The Royal Society of Chemistry

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The Royal Society of Chemistry 2016 Member Survey - Getting everyone around the table at the onset of a research journey.

The Challenge: The Royal Society of Chemistry is the world’s leading chemistry community. Membership is over 54,000 in 125 countries; the highest recorded in its 175-year history. The Royal Society of Chemistry is a not for profit organisation; it reinvests its income in supporting the chemical science community and advancing chemistry.  At its heart, it has the development and promotion of chemistry and those who are training and working in the field.

Every two years, the Royal Society of Chemistry conducts a full membership survey. The aim of this survey is to understand perceptions of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the membership offering and opportunities to improve, and broad levels of engagement. The findings are compared with those from the previous member surveys, to help track and respond to any significant change, and check progress against high level objectives. The target audience is existing and lapsed members, and non-members.

In order to measure the progress of the strategic priorities there were a number of topics that needed to be covered by the research. There was a need to compare some metrics over time and also include new topic areas which align to shifting strategic priorities. Balancing these requirements without over-burdening respondents was a key consideration in survey design. 

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The Solution: Given the number of stakeholders with the Royal Society of Chemistry who had an interest in the design of the questionnaire, it was important to convene a survey design workshop at the onset. The questionnaire was discussed in detail and suggestions made on its content. The ultimate aim was to achieve a survey that provided the required insights and was also comparative to previous years where appropriate. It was also necessary to fully engage the target audience in its completion.

With the study objectives underpinning all discussions, Research by Design and the Royal Society of Chemistry challenged each existing question in the survey:

           - What insight did the question bring to the Society?
           - Who would be using the data?
           - What decisions were made as a result of that data?
           - Is the question important to address this year’s objectives?

The Impact: A total of 9,392 respondents completed the 2016 membership survey, which gave a robust data set to work with. The collaborative work undertaken at the start of the project ensured that all stakeholders were aligned in their expectations of what the survey would help to answer and inform. In particular, the Royal Society of Chemistry was able to shape career management services based on the information gleaned from survey data. This is now tailored to membership category and ensures that members receive bespoke information, relevant to their career stage.

Stakeholders from the Society continue to take a great deal of value from data gathered via full membership surveys, and continue to use data, verbatim comments, subgroup analysis in the months and years following the research.

“With Research by Design’s support, we knew that we were collecting the right information from our members and wider community and doing so with a clear understanding of how we wanted to use it. This allowed us to move forward confidently, quickly putting the report to action.

The results directed us towards a significant step change for our membership offering, refining the benefits and focussing the right products and services at the right groups of members. Ongoing use of the report and the raw data allows us to check our hypotheses, ensuring our thoughts and ideas meet the needs of our community and allowing them to evolve and develop.

Even now [January 2018], we are using the data to test our understanding of member subgroups, segmenting our community by sector and job role to continue building the relevance of the support available to them and their careers.” – Gareth Davies, Membership Development & Recruitment Specialist."

Based on the success of the 2014 and 2016 surveys undertaken on behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry using this tried-and-tested way of working, the next iteration of the membership survey will be sent out to all members at the start of 2018 with over 50,000 members invited to take part.

In the run up to the launch of the 2018 survey, insights gained from the 2016 research were published in the member magazine, Voice. This detailed findings garnered from the survey and showed members the decisions that were influenced on the basis of the information they shared with the Society.