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Vol. LlX, No. 6
March 23, 2007
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Readers' Survey Is Largely Positive for NIH Record

A web-based NIH Record readership survey conducted late last fall showed that most employees read and value the biweekly employee newsletter, but that there are significant problems with distribution. Many NIH'ers never see it, although a paper copy is published every payday Friday for everyone who works here.

The invitation to participate in the online survey was emailed to 32,408 addresses and garnered 3,779 responses, a rate of about 12 percent. "That's okay, but a little bit lower than the response rate to some of our other employee surveys," said Joe Wolski, an industrial engineer in ORS's Office of Quality Management, which conducted the survey for the Record. He said a recent survey of employee opinion about security at NIH drew a more robust response of between 30-40 percent.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they read the Record; 31 percent don't. The most faithful readers are employees in professional jobs, and those who have been at NIH for more than 10 years. The newest members of the workforce read it least (especially those identifying themselves as trainees or students); many indicated they didn't know it existed.

Eighty-one percent of respondents read the paper version, although many were unaware that the Record has an online presence, too (at ../index.htm). Ninety-one percent say issues are about the right length (typically 12 pages, but occasionally 16); 90 percent say it comes out often enough; 89 percent say stories themselves are about the right length; and 73 percent say the balance of photos to text is about right.

Read Us, Write to Us, This Is for You

A fair number of respondents to the recent NIH Record readership survey were unaware that the newsletter already offers the items they want to see.

For example, some called for a Letters to the Editor column, to stimulate discussion on issues relevant to employees. The Record instituted such a column in July 1996. Our only requirement was that submissions deal with issues of interest to NIH’ers and be signed by the author. Few took us up on the column, however. The most recent published Letter to the Editor was in May 2004.

If you have a contribution to make to a campus concern, email the editors, whose addresses are published on page 2 of every issue.

A number of readers also admonished us to make known our recyclability as office white paper, which we do, again, on page 2 of every issue.

Some respondents decried the lack of an NIH Record web site. We have been online continuously since 1996, every two weeks, at www.nih.gov/nihrecord/index.htm. Others want an email reminder every time we publish. That, too, is available at the site above, if you simply click on the RSS feed link.

Lastly, our survey revealed that desk-to-desk distribution of the paper copies is in disarray. If you are not getting your own personal copy of the paper, contact the mail room in your facility. There are plenty of Records to go around and no one should be without The Second Best Thing About Payday.

Two-thirds of Record readers are women. But only 55 percent of respondents say they see the Record regularly and have a chance to pick up a copy.

Four of the survey's 18 questions offered respondents a chance to comment and 2,039 people did, submitting a total of 5,414 remarks. We asked about the Record's strengths, weaknesses, advice for the editors and topics needing more attention. "It's noteworthy that more strengths comments were received than weaknesses comments," said OQM's Andrea Davis.

Strengths included variety of content and well-written articles. The most common observation about weaknesses was that there are none. "Uninteresting" and "non-controversial" stories were seen as deficits and a small but stubborn number of respondents think we should be put out of business.

The most common comment about "topics needing more attention" was "can't think of any." The most common advice to the editors was "keep up the good work." Many respondents also want to see more coverage of the average worker rather than the official whose accomplishments are widely known. Human interest feature stories remain popular.

The editors will use data from the survey to direct future issues and will poll readers again in a year or two to find out how we are doing. Thanks to all who participated.

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