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Science Advocacy Survey Results: A Brief Report

Tammy D. Allen
University of South Florida
Fred Oswald
Rice University
Eunae Cho
University of South Florida

Background

In 2011, the Science Advocacy Task Force (Kozlowski, Kanfer, Major, Weiss) issued a report that included recommendations for enhancing the infrastructure within SIOP for science advocacy. One of the first steps was to conduct a survey of current membership advocacy resources and capabilities. To that end, the Scientific Affairs Committee,1 with input from other committees, developed a survey that was administered by Questar to members in November 2011.  This report outlines key findings from the survey.

Key Survey Results
The survey was sent to 6,455 members, of which a total of 852 members responded, for a response rate of 13%.

Science Advocacy Experience

Members were asked to indicate their current level of experience with regard to various advocacy activities.  Activities in which participants reported the greatest experience include (percentages represent those with moderate or extensive experience):

  • Promote the science of I-O to audiences that were not previously knowledgeable (e.g., working with K–12 schools, discussing research at a corporate function; 62%)
  • Translate I-O research for a trade article or similar outlet (35%)
  • Work with the mainstream media to publicize his/her own or other I-O psychological research (e.g., radio, TV, newspaper, Internet; 31%)

Activities with which participants reported the least experience include (percentages represent those with moderate or extensive experience):

  • Testify before Congress with regard to a science-related issue (2%)
  • Share knowledge of I-O psychological science on Capitol Hill (6%)
  • Educate members of a major scientific organization (e.g., National Science Foundation) about what I-O psychologists do (10%)

Only 6% of respondents reported receiving any science advocacy training.

Willingness to Engage in Science Advocacy Activities

The majority of participants reported a willingness to engage in advocacy activities.  The most popular were (percentages represent those somewhat or very willing to engage in activity): 

  • Promote the science of I-O to audiences not previously knowledgeable (e.g., working with K–12 schools, discussing research at a corporate function; 90%)
  • Work with the mainstream media to publicize I-O psychological research (e.g., radio, TV, newspaper, Internet; 83%)
  • Share knowledge of I-O psychological science with a major government/military/intelligence agency (e.g., Army, Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Transportation Security Administration; 82%)
  • Educate members of a major scientific organization about what I-O psychologists do (82%)

Activities that participants were least willing to do include (percentages represent those somewhat or very willing):

  • Testify before Congress with regard to scientific issues (48%)
  • Serve as an expert witness in a court case that is relevant to I-O psychology (45%)
  • Share your knowledge of I-O psychological science on Capitol Hill (37%)

Areas of Strongest Research Expertise

Members were asked to indicate the content areas with which they had the strongest research expertise.  We used the same 32 content categories that are currently used for the SIOP conference. 

As would be expected, the results indicated that the expertise of participants is widely distributed across the 32 represented content areas.  The most highly cited areas of strongest research expertise include (percentage represents those who selected the content area as their strongest): 

  • Testing/assessment (11%)
  • Staffing (8%)
  • Coaching/leadership development (7%)
  • Leadership (6%)

Content areas in which N < 10 participants reported their strongest expertise were:

  • Consulting practices/ethical issues (n = 7)
  • Employee withdrawal (e.g., absence, turnover)/retention (n = 6)
  • Human factors/ergonomics (n = 8)
  • Judgment/decision making (n = 4)

It is worth noting that given the low response rate to the survey, the above values should not be interpreted as representative of the expertise of the entire SIOP membership. 

External Funding Experience

Members were asked a series of questions that pertained to their experiences related to external funding during the previous 5-year period (2007–2011). 

  • A total of 26% of participants reported having applied for external funding during the time period.

The 626 participants who had not applied for external funding were asked why they had not applied. The five most common reasons reported were:

  • External funding is not applicable to the work I do (43%)
  • I do not know what funding options are available to me (35%)
  • It is not necessary for my research (33%)
  • I do not have time (28%)
  • I was never trained in graduate school on how to apply for external funding (28%)

The five least common reasons reported were:

  • I have been discouraged from doing so by administration at my institution (2%)
  • I do not believe that managing grants is worth the time and effort (7%)
  • I receive adequate research funding internally through the university (7%)
  • Grants are not rewarded or valued by my institution (8%)
  • There is a too much red tape within my department/institution managing grants post award (8%)

A substantial number of participants reported “other” reasons for not applying for funding (N = 98).  These responses were content analyzed. The most common “other” reasons were:

  • Currently a student (n = 35)
  • Work in an applied setting (n = 23)
  • No need/Not relevant to job (n = 11) 

The 222 participants who did apply for funding were asked the reasons why they apply.  There was no “standout” reason why individuals apply for funding.  Responses were:

  • To increase my compensation (e.g., summer salary, cover conference travel costs) (55%)
  • I want to support graduate students (52%)
  • It is necessary for the kind of research that I do (48%)
  • It is a required part of my job (37%)
  • It is essential for tenure and/or promotion at my university (29%)

Funded Grants

A total of 20% (n = 168) of the participants reported they had received external funding during the 5-year period (2007–2011).  Participants could report information on up to five funded grants (a total of 8 participants reported information on five grants).  Specific data are reported here for the most recent funded grant.

The 168 who received funding were asked to identify the main content area of the funding based on the 32 content areas used by SIOP.  The five research areas most likely to be funded were:

  • Groups/teams (10%)
  • Occupational health/safety/stress and strain/aging (10%)
  • Testing/assessment (8%)
  • Leadership (7%)
  • Coaching/leadership development (6%)

With regard to major federal funding agencies, participants were most likely to have received funding from National Science Foundation (NSF; 11%) followed by National Institutes for Health (NIH; 9%). With regard to private foundations/other sources for funding, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) was the most reported (10%).  A wide variety of other federal (e.g., Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, Office of Naval Research) and private (e.g., Spencer Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) sources of funding were also reported.

The modal amount funded was $250,001–500,000.

Submitted but Not Funded Grants

A total of 122 participants reported that they submitted grants that were not funded during the 5-year period (2007–2011). Participants could report information on up to five unfunded grants.  Specific data are reported here for the most recent unfunded grant. Participants were asked to identify the main content area of the grant submitted, but not funded, based on the 32 content areas used by SIOP. The three research areas most commonly reported were:

  • Inclusion/diversity (e.g., sexual orientation, race, gender; 9%)
  • Occupational health/safety/stress and strain/aging (9%)
  • Groups/teams (8%)

A total of 30% of the submitted, but unfunded, applications were from NSF while 11% were submitted to NIH. 

Participants were asked to report why the grant was not funded.  Responses were:

  • Unknown (n  = 37)
  • Technical/methodological concerns (n  = 29)
  • Project was not a good fit for the agency (n  = 22)
  • Concerns regarding theory (n  = 19)
  • No award was made to any applicants in the grant cycle in question (n = 4)
  • Other (n  = 21)

Other reasons for not being funded included a variety of factors such as lack of specific personnel on the grant, scope of the grant, and financial concerns within the agency.

Service on Review Panels

Members were asked if they had served on a review panel for an external funding agency within the past 5 years (2007–2011).  A total of 86 (10%) participants responded yes.  NSF was the agency for which the greatest number of participants had served (n = 26).

Open-Ended Questions and Responses

Two open-ended solicitation questions were asked.

1.  Members were invited to provide suggestions with regard to how SIOP can better educate the lay and/or scientific community about the capabilities and areas of expertise of SIOP members.  A total of 235 independent suggestions were made.  Below is a sampling of verbatim (except for corrections to typographical errors) grouped by common themes.

Media outreach

  • This may sound crazy but I truly believe one of the best ways you can educate the community in general about a career path that is unfamiliar to most is to get a character to demonstrate it on a television show.
  • Engage with popular media on highly visible topics.
  • Get I-O psychology on the cover of a “popular scientific” magazine, like Discovery or, better yet, get Business Week or Forbes to do a cover story on what I-O psychology is and why businesses need our expertise to gain a competitive advantage in the global economy.
  • YouTube-based tutorials/short films connecting I-O theory to popular media (e.g., leadership and workplace safety in The Simpsons). Some advocacy articles need to be placed in top magazines (Time, The New Yorker, business sections of major papers and business journal and magazines). Articles should also be written for the general public and placed in widely read articles. Follow up should include radio and TV time to present and discuss same materials.
  • Sponsor articles in our and other publications demonstrating actual or possible contributions I-O can make to the public good (e.g., environmental protection, consumer safety, homeland security, etc.).

Local and international outreach

  • Presentations to local groups (e.g., Chamber of Commerce, Rotarians, etc.).
  • Speeches to select groups (i.e., the local human resources group, the local training group, the service clubs [Rotary, etc.], special groups convened for a common interest/purpose).
  • We can have regional chapters that still report to SIOP. Thus, we can have offices in subregions such as Africa, Asia, etc. whose activities will be monitored by SIOP. In that case the entire world would benefit from I-O psychology.
  • Seek opportunities to speak about this subject at meetings and annual conferences of organizations such as the American Management Association.

Member education

  • I would like to learn about external grant funding—where to find external grants, how to apply, the process, etc.
  • Provide training and information via workshops and online training on how to go about this (grant application). Very daunting task!  Also, please do not forget about us midcareer people!
  • Sessions at the annual conference on these matters so that people can get educated at a time and place they are going to be anyway.
  • Provide members with the necessary skills to engage in science advocacy so that they will be more confident to provide that service.
  • Hands-on training session at SIOP conference on how to explain what we do to others, and how to do this while using the language of the business community.

Student education

  • More I-O classes for undergraduates, maybe even at the high school level. Many psychology undergraduate majors do not know what I-O psychology is.
  • I-O could be included as a topic in introductory psychology classes. If someone with an undergraduate degree in psychology has not heard of this field, it seems unlikely that the general public will understand it.
  • Working with the state or county education department, set up lectures on I-O to high school psychology classes.
  • Create documentary videos that can be used in classrooms.

Public education

  • Send copy of TIP to every member of Congress and every major department head.
  • SIOP is the world’s expert on the workplace and few boards of directors, CEOs, CFOs or CIOs know about, let alone care about our work. We should pursue with vigor those audiences rather than continue to chase grants that solve the wrong applied problems to the third decimal place. We should have a self-imposed moratorium on government grants, to nurture academics working with practitioners on applied research rather than chasing government grants. Given the huge debt, how long will it be sustained anyhow?

Demonstrate our strengths

  • Compare strengths of I-O to other disciplines to indicate a favorable comparison. In particular, our focus upon assessment, validation, and program evaluation would better serve many agencies and organizations than the skills developed in other disciplines (business arts, other areas of psychology, engineering, medicine, etc.).
  • By linking our specialized expertise with the pressing and most poignant social, political, and economic issues of the day (e.g., the impact of corporate layoffs/downsizing on psychological health, the political polarity affecting the workplace, etc.).
  • By showing results and impact on society, not just the research and research outcomes.

Collaborations with others

  • More partnerships with other organizations.
  • Partner with similar groups (e.g., SHRM) who have strong policy and lobbying interests.
  • Because APA has an existing mechanism for advocacy and because SIOP is a division of APA, it would be great if someone could talk APA into advocating I-O issues in addition to the clinical ones.

2.  Members were invited to provide suggestion with regard to how SIOP can better meet the scientific needs of its members.  A total of 43 independent suggestions were made.  Below is a sampling of suggestions grouped by common themes.

Provide information on grant applications

  • Set up a quarterly newsletter/e-mail list/link that lists upcoming grant opportunities applicable to I-O across granting agencies. Post some opportunities applicable to I-O across granting agencies. Post some examples of good and great grant proposals for the major granting agencies on SIOP’s website as part of member tools.
  • Help to fill in the gap to enable members to learn how to solicit external funding. I recently attended a workshop at my school designed to help women learn how to pursue and secure external funding. It was the first such effort in 21 years at my institution.
  • Perhaps share the most relevant funding opportunities with the members via the listserv? Thanks for your effort on this matter!

Provide Education and Collaboration Tools

  • I think we need more primer style classes/courses on statistics. These are skills that atrophy quickly and that are often used intermittently.
  • Create “communities of interest” that connect people (researchers, practitioners) for the purposes of communication and collaboration (research, SIOP conferences, etc.). This could be started by grouping people by their expressed interests in the membership directory database.
  • We need to find a mechanism to support and encourage access to organizational processes. Applied folks complain about the lack of relevant science. How can we when it is so difficult to gain access to meaningful data in actual organizations?

Outreach

  • Help with setting up media and congressional briefings.
  • I think I-O can be insular, so any efforts to bring the latest findings in relevant areas (personality, cognitive, social, etc.) to I-O psychologists would be helpful. I think APA is also a considerable hindrance to I-O psychology.
  • Stronger voice in APA.

Strengthen science focus

  • Start to do for the scientists what is being done for the practitioners: purely science activities equivalent to the LEC, etc.
  • Make sure that what you advocate is actually science and not practitioner-spun pseudo science.
  • The Society would benefit from a broad view on the questions, “What is science?” and “What type of inquiries are the domain of I-O?”

Summary

The results show that the vast majority of respondents are interested and willing to engage in advocacy efforts. Respondents were particularly experienced and willing to further engage with regard to the promotion of the science of I-O to audiences not previously knowledgeable. With regard to current external funding, the results demonstrate that SIOP has a small but highly funded group of members. The results reveal a number of opportunities for SIOP to enhance our members’ capabilities for promoting I-O science through further outreach and education activities. As a next step, over the coming months the Scientific Affairs Committee will be developing a specific set of recommendations and an action plan. We thank the members who took the time from their busy schedules to complete the survey. 

Reference

Kozlowski, S. W. J., Kanfer, R., Major, D. A., & Weiss, H. M. (2011).  A strategy to build an infrastructure for SIOP science advocacy. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Scientific Affairs Task Force on Science Advocacy.