadership; social development; health and well-being; higher education and career readiness; adult learning and workforce issues; and survey development and tech solutions.

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; core evaluations for U.S. Department of Education programs; technical expertise on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); Project A, the largest personnel survey in the history of the U.S. Army;[20] partnering with states to design and administer student assessment testing in schools across the U.S.;[21][22] and 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.[23]


Education researcher David Myers is AIR's president and CEO and serves on its board of directors. Previously, Myers was senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Mathematica Policy Research.[24][25]

The twelve-member board of directors is led by chair Patricia B. Gurin, professor emerita of social psychology and women's studies at University of Michigan and vice chair Lawrence D. Bobo, a professor of social sciences at Harvard University.[26]


  1. ^ a b "Post 200: American Institutes for Research". The Washington Post. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  2. ^ "AIR: Locations". Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  3. ^ "AIR: About Us". Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  4. ^ "Post 200: Nonprofits". The Washington Post. 27 December 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Post 200: Nonprofits". The Washington Post. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  6. ^ "John C. Flannery". American Psychological Association.
  7. ^ Freeman, Karen (28 April 1996). "John Flanagan, 90, Psychologist Who Devised Pilot Aptitude Test". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 November 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.
  9. ^ Fivars, Grace & Robert Fitzpatrick, Ph. D. "The Critical Incident Technique Bibliography". American Psychological Association.
  10. ^ Fivars, Grace & Robert Fitzpatrick, Ph. D. "The Critical Incident Technique Bibliography - Complete List" (PDF). American Psychological Association.
  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 Magazine. 24 August 1962. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  14. ^ "Project Talent: Bibliography". Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  15. ^ Murray, Charles (2006). Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  16. ^ Berreman, Gerald (2003). Ethics versus 'Realism' in Anthropology: Redux. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  17. ^ Wakin, Eric (1998). Anthropology Goes to War: Professional Ethics and Counterinsurgency in Thailand. Madison, WI: Center for Southeast Asian Studies 1.
  18. ^ "Daring Research or 'Social Science Pornography'?: Charles Murray". The New York Time. 9 October 1994. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  19. ^ "AIR: Mission and Vision". Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "Minnesota Assessments". Minnesota Department of Education. Archived from the original on 30 January 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  22. ^ "Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills". Oregon Department of Education. Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  23. ^ "AIR: Our Topics". Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  24. ^ "David Myers, Nationally Recognized Education Researcher, Joins AIR as Senior Vice President". Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  25. ^ "Profile: David Myers". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  26. ^ "About AIR: Leadership". Retrieved 14 November 2012.