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Carnegie Institution for Science Climate Study

The front of the "Carnegie Institute of Washington" building which features stone columns on the facade
Assessing the work climate and culture of a major research institution
  • Client
    Carnegie Institution for Science
  • Dates
    2019 - 2021

The Carnegie Institution for Science wanted an outside assessment of its work culture. 

The Carnegie Institution for Science, a leading scientific research organization, supports the exploration of such realms as the structure of the universe, the behavior and transformation of matter when subjected to extreme conditions, the origin of life, and the function of genes. In 2019, Carnegie wanted an outside institution to explore something underlying all of this work: the climate and culture of its own workplace. Carnegie wanted to give its stakeholders an accurate assessment of the current climate and offer actionable data to support leadership in identifying, developing, and implementing future policy and programmatic initiatives. Their goal was to enhance the working environment for all employees, including staff scientists, postdoctoral fellows, technical staff, and administrative staff. 

Carnegie brought in NORC to assess its workplace climate.  

Carnegie commissioned NORC at the University of Chicago to conduct focus groups, interviews, and staff surveys. The primary source of data was a self-administered, extensive online survey. NORC, together with the Carnegie Science Work Group, conducted an initial phase of qualitative research to tailor the survey to Carnegie’s work environment and develop culturally sensitive and appropriate measures.

In addition to providing an overall portrayal of Carnegie’s climate, the questionnaire delved into:

  • the prevalence and impact of incivility, harassment, and other employee misconduct
  • employees’ sense of belonging
  • work-life integration
  • transparency in internal communications
  • perceptions of executive and departmental leadership
  • mentoring
  • discriminatory and unfair treatment
  • reporting mechanisms and responses
  • employee benefits
  • improvement recommendations

We also conducted qualitative research, including focus groups and individual interviews at the five Carnegie locations in the United States. NORC held nine focus groups and 53 individual interviews, speaking with over 100 Carnegie employees representing all employee roles and levels.

Following qualitative data collection, NORC invited all Carnegie employees to complete a survey to gather data on the following topics:

  • overall climate and satisfaction
  • climate differences between scientists and staff of different demographic backgrounds
  • feelings of welcome and belonging
  • experience with or witness to harassment
  • institutional responsiveness

Carnegie now has reliable data to guide its employee policies and practices.  

More than 425 employees completed the initial survey, with an overall response rate of 64.8 percent. The findings produced a wide range of information Carnegie can use to assess its work environment and the prevalence and impact of harassment and employee misconduct.

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