Implementing SOURCE at your Institution

The Survey of Organizational Research Climate (SOURCE) is the first validated instrument specifically designed to measure the climate of research integrity in academic organizations. It collects confidential responses from the members of an organization so the perspectives of the members represent the overall measures, once aggregated. Results can help academic and research institutions identify strong and vulnerable departments; assess efficacy of educational approaches; detect where research policies and practices (e.g., concerning data management, etc.) might be improved through RCR instruction; and generally support efforts to bolster research integrity. Administering the SOURCE at intervals of three to five years will permit institutions to provide data to document changes over time and demonstrate commitment to improving the research integrity climate.

The National Center for Principled Leadership and Research Ethics (NCPRE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers wraparound services for administering the SOURCE at an institution. The advantages of administering the SOURCE through NCPRE include:

  • Partnering with a trusted, known organization
  • Leveraging the expertise of the NCPRE SOURCE team
  • Using a standardized approach with validated methodology
  • Gaining access to comparative results and summary reports
  • Actively demonstrating commitment to research integrity in your organization
  • Contributing to the community of scholars through the de-identified norming database

For more information on how you can arrange with NCPRE to administer the Survey of Organizational Research Climate at your institution, or if we can answer any questions or concerns for you, please contact NCPRE at: or 217-333-1416.

1. Administering the SOURCE Using NCPRE

Background: The survey contains 28 items (rated on 5-point Likert scales) plus items to assess classification information about respondents (academic rank, departmental affiliation, type of highest degree). It takes 10-15 minutes to complete. It is possible for institutions to propose a small number of additional or customizing questions for the survey, subject to our review to assure that the validity of the results is not compromised and that responses could not be used to identify individual respondents.

Steps: After arranging a license through NCPRE, your institution provides emails and names of participants and matches your institutional units to the SOURCE taxonomy in an administrative module. The SOURCE administers the gathering of responses on the survey and reminders to non-respondents.
To encourage high response rates, it is helpful for respected institutional leaders to communicate in advance to alert potential participants to the coming survey, the reasons for the survey, and how its use will inform and benefit the research environment. Sample content will be provided upon request.

The NCPRE SOURCE sends emails to the designated respondents via institutional email addresses seeking survey participation. The invitation contains a link to the survey and a passcode. Customized follow-up reminders are sent once every four days four times only to those who have not yet responded.

The NCPRE SOURCE performs data cleaning, statistical analyses, data summarization and access to the SOURCE Results Analysis Engine. As part of building an NCPRE SOURCE database of aggregated data for comparative purposes, NCPRE retains de-identified information with limited demographics for comparison and benchmarking. The only data identifiers retained in the comparison database are institutional characterization (research-intensive, 4-year college, etc.), gender of respondents, stage of career (student, faculty member, etc.), discipline/department, and region of the US.

To initiate: An organization that wishes to employ NCPRE services to administer the SOURCE can contact NCPRE to discuss the license and fee. The fee is based on the level of NCPRE support and service selected.

BASIC: access to the Results Analysis Engine, which sets out results based on standard classification questions; administration of the survey; no customization. Reports provided include unit-level means, standard deviations(SDs) and percentile rankings for seven integrity climate scales; department-level summarization of each survey item (28 means, SDs); by statuses (e.g. graduate students, post-docs, faculty, staff, technicians).

BASIC PLUS: addition of a limited number of customized items.

BASIC (OR BASIC PLUS) WITH TAILORED REPORT: Once the norming database is adequately populated, it will be possible to provide comparative data tailored to specific types of organizations. This might include a narrative interpretation of the survey results, along with one’s own organizational scores compared to aggregate scores of user-specified types of organizations.

INTERPRETATION/INTERVENTION CONSULTATION: Basic plus report plus a series of consultations providing experienced assistance interpreting the report; insights about what stands out about that institution based on its responses, assistance developing intervention possibilities; sub-setting data by more dimensions.

Results are available through the Results Analysis Engine on EthicsCORE for 90 days after the survey closes. Screenshots of data can be made for later reference.

SOURCE RESULTS ANALYSIS ENGINE ON EthicsCORE: Access to your institution’s data is offered online, with differentiated access for different users (unit heads, college deans, institutional leaders). The online tool uses a reporting engine that can tap into all the aggregated, de-identified data held by NCPRE. The real-time interaction with the data permits comparisons between your institution and other like institutions, right down to discipline level or looking across results for entire institutions.

The SOURCE Results Analysis Engine on EthicsCORE provides a variety of reporting formats and interactive tools, and protects both aggregated data and institutional data through comprehensive security from the first point of access.

Access to the SOURCE Results Analysis Engine on EthicsCORE is available for 90 days after the results have been prepared, with fees set as described above.

REPEAT SURVEYS: Institutions that plan to administer a repeat survey within five years of the initial survey are charged at a discounted package price.

2. Validation

SOURCE provides empirical measures of organizational research climate in the form of seven scales of organizational climate. The instrument was developed by Thrush, Martinson and Wells in part through a collaboration with the Council of Graduate Schools, and validated in a project with funding from the DHHS Office of Research Integrity. These measures of organizational climate correlate with self-reported research-related behavior of individuals at both the department level and individual level (Crain, Martinson & Thrush 2012).

Relationships Between the Survey of Organizational Research Climate (SOURCE) and Self-Reported Research Practices

Development and Validation of the Survey of Organizational Research Climate (SOURCE)

3. How NCPRE Handles Data

NCPRE will report only aggregated results of the survey, with no individual information provided to the institution; all responses are aggregated at the department or similar organization level. As each response is submitted, the NCPRE SOURCE system will separate individual answers from any of the identifying information and the identifying information will be permanently deleted. No individual responses or data will ever be reported and no information will be reported for groups with fewer than five people responding. The very low risk of breach of confidentiality is protected against by removing identifiers and only reporting aggregated data. Participation in the survey is completely voluntary.

Because SOURCE administration and data analysis occurs at NCPRE, participating institutions are never aware of who has or has not responded to the survey.

Because no individually-identifiable data is ever associated with the results, retained by NCPRE or provided to the home institution, survey reports are not human subject research. All SOURCE administration procedures have been reviewed and approved by the University of Illinois Institutional Review Board.

Aggregated, de-identified data is owned by NCPRE. All reports with aggregated information, and the individual-level data, if requested to be returned, belong to the institution; identifying data is always discarded as part of survey administration process. NCPRE retains rights to use the aggregated, de-identified data in the future for unanticipated purposes.

4. Other Ways to Use the SOURCE

Making the SOURCE available through NCPRE has allowed us to automate as many aspects of the data collection, summarization and report generation as possible. As such, we believe that for most institutions, employing NCPRE services to administer the SOURCE will be more cost-effective than in-house survey administration. It also provides an opportunity for your organization to contribute to the development of a norming database that can be used for comparative purposes to inform and support advancement of institutional integrity across research institutions nationally and internationally.

If you are interested in using the SOURCE at your institution, but would prefer to conduct the survey fielding, data cleaning, analysis, summarization and report generation internally, the SOURCE can be licensed independently of NCPRE. If you are interested in pursuing such licensing, please contact Dr. Carol R. Thrush at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at: or by phone at: 501-603-1217.

How to Contact NCPRE

For more information on how you can arrange with NCPRE to administer the Survey of Organizational Research Climate at your institution, or if we can answer any questions or concerns for you, please contact NCPRE at: or 217-333-1416.