At my place of work, among my other responsibilities I am responsible for following up with and scheduling participants in our longitudinal study. This study has been going on since the late 80’s, and many of these subjects have been coming in since they were children. For context this is my first job since completing undergrad.

At first productivity was high. I was scheduling more subjects per month than my PI had seen in several years. As time went on, it became apparent that this glut of subjects I scheduled in the first few months was a result of a build-up during a transitional period shortly before I was hired. Not many subjects were scheduled for a span of about four months before I was hired, and these neglected subjects were the cause of my high numbers.

Since then productivity has steadily lowered.

I then began blaming myself. Spending hours on the phone each day attempting to contact subjects, while not difficult, is draining. I do sometimes procrastinate when I should be working. However after months of serious attempts to bring my numbers up, I feel comfortable stating that my work is not the issue.

It seems apparent that the study, or at least it’s current phase, may be winding down. Due to the nature of our research, many of our subjects have a troubled home life, severe substance abuse issues, and are estranged from their families.

Often our contact information for our subjects is out of date. Many of our subjects use pre-paid phones and change their number often. Our study is also based in NYC, and many of our subjects have moved several times over the years. I currently use White Pages Premium, White Pages Pro, Facebook, and just googling people’s names when the info we have in our records does not suffice.

On top of this, many of our subjects are now at an age where it is simply not worth it for them to come in. They either make more than what we offer in compensation at their jobs, are too busy with their careers, or have family to take care of.

My PI has been concerned with productivity as we will be applying to renew a grant soon. I’m trying very hard to bring in more of our subjects, but it feels like there is only so much I can do.

As this is my first job, I’m worried that this could seriously affect my career/hopes for grad school if my PI feels that I am to blame. How should I navigate this situation? Are there additional resources for tracking down these subjects I should suggest to my PI?

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