Values & Culture Survey FAQ

Need to know more about the Penn State Values & Culture Survey? Here is a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. Faculty, staff, technical service employees, postdoctoral scholars and fellows, and students will receive the invitation email from our outside vendor, the Ethics Research Center (ERC). Participants can reach the ERC Help Desk by emailing ethicssurvey@ethics.org, or by calling 800-777-1285. The Help Desk phone line is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

What is the purpose of this survey? How will results be used?

This survey is follow-up to the 2013 Values and Culture Survey. It is designed to help University leadership gain a fuller understanding of the experiences of the people who learn and work at Penn State every day. The end result will be a better understanding of the community’s awareness of University standards of conduct; perceptions of misconduct at the University; and a clearer picture of the culture at Penn State, particularly when it comes to community members’ actual and perceived ability to report wrongdoing without the threat of retaliation. The results will help University leaders to focus ongoing efforts to ensure that Penn State continues to provide an open, ethical environment for learning and work.

What actions have been taken as a result of the last Values & Culture Survey in 2013?

The 2013 Values and Culture Survey identified some areas of particular concern, including rates of observed misconduct, perceived abusive and intimidating behavior, discrimination, academic integrity violations, lack of trust in the reporting process, and fear of retaliation.  

In response to these findings, Penn State took a number of actions. For example:

  • We simplified the process and means of reporting misconduct
  • We instituted standardized investigatory and review procedures
  • We introduced new awareness, training, and educational programs
  • We increased accountability for ethics and compliance obligations and misconduct
  • We fostered increased transparency and collaboration among leadership, faculty, and staff
  • We have worked directly with colleges, campuses, and units to address their particular challenges

As a result, Penn State has been recognized as a leader among institutions of higher education in addressing ethical organizational culture challenges and developing initiatives to promote an ethical culture.

Why should I participate?

This is an opportunity for your voice to be heard! You will provide feedback to the University about the culture that we are creating as a community. Every voice is important in this conversation, and we need as much information as possible. The greater the participation, the more accurate the picture of Penn State. This picture provides more opportunity to improve Penn State as a place to earn a world-class education and build a rewarding career.

Is this survey anonymous? Will anyone at Penn State be able to identify me?

The survey is anonymous, and no one at Penn State will be able to identify you.  In order to allow members of the Penn State community to be candid with their input, Penn State contracted with an independent third-party organization to implement the survey. The Ethics Research Center (ERC) – the research division of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Va. – will distribute the survey and collect data from participants.  ERC is a leader in this area and has a strong commitment to protecting participants’ identities.

ERC uses your email address to invite you to the survey, but then removes all identifiers (e.g., email address) at the conclusion of the survey.  Responses will be aggregated and only summary data will be provided to Penn State. If there are less than 20 participants of any group on a question, ERC will not report information on that question to Penn State in order to protect the identities of participants.

For more information on these and additional confidentiality protocols used in the survey, visit http://news.psu.edu/story/487088/2017/10/09/administration/values-and-culture-survey-designed-confidentiality-mind.

How long will it take to complete the survey?

The length of the survey will vary based on each participant’s responses. For example, if you select a certain answer to a question, you may be asked additional follow-up questions based on that answer. Thus the survey will take approximately 15-20 minutes depending upon the number of questions you are asked.  

How common are such surveys among other similarly sized employers nationwide? How, generally speaking, does a large organization make use of the results of such a survey?

Among large for-profit and government organizations, it is common practice to conduct employee surveys about ethics, climate and culture. Results are used to identify ways to strengthen the ethical culture, and also to pinpoint the issues that require attention. These surveys also are helpful in understanding the drivers that either perpetuate or challenge a given culture. Data from these types of surveys help leaders to identify priorities for their ethics and compliance programs, to identify topics for training and communications, and to develop resources and support systems for stakeholders.

Will I get to see the results?

Yes. ERC will deliver an executive summary of the findings in the spring of 2018. As was done with the 2013 survey, Penn State will publish the executive summary and summary data tables.

This survey is being directed to faculty, administrators, staff, technical service employees, postdoctoral scholars and fellows, and students? What about others?

We take very seriously the views and opinions of all members of the Penn State community, and actively seek their feedback on a wide array of issues. Since the focus of this particular survey is on the current culture at Penn State, we are seeking feedback from current faculty, staff, technical service employees, postdoctoral scholars and fellows, and students. They collectively represent the population that experiences day-to-day life at the University as it exists now. However, this survey represents just one of the current and continuing efforts to gather feedback from our many constituent groups, all of which are focused on the continuous improvement of Penn State.

How much is Penn State paying the ERC to perform this survey, and where is the money coming from?

ERC is a recognized leader in the field of organizational survey work and it is a highly competitive field. This survey contract was vetted through the procurement process, and the contract contains a non-disclosure clause. Funding for this survey work was set aside previously in the general funds budget, recognizing that the results will inform us as we move forward in setting goals and planning for the future.

Is this initiative following the Office of Research Protections protocol?

The Office for Research Protections (ORP) has discussed this survey with The Office of Ethics and Compliance.  It has been determined that the survey does not meet the definition of Human Participant Research, as defined by the DHHS Federal Regulations. The survey’s purpose is for gathering data for internal University use. In meeting the criteria for the DHHS Federal Regulations definition of “human participant research," the initiative must fulfill requirements for BOTH “human participant” and “research."

Earlier, I was not able to enter the survey or I received one of the following error messages: "Server Error," "Server Timed Out," or "404 File Not Found." How do I correct this problem if it happens again?

The website might be busy. If it happens again, please wait a few minutes and try logging on again.

What if I need to exit the survey before finishing?

If you need to exit the survey before finishing, simply exit the site and your answers will automatically be saved. To return, just follow the link within your e-mail invitation, or re-enter your unique URL into your web browser bar, and you will arrive at the last question you answered.

What should I do if I have additional questions about the survey?

Please refer to the Help page on the survey website or contact ERC's Helpdesk via email at ethicssurvey@ethics.org or via phone by calling ERC's toll-free number in the USA, +1 800.777.1285, Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:00 pm (0900 and 1700) Eastern Time (ET).