How can I effectively reach Cornell staff for participation in a research study?

Date: March 2017



I’m a doctoral candidate in life sciences and I’m working on a weight gain prevention study for Cornell employees. People gain about one pound per year and we are trying to see if daily self weighing can prevent this unwanted weight gain. We are looking for Cornell employees who will be in the area for the next two years. They would receive $20 for the first height and weight measurement and be randomly assigned to the treatment group (we give them a scale to weigh themselves daily) or the control group, which does nothing. At the end of two years they would receive $50 for the height and weight measurement.

We are having trouble recruiting participants. Any Cornell employee may be eligible (building care, administrative staff, deans, etc.). Do you have any ideas of how to effectively reach employees?


Weight-researching Graduate Student


Dear Weight-researching Graduate Student,

Thanks for your Ask a Dean question. 

Your research project sounds similar to a doctoral student’s study I participated in a few years ago. My participation in it instilled for me a set of healthy behaviors that continue to this day. I strongly encourage others to participate, and hope you will attract the participants you need for your research.

Two of the best venues to reach staff are PawPrint and the Wellness Newsletter. I believe an announcement has already run in PawPrint but you are welcome to resubmit. The process would be:

  1. Read policy on surveying Cornell staff. [Policy removed from HR volume as of academic year 2018.]
  2. Get approval from IRB
  3. Get permission from Mary Opperman, Vice President of Human Resources. 
  4. Submit your request and proof of #2 and #3 to Nancy Doolittle at

The Wellness Newsletter reaches 6000+ faculty, staff, retirees, and spouses; if you’ve posted in this already, you can resubmit there as well:

  1. Read the policy on surveying Cornell staff. [Policy removed from HR volume as of academic year 2018.]
  2. Get approval from IRB
  3. Submit your request to Kerry Howell, Kerry will let you know the proper format for submissions. 

You might also talk with administrative, building care, and other staff in your unit and ask where they look for information and what information outlets they regularly read, and see if you can post in those as well. In addition, your department chair may be able to put you in touch with your college’s communication officer to inquire whether a special feature could be published on you and your research to try to foster additional interest and volunteers. 

Best wishes with your study.

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School