UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes > November 1996 Search

It's your turn:
Results of the 1996 Staff Notes/This Week survey

Earlier this year, we asked for your opinions on This Week and Staff Notes Monthly in a survey sent to all staff by interoffice mail. We've pored over exactly 300 replies (a better-than-25% response rate) and compiled the results.

Overall, you seem relatively content with the system introduced in October 1994, in which we split Staff Notes, formerly a print weekly, into an electronic weekly with short announcements and a print/World Wide Web monthly with the longer features that were part of the old Staff Notes. However, a fraction of you still pine for the old weekly--in large part because you find yourselves inundated with required reading material on line and look to SN as a break from staring at that screen.

What's changed from 1989 to 1996?

The box of results in this issue gives the statistical breakdown for the survey. We've compared it with results from the last SN survey, performed in 1989. The return rate was somewhat lower this time around, but still well above that of most anonymous surveys. For those questions with counterparts in both surveys, the 1989 results are in parentheses.

Just as we found in the 1989 survey, more than 95% of respondents read the weekly publication in some form. The vast majority of you use the e-mail option, as opposed to calling up This Week on the Web. Announcements is still the most popular part of the weekly package. However, Job Openings is now in second place, just ahead of Calendar. The Menu and Visitors sections are less read, though a substantial portion of you read both of these at least sometimes.

In light of the discontent some of you expressed with This Week, we were heartened to see that nearly a third of respondents--91 in all--found TW more useful than the old SN, while only 53 found it less useful. (The other respondents either were neutral or had joined UCAR after TW began.) One respondent wrote, "I can read a section at a time and not lose my place. I can delete what I don't want to read and not feel guilty."

What about all-local-users e-mail? Sometimes an item will appear in that format and then show up in This Week (or vice versa). This redundancy bothered about a third of respondents (92). More than half (161) said it was fine to run the repeats, while a small fraction (23) want all announcements sent only as all-local-users mail.

The role of SN Monthly

Now that it's a monthly without short-fuse information, Staff Notes seems to be considered less of a required read than the old weekly SN. Still, more than half of those surveyed nearly always read each issue, while about a third read it "sometimes." About 10% of you seldom or never read it; only about 2% fell into those categories for the former weekly SN. About a quarter of respondents said they read SN less often now than before (71) while half that number (33) read it more often now.

With more time to write articles, we've tried to pack more into each issue of the monthly. For some of you, that approach has backfired. "The articles are well done," wrote one reader, "although I generally set the issues aside because I need time to read them. Sometimes I never get back to them."

Most of you gave the thumbs-up to each section of SN Monthly, indicating that you read it "nearly always" or "sometimes." We'll take that as an sign that you like the current mix of coverage, although we plan to do some tweaking in the coming months (see "From the survey").

Enough already?

With virtually all staff now having Web access of some type, we in Communications often debate how we can best exploit the new technology to bring you news. Along those lines, we asked if you would be interested in weekly delivery of a news "digest": two- or three-sentence blurbs delivered by e-mail with the full articles on the Web.

Only a third of respondents said they liked the idea, while another third said they'd read the summaries but might not make it to the Web-based features. The comments we got were much more negative than these numbers might indicate. "Reading anything at length on the Web is difficult," one reader pointed out. "It is much easier to read and comprehend 'printed' than 'displayed' articles." Another respondent: "Ah yes, the Web. It's fluffy."

Given the lack of a mandate on this question, we're going to be cautious with any further shifts from print to the Web for the time being. Though it is an invaluable information source, the Web may not be the most effective way to deliver "news"--it can't tap you on the shoulder and tell you that news has arrived. We will continue to monitor the technology and use electronic vehicles in ways that make sense, keeping the results of this survey in mind. For instance, we will be pulling excerpts from Web-posted UCAR and NCAR press releases and including them, with the appropriate Web addresses, in This Week's announcements.

On behalf of the UCAR Communications crew, thanks for being so free and forthright with your comments. Below is a sampling of your requests and questions, answered to the best of our ability. The full list of comments and the table of results are also in this issue. It's never too late to give us feedback: write to bhenson@ucar.edu or call ext. 8605. •BH

From the survey

This Week

I know it's environmentally appropriate and more cost-effective to do without hard copy, but it feels like work I need to deal with instead of something pleasurable to read when it comes to me interspersed with work things via e-mail.

I do not care to spend any more time than I have to looking at a computer screen.

Go back to the nice-looking hard copy! (May be impractical now--but you asked!)

We debated long and hard before launching This Week and ending the weekly hard-copy Staff Notes in October 1994. The old Staff Notes included a good deal of announcement-type information--things that you refer to, rather than read at length. Given that nearly all staff now have some form of e-mail access, it seemed wasteful to continue to use paper and incur printing expense for such items. Recognizing that long articles were difficult to read on line, we decided to pool those to form SN Monthly.

Because of the switch, we are saving more than $10,000 in printing costs and hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper each year, while distributing the same amount of news and information to staff.

Our eyes get blurry just like everyone else's, and we are keenly aware of the down side to on-line communication. However, returning to the weekly hard-copy Staff Notes would be a difficult move to justify in these fiscally pinched times. Some of the savings from This Week has gone to recoup new photographic and layout expenses for SN Monthly because of NCAR's switch to a chargeback-based Image and Design Center. Thus, the old format now would cost thousands more than it used to cost. In light of the environmental and economic factors at hand, we feel that the current format is the best option for now.

Several of you suggested we beef up the content of TW. While the format doesn't lend itself to beefiness, we'll keep on the lookout for ways to make it more interesting and useful (and as pleasing to the eye as possible).

Condense all that stuff at the end about how to subscribe and unsubscribe (and don't include it in every message).

This message came through loud and clear from many of you. Now that most staff are familiar with the system, we're substituting a single reference to a Web page containing all of the relevant details.

With This Week being on line, old articles can't be reviewed a month or a year later.

Each installment of announcements, visitors, and jobs since TW began is archived on the Web, organized by date.

Make This Week available as a Web page. Send a notification via e-mail ("twreminder"?) to remind the recipients that a new This Week has become available. I'd really like to get only one short message to my mailbox each week.

This has always been possible. All of the items in This Week can be accessed from the UCAR Communications Web page. If you'd like to arrange a self-reminder, you can do so by subscribing to only one item from This Week. Use that item's arrival in your e-mail box as a reminder that the new edition is on the Web.

I would prefer to have one old-fashioned copy sent to each entity in NCAR (to save paper) so the schedule for the week could be posted for easy, quick reference.

Any group is free to print out a hard copy from the electronic version to post locally. We do maintain a small hard-copy mailing list for the site reception desks, libraries, and the like.

This Week is pathetic. There is often so little information in it that I rarely do more than skim it. My perception is that management has forced This Week to be so bland that it really doesn't address the issues going on around here. For example, what has happened to the Delphi Question?

As we noted above, TW isn't designed to be a publication with lengthy, substantive text. That role was shifted to SN Monthly when we made the switch from the old SN. (See last month's SN Monthly for an explanation of the recent dearth of published Delphi questions.)

For the record, there is remarkably little control over the content of either TW or SN by upper management. Normally, SN articles are reviewed only by the principals or scientists involved. Occasionally, articles addressing institutional policy are reviewed by the UCAR president's office or NCAR director's office. Certainly, there has been no mandate from above dictating that TW be watered down.

Staff Notes Monthly

Could we have less "Oh gosh--isn't this interesting--we all get to go to some exotic locale" and more on local, real-life NCAR issues, more big-picture/policy issues/where-are-we-going-type articles?

Do spotlights on various employees, e.g., Rich Johnson and xeriscape project.

The science articles are OK, but generally a bit long and too vanilla.

Needs more science.

We've always tried to strike a balance in SN Monthly between science features, human-interest stories, and institutional updates. With the advent of electronic media, much of the institutional and adminstrative news is now handled through such vehicles as Rick Anthes' e-mail budget updates. In response, we've focused more on in-depth science news and human-interest features. Most of you seem content with this mix, though some would prefer more science and others more human interest. In the coming months we plan to tweak the SN format by adding

• shorter, more frequent profiles

• more cross-cutting features--for instance, a look at the stepping-stones of a scientific career at NCAR from postdoctoral researcher to senior scientist.

I think there should be something like a "Heard in the Hallway" column which briefly highlights organizational issues of concern to a large number of the staff.

It is difficult to report on layoffs or budget situations because of privacy concerns and because details of budgets can change, literally, daily. In general, we believe town meetings and all-staff e-mail from management are the most timely and effective ways to bring such news to staff.

Several years ago, we introduced the SN Agora, which was designed to give staff a chance to ask general institutional or historical questions that didn't fit the Delphi format. However, your response to the Agora was tepid; we only got a couple of questions.

We try to cover as wide a range of issues and concerns as possible, but our resources are limited. As always, we need your input to do our best. If there is something you would like considered for coverage, please feel free to contact editor Bob Henson, ext. 8605, bhenson@ucar.edu.

Table of SN/TW survey results

(comparable results from 1989 survey in parentheses)

Total number of internal respondents:300 (387)

This Week at UCAR

How do you normally read This Week?

Both e-mail and Web:9
Don't read it at all:12

How often do you read each part of This Week?

Nearly AlwaysSometimesSeldom/Never

Overall, how useful do you find This Week compared to the old weekly print version of Staff Notes?

More useful now:91
Less useful now:53
About the same:117
Joined UCAR/NCAR/UOP after This Week debuted (Oct. '94):21

How do you feel about seeing the same items in This Week and as all-staff e-mails?

Prefer anncts as all-staff e-mail only:23
Prefer anncts in This Week only:92
OK to run them in both places:161

Staff Notes Monthly

How often do you read the print version of SN?

Nearly Always:165(360)
Seldom or Never:33(2)

Which sections do you read?

Nearly AlwaysSometimesSeldom/Never
Science features:15010521
Human interest:15310322
Science Briefing:11111642
New Hires/Departures:1329058

Do you read the Web version of Staff Notes?

Nearly always:2

How does your reading of Staff Notes compare to the old weekly print version of Staff Notes?

Read it more now:33
Read it less now:71
About the same:163
Joined UCAR/NCAR/UOP after This Week debuted (Oct. '94):24

New Options

How would you feel about receiving a weekly e-mail summary of feature articles about UCAR/NCAR/UOP science and staff (2-3 sentences per article), with the full articles appearing only on the Web?

Like the idea:104
Have reservations but would try it:39
Would read summaries but might not read articles on the Web:99
Wouldn't be interested in such e-mail at all:34
Couldn't do this because I have no Web access at work:11

In this issue...
Other issues of Staff Notes


Prepared by Jacque Marshall, jacque@ucar.edu, 303-497-8616