The purpose of this study was to identify policies and procedures to improve the overall productivity of current laboratory personnel, as well as understand the factors that affect their work experiences.
Prior to data collection, focus groups were convened with management and bench scientists of the Michigan State Police (MSP) Forensic Science Division in February 2012 to identify critical issues and challenges in their day to day activities as well as internal and external factors that influence their work environment and affect their levels of job stress. The recommendations provided by the focus group were used to refine and develop the survey instrument for this study, which was then pre-tested with a sample of sworn and unsworn forensic scientists from MSP Forensic Science Division laboratories.
Data collection took place in two waves. In the first wave, an electronic survey was distributed to all ASCLD-LAB accredited laboratory directors in November 2012. The research team coordinated with the Executive Director and management of ASCLD-LAB, responsible for accreditation of forensic laboratories. The Director's office distributed an email to all lab directors in charge of currently accredited laboratories, which included a description of the project, informed consent for the study, and an electronic link to the survey instrument. The first solicitation was delivered on November 2, 2012, with a reminder message sent on December 2, 2012 to increase the overall response rate.
In the second wave, a paper survey was distributed in May 2013 to 84 agencies in 25 states to increase the overall response rate and the likelihood of responses from under-represented agencies. The research team constructed a package that was mailed to the laboratory director of each facility along with an introductory letter explaining the reason for the mail and its contents. Packages included individually sealed envelopes to be distributed to each scientist working in the lab, which contained a consent document, paper survey, and self-addressed envelope to return the survey at no cost to the scientist.
A purposive yet convenient sample of respondents was developed through two waves of survey collection. First, an electronic survey was distributed total ASCLD-LAB accredited laboratory directors in November 2012. A second paper survey was distributed in May 2013 to 84 agencies in 25 states to increase the overall response rate and the likelihood of respondents from under-represented agencies. The states were selected because they were under-represented in the electronic survey data due to either low or no responses. A list of the certified laboratories in each of the 25 states was compiled from the information posted on the ASCLD-LAB website. The research team then visited the website for each lab to validate the director contact information, as well as determine an estimated number of scientists that may be working at that facility. A number of labs did not list this information, thus follow-up phone calls and emails were sent to the lab directors of the agencies in order to obtain an estimate. Twenty agencies were excluded from the sample due to missing information and non-responses.
Forensic scientists in public and private laboratories operating at the local, state, and federal level across the United States.
The study (Data n=899, 168 variables) included demographic variables such as race, sex marital status, and education. Other variables included were related to work experience and stress, job satisfaction, experiences with and perceptions of relationships with prosecutors and courts, relationships with top managers, perceptions concerning occupational status and situations, coping mechanisms, and environmental items.
The electronic solicitation method yielded 568 responses though there is no way to determine the response rate due to the distribution method. For the paper survey solicitation, a total of 1,569 surveys were mailed and 331 surveys from 20 states were returned. The response rate for the paper survey distribution was 21.1 percent.
Several Likert type scales were used in this study. These scales ranged from:
- strongly disagree to strongly agree
never to always
- not at all to completely flexible
- bad effect to positive effect
- very uncomfortable to very comfortable
- extremely dissatisfied to extremely satisfied