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October 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
The Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health (Burnet Institute) based in Melbourne, employs about 140 people. The institute has eight tearooms; four are “programme linked”—that is, predominantly used by the staff of a single programme—and four are communal: two are attached to formal meeting rooms, one is a large multipurpose staff room, and one is a rather barren corridor with kitchen facilities.
Between 5 February 2004 and 18 June 2004 we carried out a pilot study to gain an initial impression of the manner of teaspoon loss at the institute and to refine our methods for the full study. We purchased 32 plain stainless steel teaspoons, discreetly numbered with red nail polish on the undersides of the handles, and distributed into a subset of the eight tearooms: 16 in the programme linked tearooms and 16 in the communal tearooms. We carried out a weekly audit over five months to assess any changes in the distribution of the teaspoons throughout the institute.
At the completion of the pilot study we carried out a longitudinal cohort study. We purchased and numbered a further 54 stainless steel teaspoons. In addition we purchased and discreetly numbered 16 teaspoons of higher quality. The teaspoons were distributed (stratified by spoon type) throughout the eight tearooms, with a higher proportion allocated to those tearooms with the highest teaspoon losses in the pilot study.
We carried out counts of the teaspoons weekly for two months then fortnightly for a further three months. Desktops and other immediately visible surfaces were scanned for errant spoons.
After five months we revealed our previously covert research project to the institute’s staff. They were asked to return or anonymously report any marked teaspoons that had made their way into desk drawers or homes. Two days after the revelation, staff were asked to complete a brief anonymous questionnaire, which dealt with their attitudes towards and knowledge of teaspoons and teaspoon theft.
After five months, 56 (80%) of 70 teaspoons had disappeared. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Ray Jones