Monday, April 25, 2016

How do the ACS employment surveys work?

Rick Ewing is the chair of ACS' Committee on Economic and Professional Affairs. The committee is in charge of the 3 core ACS employment surveys, the ACS Salary Survey, the ChemCensus and the New Graduate Survey. In this week's C&EN, he writes about the surveys and their methodology.

If you would like to understand the methodology behind these surveys, you should read Dr. Ewing's article; it is worth your time. He also responds to member concerns here:
...ACS members have also asked specifically about the decline in the response rates for each survey. Although the drop has been observed for some time, it has accelerated in recent years. For example, the Comprehensive Survey response rate of 36% in 2011 dropped to 28% in 2014. Though disconcerting, the decline in response rates is a general trend for surveys in all segments and not unique to ACS. The increased prevalence of surveys has resulted in ambivalence, which makes it tougher to convince individuals to take the time to reply...
While I understand that this is a problem of resources (we can't send people to ACS members' houses, knocking on their door and asking them to fill out the ChemCensus), I am a little bit concerned that CEPA apparently does not have a plan or an answer to the response rate problem.

If the response rate continues to fall, at what point does the data from the ChemCensus or the annual Salary Survey become less valuable? What others plans does CEPA have to raise the response rate? (I have gotten physical postcards, reminding me to fill out my Survey (and I do!)) What distinguishes respondents from those who do not respond? I am sure that CEPA is looking at these questions, and I look forward to the answers. 


  1. This was the first year that I did not respond after feeling it was my duty for years to provide data to ACS. The primary reason was survey fatigue. I respond to many surveys and because of that I get sent a lot of surveys. Right now, ACS, VWR, and Alfa have been sending me surveys and I have ignored them. Some of this is the time that it takes and some is the repetitive nature of them.

    In terms of increasing the response rate, I personally will be encouraged by some sort of incentive. Something as simple as 'Win one of 50 $20 Starbucks/Amazon cards' is usually enough for me to take the time. I did win one of those once upon a time (I think from ACS?) and that makes it worthwhile.

  2. These are the *exact questions* that professional survey firms can answer, have answered and will minimize. Why not use a smidgen of the colossal ACS salaries to do it right?

    Perhaps the answers would be too frightening, and would threaten the sweet-sweet gravy train of naive chemists piling on membership fees to go towards those colossal salaries?

    Nah, that's far too cynical- *I'm sure* the ACS has it's members' best interests at heart.

    Please fwd this to any and all potential grad students!

  3. I am just finishing up a multi-year assignment abroad at two sites belonging to my US-based employer's parent company. Not only has my time here been a great ride personally and financially, but I am now known all the way up the company ladder. It's hard to imagine this not leading to more opportunities within the organization in the future, and in the case that it does not, it is not as if other people haven't been knocking on my door. Native-born American chemists who can speak our parent company's local (non-European) language fairly well and can help bridge the communication gulf that sometimes arises between foreign sites and the mother ship are not easy to find.

  4. I'll add to the chorus of people stating that they are sick of constant demands to fill out surveys. The higher-ups also mistakenly think that this constitutes "action." Form a new committee to study an established and already well-studied problem rather than actually do something about it.