Survey Methodology

Survey Form: A Web-based survey form was posted at from September 8 to November 29, 2010. Results were collected and collated automatically.

Invitations: E-mail invitations were sent to readers of The Scientist and registrants on The Scientist Web site who identified themselves as nontenured life scientists working in academia, industry or noncommercial research institutions. The survey was also publicized on The Scientist Web site and through news stories.

Responses: 2,881 useable and qualified responses were received. Responses were rejected if the respondent did not identify him or herself as a nontenured scientist working in a noncommercial organization, if the respondent’s institution was not identified or identifiable, or if the response was a duplicate, based on e-mail address or other criteria.

Analysis: Respondents were asked to assess their working environment according to 38 criteria in 9 different areas by posing positive statements with which the respondent was asked...

Identification of Institutions: As much as possible, institutions were identified and names were standardized. Responses from institutions with branches or campuses in multiple locations were lumped together.

Thresholds: 76 US institutions and 17 non-US institutions that received 5 or more responses were included in the rankings.

Scoring: Scores for each statement were averaged by institution and country.

Ranking: In order to calculate the overall rankings of institutions, we first weighted each factor based on the average importance score. Because several factors that are ranked as important in the United States are ranked as less important outside the U.S. and vice versa, we used different factor weightings in our ranking of US and non-US institutions. The overall rankings were based on the average score per institution on all factors, weighted as described.

In addition, we ranked institutions based on unweighted average scores for the 9 major topic categories covered by the statements included in the survey. These categories are:

    1. Quality of Training and Mentoring
    2. Career Development Opportunities and Networking
    3. Quality of Communication
    4. Value of the Postdoc Experience
    5. Quality of Facilities and Infrastructure
    6. Funding
    7. Equity
    8. Pay and Benefits
    9. Family and Personal Life

Results: Results are published in The Scientist, March 2011 issue, and are available on The Scientist Web site at


  • The sample of respondents, while large, was self-selected, which may introduce some bias into the results.
  • The scoring of results is not standardized, and standards may fluctuate between individuals, institutions, and countries.
  • In some cases, small sample responses may have led to bias in the results.
  • No attempt has been made to measure the statistical significance of the results. The difference between, say a 10th-ranked and a 15th-ranked institution may be insignificant.

The survey was developed and responses were analyzed by The Scientist staff.

Click here to view the questions used in this survey.

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