Beginning in Fall 2015, most surveys that sample Macalester students, employees, or alumni must first be reviewed by the Macalester Survey Coordination Committee (SCC). However, as outlined below, some projects are exempt from review.
What constitutes a survey?
A survey is a structured series of questions that are addressed to a group of persons in order to understand patterns in that group’s attitudes or experiences. Surveys take the form of written or electronic questionnaires but do not include interviews or focus groups. A questionnaire will be considered a survey based on the information it elicits, regardless of its length. Even one-question surveys are subject to SCC review if they ask for information about Macalester community members’ attitudes or experiences with the intent of analyzing the information to understand broader patterns.
What is the Survey Coordination Committee (SCC)?
The purpose of the Survey Coordination Committee (SCC) is threefold: 1) to review and evaluate the timing, sampling, ethics and design of survey projects whose subjects are Macalester students, employees, or alumni; 2) to monitor and revise survey policies, with the approval of senior leadership; and 3) to educate the campus about Macalester’s survey policies.
The SCC is composed of seven members in total: two faculty members (one being the Chair of Macalester’s IRB, ex officio; the other appointed by Provost, typically in conjunction with Macalester IRB service), the Associate Dean of the Faculty or Assessment Staff (to be determined by the Associate Dean), the Director of Institutional Research (ex-officio), and three staff members (one of whom is from Student Affairs, appointed by the VP of Student Affairs; one of whom is from Academic Affairs, appointed by the Provost; and one of whom is from Advancement, appointed by the VP of Advancement),
The 2023-24 SCC members are:
Adam Johnson (chair; Institutional Research & Assessment)
Nancy Bostrom (Institutional Research & Assessment)
Erik Larson (Sociology)
Bethany Miller (Institutional Research & Assessment, ex officio)
Steve Guglielmo (Psychology & IRB Chair, ex officio)
Laurie Adamson (Student Affairs)
SCC Review Process
The purpose of the SCC review process is to ensure that survey activity on campus is well coordinated and well executed. SCC reviewers evaluate the timing, sampling, ethics, and design of proposed survey projects and then recommend approval, approval conditional upon edits, or disapproval. SCC approval is required for all non-exempt survey projects.
All supporting survey application materials must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the launch of your survey. The SCC aims to review survey applications within two weeks of receiving all supporting materials, but applicants should plan for additional time to make requested revisions to survey materials.
The specific application materials required for review vary slightly depending on the nature of the project, but in general, applicants will be asked to submit the following:
- A completed Application to conduct a survey
- A signed Application checklist
- A final copy of the survey instrument
- A final copy of any recruitment materials or invitation emails, which must include a clear Data Use & Confidentiality disclosure.
SCC Application Submission Information
Specific instructions for submitting an SCC application can be found on the Gaining Approval page. Some projects will have slightly different requirements depending on the nature of the survey. All materials should be sent to the SCC Chair (Adam Johnson; [email protected]).
The following types of surveys conducted by Macalester faculty, staff, or students are exempt from SCC review:
- End of Course surveys
- Student evaluations of faculty for pre‐tenure, tenure, or promotion reviews
- Feedback or evaluation forms for workshops, events, or (customer) service experiences, if conducted close in time to the end of the workshop, event, or service
- Surveys conducted within one classroom or course, under the supervision of a faculty member, using convenience sampling (such as MATH 155 students surveying each other or posting a survey link to social media)
- Surveys conducted within the membership of an office, committee, faculty department, targeted alumni group (e.g., reunion committee) or student organization (such as student government surveying its elected members)
- Academic department assessment surveys of their major and/or minors (current or alumni)
- Surveys of department majors and/or minors (current or alumni) conducted for academic department reviews
- Surveys involving only persons who are not Macalester students, faculty, staff, or alumni
In addition, the following activities are exempt from SCC review because they are not surveys:
- Polls for scheduling meeting
- Registration forms for events or activities
- “Interest forms” for capturing interest in future opportunities or further information (e.g. “Sign up if you’d like to receive info about intramural sports”)
- “Crowdsourcing forms” for compiling information or resources (e.g., “Please share recommendations for vegetarian & vegan restaurants for Family Weekend;” “Please tell us which community organizations you partner with.”)
- RSVPs for events
- Administrative record collection (e.g., requesting phone numbers; personal health waivers)
- Focus groups
- In-depth qualitative interviews
- On-site human-subject lab experiments
- Submissions of essays, personal reflections, or artistic creations clearly intended for publication or public presentation in their original form (e.g. submissions to student publications via Google Forms; submissions to the COVID-19 archive).
Expedited Review of Emergency-Response Surveys
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Survey Coordinating Committee (SCC) recognizes that unusually disruptive exigent circumstances may create a need for campus leaders to conduct surveys on a compressed time-frame for the purposes of campus-wide strategic-response planning. Under circumstances in which unforeseen developments result in a substantial likelihood of significant changes or disruptions to normal campus operations, a survey of Macalester students, faculty, staff, or alumni may forgo the full SCC application process and may proceed through an expedited SCC review process, which entails three steps. The SCC commits to conducting as timely a review as possible while working to ensure that all surveys 1) elicit good information and 2) protect respondents.
Survey Recruitment Guidelines
Not all survey projects should be broadcast to the entire Macalester community. Over-sampling our community without broader coordination or consideration induces survey fatigue, drains people’s time and attention from institutional priorities, and increases the risk that ethical oversights will put respondents’ privacy and/or well-being at risk.
To these ends, the guidelines below encourage thoughtful and discerning use of Macalester’s shared communication tools for survey recruitment, including the Mac Daily and campus listservs.
- Faculty and Staff survey projects that are not exempt from SCC review are expected go through the Survey Coordinating Committee (SCC) approval process before researchers submit recruitment messages to the Mac Daily or campus listservs.
- Student survey projects for classes, capstone research, and/or independent studies generally should not recruit through Mac Daily or campus listservs, unless:
- The recruitment is for a lab study being conducted at a specific place and time;
- The survey focuses specifically on populations who might be very difficult to identify and reach through other recruitment methods. This exception must be approved by the SCC.
- Many requests for program feedback and evaluation are exempt from SCC review. However, blanket requests for feedback from the larger Macalester community typically qualify as surveys and are not exempt from review, regardless of survey length. Such requests are expected go through SCC review before being advertised to the broader campus.
- Please be mindful of the ethical implications and necessary safeguards associated with soliciting sensitive information, regardless of recruitment method. Most research on sensitive topics requires IRB approval, both for the protection of respondents and the College.
- The SCC does not monitor or regulate any survey recruitment done through Facebook, Twitter, Mac Social or other social media.
If you have any questions, please contact the SCC Chair, Adam Johnson ([email protected]).