Sigma Xi Postdoc Survey
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Summary of Survey Methods

Contents

 

Sampling

Sigma Xi surveyed postdoctoral researchers at 46 institutions (participation pending at additional institutions).   At each institution, Sigma Xi asked their contacts to assist in recruiting postdoctoral researchers who met the postdoc criteria set forth jointly by Sigma Xi and the institution in question.  The researchers were either part of an institutional list, provided by local organizers, or were asked by the local organizer to register on a website so that Sigma Xi could eventually contact each one to ask the person to participate in the survey.  In this way, there was no actual sampling procedure; this survey was actually a census of postdocs within these institutions. 

All respondents received surveys containing a set of core questions, comprising approximately one-third of the questions asked. In order to reduce respondent time-burden, the remaining survey questions were divided into sets of modules administered at varying frequencies.  While all identified postdocs were asked to participate in the survey, the questions each postdoc received varied depending on which modules were randomly administered.

Each institution was eligible to receive up to $500 from Sigma Xi to be used at their discretion as a means for assisting the institution in determining eligible participants and then recruiting these people.  Each institution wishing to receive funds from Sigma Xi had to submit a brief proposal itemizing expected costs for the project.  Project Staff at Sigma Xi reviewed proposals, and determined the exact amount of financial resources allocated to each participating institution.

 

Recruiting

Two different recruiting methodologies were implemented.  Which one each institution adopted depended on a variety of factors, taking into account the amount of information they had about their postdoc population at the time of data collection as well as any institution specific policy regarding the dissemination of an e-mail address list. 

Scenario 1:  institution has a full or partial list of postdocs and no policy hindering distribution of this list to an approved third party: 

1.      Institution attempted to recruit all postdocs on behalf of Sigma Xi by posting flyers, placing ads in the institution's newspaper or newsletter, and providing a list of e-mail addresses to Sigma Xi.  Sigma Xi e-mailed all postdocs on the list to announce the survey.  Initial e-mail contacts also requested that recipients forward e-mails to any additional postdocs who might have been left off of the original list. 

2.      Any person to whom the survey announcement e-mail was forwarded, and who was not on the original list provided by the institution, was asked to go to a web page in order to notify their institution of their interest in participating.  The website requested information such as name, contact information, job title, institutional affiliation, and research area (depending on specific protocol designed by each participating institution).  The information solicited on this web page was used by local administrators to verify potential participants' status as a postdoc before adding them to the official list.

3.      Designated individuals from the local teams were granted administrative access to this web page.

4.      Sigma Xi e-mailed each postdoc on the official list a unique user ID and initial password that is embedded in a URL, inviting them to complete the survey.

Scenario 2:  institution has policy hindering or forbidding the distribution of the list to an approved third party:

1.      Institution accepted responsibility for notifying of the upcoming survey, as well as sending all subsequent reminder e-mails regarding survey deadlines. 

2.      Any person wishing to participate was required to notify the institution, via Sigma Xi's registration web page, of their interest.  The website requested information such as name, contact information, job title, institutional affiliation, and research area (depending on specific protocol designed by each participating institution). The information on this web page was used by local administrators to verify potential participants' status as a postdoc before adding them to an official list. 

3.      Designated individuals from the local teams were granted administrative access to this web page

4.      Sigma Xi e-mailed each postdoc on the official list a unique user ID and initial password that is embedded in a URL, inviting them to complete the survey.

 

Informed Consent

In the survey, participants were asked to check a box indicating their consent to participate after reading full informed consent text.  The following is the informed consent text:

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, in partnership with the National Postdoctoral Association, Science's Next Wave, and the National Bureau of Economic Research, is conducting a study of the experiences of postdoctoral researchers.  Our goal is to find ways to improve the training and research experiences of postdocs by asking you questions in this web survey.  Roughly 30,000 postdoctoral researchers across the United States will be asked to take part in this study. 

This survey will take about 30 minutes to complete.  It includes questions about your research, your mentoring, your compensation and benefits, and your job satisfaction.  Answering any or all of these questions is voluntary.  Your postdoctoral position will in no way be affected by your choice to participate or not to participate in this survey.  You may refuse to answer any of the questions if you like, and you may stop the survey at any time.

To protect your privacy, survey data will be stored under a code number, and your e-mail address will be kept separate from your survey responses.  Your e-mail address and other facts that might identify you will not appear when we present this study or publish its results. 

There are no known risks to participating in this study; however, please note that Internet communications are not secure. You will get no direct benefit from being a part of this study; however, your participation will help us better understand ways to improve the postdoctoral experience. 

If you have any questions about how the study works, you can contact Ms. Jenny Zilaro, the Sigma Xi project manager for the postdoctoral survey, at 800-243-6534, ext. 214.  If you have questions about your rights in this study, you can contact [insert name and number of local IRB person here.]

Please indicate whether or not you consent to participate below.  If you indicate that you consent, the survey will be launched. 

___I consent to participate

___I do not consent to participate

 

Communication Schema

For institutions participating with a full or partial list of postdocs, and no institutional policy hindering the distribution of e-mail lists to approved third parties, Sigma Xi implemented the following communication schema:

  • Two announcement e-mails - an initial announcement sent five days prior to the beginning of data collection, and the survey invitation sent the day data collection opened.
  • A series of up to 4 reminders - reminder e-mails were sent at the end of each 7 day period of data collection.  Reminder e-mails were customized to address non-responders as well as non-completers.  No reminders were sent to respondents who had completed the survey since the last reminder was sent.
  • One optional local reminder - sent from a person at an institution who was well known amongst the postdoc population, encouraging participation.
  • One technical difficulty e-mail (situational) - reserved by project staff for cases of technical difficulties with the survey software.
  • One weekly status report (optional) - postdocs could indicate on the last page of the survey if they were interested in receiving a weekly status report.

Survey completers were also asked to grant permission to be contacted in the future to receive information on incentive awards, postdoc association/office notifications, information regarding partnering organizations, and periodic updates on the project.  Every communication and reminder will include an opportunity to refuse future communications.

 

Customizing the Instrument

Each institution had the opportunity to add up to 10 questions developed on their own, and reviewed by Sigma Xi and by RTI's IRB before added to the instrument.  In addition to adding customized questions, local administrators were given the option of increasing the frequency of any of the questions in the medium or low frequency modules.  Any combination of the two customizations was allowed for up to 10 customizations.

 

Results

Sigma Xi has provided results to each participating institution in report form.  Institutions were required to seek their respective IRB's approval before any agreement to participate could be guaranteed.  Individual researchers wishing to use the data collected by this survey must submit a proposal outlining the intended use of the data and are also required to complete a confidentiality/data sharing agreement with Sigma Xi.   As a part of the process of requesting data, researchers must develop and submit a research protocol to Sigma Xi detailing how they intend to use these data.  Sigma Xi has the right to deny any request that they feel puts the data at risk of disclosure. Sigma Xi will remove names, contact information, and any personally identifying information not germane to the proposed research from the files before sharing the data.

Sigma Xi hosted this survey, and attests to the security of the data on the server and our dedication to protecting individuals by suppressing identifying information before the release of any data and requiring confidentiality agreements.  We also state that they we will not release results that are based on small sample sizes that could potentially lead to the identification of respondents.  Any comments used in public dissemination will have all identifying information removed to protect anonymity.