The Citizen Analyst Manifesto, Part 7: Disclose with Honesty

In this series, we explore what it means to be a citizen analyst, the values we stand for, and what qualities in the world we must adamantly stand against.

Disclose with Honesty.

Honesty. It’s a common enough word. We hear it on reality TV. We ask for it, in our families, in our workplace. But what is it?

Honesty is truth, yet more than truth. It is acting with respect, with honor and virtue. Throughout this series, we’ve discussed curiosity, dedication and heart, humility, insight, boldness. We’ve dared to step up, to be unafraid and forthright. But these values are nothing without honesty.

Why? Honesty is binding. We cannot embody the other values without honesty. Without honesty, curiosity lacks direction, dedication is misplaced, heart can be manipulated.

Without honesty, our citizen analyst manifesto falls apart.

When we are honest — when we are truthful and acting with honor — we build relationships. These relationships are necessary to our end game. Without them, we cannot create change, cannot use our data in a meaningful way.

Now we know what honesty is and why it’s important, how do we realize it?

Through disclosure.

Disclosure statements look meaningless. Most people skip over them. Yet honesty in our disclosures underpins everything we do as Citizen Analysts.

When we disclose our relationships, our funding sources, our data, we grant our audiences additional insight. We help the audience understand our point of view better.

When we fail to disclose our relationships, funding, or data, we kill our credibility. We lie by omission. Our reputation dies.

In the days before citizen analysts, our lies of omission might have eluded scrutiny. We may have convinced a journalist or influencer to accept our data at face value. Today, the same tools and techniques we use to be citizen analysts are available to others for investigation of our work. We are not and should not be immune to scrutiny of our claims.

What constitutes proper disclosure?

  • Who sponsored/funded our analysis
  • Who conducted our analysis
  • To the extent we can identify it, who sponsored or funded the source data if it’s not ours
  • If we conducted surveys, the exact questions and responses given
  • Our data sources’ origins and if relevant, timeframes data was collected
  • Any sampling bias or weighting
  • Margin of error and precision of our data
  • Our methods of analysis
  • Point of contact

These disclosures build confidence in our work. We boldly state that we are unafraid of scrutiny, that our methods and results are unimpeachable.

Here’s an example of a bad disclosure:

Study by SHIFT Communications, 2016.

Here’s an example of a good disclosure:

SHIFT commissioned Google Consumer Surveys to collect responses from a representative sample of 200 respondents who answered yes to the following screening question: “Are you a journalist or paid professional blogger?” This survey collected 34,721 impressions and 10,561 responses for a 30.4% response rate with an RMSE score of 3.0%. Possible answers were yes or no. For the question “How often do you read press releases that are sent to you by agencies, companies, or PR professionals?”, 172 responses were collected from the pool of screened respondents out of 438 impressions for a response rate of 45.7% with an RMSE score of 4.5% at a 95% confidence interval. Possible answers were a weighted scale from 1 to 5, where 1 was never and 5 was always. SHIFT Communications was the sole investor in the study. The survey population was the adult Internet user population of the United States, weighted against the US Census Bureau Current Population Survey for age, gender, and region. The date of the survey period was 2/4/13-2/13/13. Survey data available upon request; click here to contact SHIFT Communications.

Disclose with honesty. We can be forthright and unafraid even in the fine print. For those who seek truth in our data, we provide reassurance that their trust in us is well-placed.


Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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