If you think you get low response rates for research participants at science centers, try recruiting first-and second-year non-science-major undergrads in the summer. So far, since posting my first flyers in May, I have gotten 42 people to even visit the eligibility survey (either by Quick Response/QR code or by tinyurl), and a miserable 2 have completed my interview. I only need 18 participants total!

Since we’re a research outfit, here’s the breakdown of the numbers:

Action Number Percentage of those viewing survey
Visit eligibility survey 42 100
Complete eligibility survey 18 43
Schedule Interview 5 12
Complete Interview 2 5

Between scheduling and completing, I’ve had 2 no shows, and 1 who was actually an engineering major and didn’t read the survey correctly. I figure that of the people who visit the survey and don’t complete it, most figure out they are not eligible (and didn’t read the criteria on the flyer), which is ok.

What is baffling and problematic is the low percentage who complete the survey but then don’t respond to schedule an interview – the dropoff from 18 to 5. I can only figure that they aren’t expecting, don’t find, or don’t connect the Doodle poll I send via email with available time slots. It might go to junk mail, or it may not be clear what the poll is about. There’s a section at the end of the eligibility survey to let folks know there is a doodle poll coming, and I’ve sent it twice to most folks who haven’t responded. I’m not sure what else I can do, short of telephoning people who give me phone numbers. I think that’s my next move, honestly.

Then there’s the no-shows, which is just plain rude. One did email me later and ask to reschedule; that interview did get done. Honestly, this part of “research” is no fun; it’s just frustrating. However, this week is the week before school starting in these parts; I will probably soon set up a table in the Quad with my computer and recruit and schedule people there. Might not solve the no-show problem, but if I can get 100 people scheduled, if half of them no-show, I’ll have a different, much better, problem – cancelling on everyone else! I’m also asking friends who are instructors to let their classes know about the project.

On a side note to our regular readers, as it’s been almost a year of blogging here, we’re refining the schedule a bit. Starting in October, you should see posts about the general Visitor Center research activities by any number of us on Mondays. Wednesdays and Fridays will most often be about student projects for theses and such. Enjoy, and as always, let us know what you think!


Normally, once the majority of undergrads have finished their third term finals and graduation is a teary memory, there is a calm that overcomes campus that those of us here year-round have come to expect. Don’t get me wrong, the undergrads are the reason for this institution, but there are an awful lot of them (and more each year).

However, this year, I’m in a bit of a pickle. My study is specifically trying to target the general adult public, that is, those with a high-school degrees but maybe not a lot of undergraduate experience. At Hatfield, we generally have a slightly higher-educated population than I need. Also, my experiment takes an hour, so the casual visitor is unlikely to break from their group for that long. And my local campus population, at least my local congregation of said population, has just skedaddled for the summer.

So I’m busy trying to find anywhere those remaining might be: the very few residence halls that remain open (which also requires navigating some tricky flier-posting rules), the occasionally-open dining halls, lecture halls which might still have classes and bulletin boards nearby and the library, MU, and some local eateries. I’m also heading to the community college where many students are cross-registered and where they might be knocking out some core courses during the summer on the cheap(er). Hm, maybe I should post a flier at the local store where my incentive gift cards are from? In truth, this is really still just a convenience sample, as I am not plastering fliers all over Corvallis, let alone anywhere else in the state or country. At least, not at this point …

Any ideas welcome! Where do you go to find your research subjects?

I’ve started trying to recruit subjects, including first-year undergraduates and oceanography faculty, for my dissertation work. And it’s a slooooow process, partly due to poor timing, partly due to everyone being busy.

It’s poor timing because it’s finals week here at OSU. Not only are students consumed (rightly) by those end-of-term tests, it’s finals right before summer break. So on top of everything, people are scattering to the four winds, frantically moving out of apartments, and scrambling to start summer jobs or summer classes. So, I’m being patient and trying to think creatively about recruiting a fairly broad, random sample of folks. So far I’m posting flyers in classroom buildings and dining and residence halls, but my next step may be standing in front of the library or student union with all the folks trying to get initiatives on the ballot for November.

The faculty are another story, of course. I can easily get contact information and even fairly detailed information about their experience with visualizations. However, they are also quickly scattering for summer research cruises – two I called just today are leaving early next week for 10 days to 3 weeks. Luckily, I got them to agree to participate when they get back. I’m still getting several brush offs of “too busy.” So my tactic to fight back here is to find other professors they know who can make me less of a ‘generic’ grad student and thus somewhat harder to say no to.

All in all, it’s rejection the same as in exhibit evaluation, just with different excuses.

Stay tuned!