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Results of the membership survey

By Geoff Hart

Previously published, in a different form, as: Hart, G.J. 2000. Results of the membership survey. the Exchange 7(1):5–6.

I received a total of 23 responses, though the totals listed below won’t always add up to 23; as often occurs in this type of survey, some respondents selected multiple categories in responding to a question, and others didn’t respond at all. The results suggest that we’re a surprisingly diverse bunch, that each of us fills a surprising number of roles, and that there are many different opportunities to write for the newsletter should you be willing to write, but unable to come up with a good topic.

What kind of work does your employer (or your client) do? “Applied scientific research” was the winner here (15 replies), with “basic scientific research” (11 replies) and “product development” (10 replies) a close second. Other responses included economics research, magazine publishing, and telecommunications work. In terms of employment, the majority worked for a private corporation (13 replies), with government agencies (7 replies) and universities or other teaching institutions (5 replies) a distant second and third alternative. Full-time work (12 replies) was the winner over part-time work (7 replies) by a comparable margin, but because I didn’t provide “contractor” as a choice, these data are a bit confounded.

Interestingly, most of us produce a wide variety of communication products, though technical reports (19 replies) accounted for the single most common product we produce; responses selected by more than 50% of respondents included articles for peer-reviewed journals (14 replies), and Web pages or other Internet tools (13 replies). Slide presentations or speeches (12 replies) were next most important, followed by marketing communications and conference or symposium proceedings (both with 11 replies). White papers (position statements) and educational materials (both with 9 replies) plus training materials and multimedia (video, CD-ROM, etc.) brought up the rear, with 8 replies each. Interestingly, even the least common work (research grant applications, with 5 replies) was performed by more than 20% of respondents. Other work included producing scholarly and other books, quarterly periodicals, computer manuals, edited text or graphics or Internet material, articles for building/construction professionals, a monthly magazine (chemistry), and user manuals.

Requests for articles in future issues of the newsletter placed a strong emphasis on practicality, though every category of article received strong support (each type of article was requested by nearly 50% of respondents). “Practical, hands-on tips for writing and editing” (19 replies) was the grand winner, with the popularity of the remaining articles as follows: opinion pieces or guest editorials (17 replies), Web site reviews (16 replies), announcements of upcoming conferences or meetings (15 replies), book reviews (14 replies), reviews of software that can help resolve typical scientific communications problems (13 replies), tips on using the Internet more productively (13 replies), results of communication research (12 replies), a question and answer column (12 replies), and case studies of a communications effort such as technology transfer (11 replies). Literature reviews would also be popular, with the following specific topics mentioned: geology or earth sciences, typography and layout, technical or technological literacy, writing for a general audience, fact checking, and user-support materials for technical or scientific products. Other requested information included tips on contracting or freelancing, biographies of technical communicators, tips on how to break into the field, discussions of science writing and rhetoric, job profiles, job listings, writing in the fields of plant pathology and horticulture, writing for translation, and summaries of relevant mailing list discussions.


My essays on scientific communication have now been collected in the following book:

Hart, G. 2011. Exchanges: 10 years of essays on scientific communication. Diaskeuasis Publishing, Pointe-Claire, Que. Printed version, 242 p.; eBook in PDF format, 327 p.


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