Initial results from the Survey of Organizational Research Climates (SOuRCe) in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System
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BACKGROUND: In service to its core mission of improving the health and well-being of veterans, Veterans Affairs (VA) leadership is committed to supporting research best practices in the VA. Recognizing that the behavior of researchers is influenced by the organizational climates in which they work, efforts to assess the integrity of research climates and share such information with research leadership in VA may be one way to support research best practices. The Survey of Organizational Research Climate (SOuRCe) is the first validated survey instrument specifically designed to assess the organizational climate of research integrity in academic research organizations. The current study reports on an initiative to use the SOuRCe in VA facilities to characterize the organizational research climates and pilot test the effectiveness of using SOuRCe data as a reporting and feedback intervention tool. METHODS: We administered the SOuRCe using a cross-sectional, online survey, with mailed follow-up to non-responders, of research-engaged employees in the research services of a random selection of 42 VA facilities (e.g., Hospitals/Stations) believed to employ 20 or more research staff. We attained a 51% participation rate, yielding more than 5,200 usable surveys. RESULTS: We found a general consistency in organizational research climates across a variety of sub-groups in this random sample of research services in the VA. We also observed similar SOuRCe scale score means, relative rankings of these scales and their internal reliability, in this VA-based sample as we have previously documented in more traditional academic research settings. Results also showed more substantial variability in research climate scores within than between facilities in the VA research service as reflected in meaningful subgroup differences. These findings suggest that the SOuRCe is suitable as an instrument for assessing the research integrity climates in VA and that the tool has similar patterns of results that have been observed in more traditional academic research settings. CONCLUSIONS: The local and specific nature of organizational climates in VA research services, as reflected in variability across sub-groups within individual facilities, has important policy implications. Global, "one-size-fits-all" type initiatives are not likely to yield as much benefit as efforts targeted to specific organizational units or sub-groups and tailored to the specific strengths and weaknesses documented in those locations.
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