Universities and colleges most likely contribute to the teaching of future graduate students in ecology were selected by using the following 3 methods. First, the US News and World Report's "Best Graduate Schools" website was used to identify the top ten Ecology and Evolutionary Biology graduate schools in the United States in 2010. Second, the website www.PhDs.org was used to collate a list of graduate schools in ecology with high National Research Council (NRC) Quality Measures. The NRC Quality Measure was set to priority five out of a possible five with all other priorities set to zero (not considered). Third, the same method as method two was used, except that the priority was set to five for Research Quality of the institution. And lastly, we obtained a list of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipients for 2006 to 2010 for the life sciences. We removed the following areas of study: biochemistry, biophysics, cell biology, computational biology, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, molecular biology, neurosciences, and nutrition. The number of awards per institution were tallied and the Carnegie Classification system was used to determine whether schools were Research Universities (RU) or Baccalaureate/Arts and Sciences (BAS) institutions. BAS institutions with more than 4 awards were used in the survey. Based on these methods, a list of 51 target institutions were generated for the survey.
Each institution's website was extensively searched to determine which course(s) were applicable for the survey. Fit was determined subjectively based on the course description, course requirements for ecology-related majors, and the academic department(s) housing the course. After the most appropriate course was identified, the department was contacted to verify that the course selected was appropriate for the survey. The person contacted was the department chair, the undergraduate course advisor, or a professor within the department.
The survey consisted of 33 questions that fell into four categories: (1) basic course characteristics, such as class size, laboratory components, reading materials, and prerequisites; (2) the extent to which data management is covered and use of data in the course; (3) instructor opinion about the importance of data management education for undergraduates and perceived barriers to teaching topics related to data management; and (4) instructor characteristics, including year of PhD, percentage of time teaching versus conducting research, and data sharing practices.
The survey was conducted online using Survey Monkey. Emails to instructors were sent out 29 March 2011 and the survey was closed 25 May 2011.