APS members feel that lobbying, informing the public, and improving education are what the Society should make its highest priorities, according to a survey of regular and junior members that was completed in June. (Junior members are those within 3 years of their PhD.)
The survey was sent out electronically in late March to approximately 5000 APS members, and after two additional reminders, a 61% response rate was achieved. The survey concentrated on membership issues; other surveys are planned for further specific areas of Society activity, such as meetings and publications. Respondents chose staying abreast of developments in the field (53%) as the highest ranking reason they continue as APS members.
Other highly-rated reasons included keeping in touch with the physics community (51%) and supporting the physics community (50%). Forty-four percent listed receiving Physics Today as a reason that they continue as members.
Junior members in particular appreciated the ability to submit abstracts at APS meetings (43%) and the reduced meeting registration fees (47%), although these benefits were rated only at 28% and 22% by all the respondents.
Survey respondents had the opportunity to provide comments as well as answer questions.
Although lobbying activities were ranked as a high priority by 76%, the survey collected a wide range of individual views, from "I put high priority in APS using its clout to educate the public and Congress, and to actually lobby" to "APS is strongly mistaken if it tries to become a lobbying organization. Its strength is that it can promote the education of the public in general, which is where the power resides for the future of physics."
APS Director of Membership Trish Lettieri noted that a 1996 membership survey had found that the APS was not communicating effectively with its members. After much attention was paid to this issue, a 2001 survey showed that the situation had improved considerably. Lettieri said that the current survey confirms the trend that members generally know about, and approve of, the activities that the APS is conducting.
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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette