FAS Public Interest Report
The Journal of the Federation of American Scientists
March / April 2002
Volume 55, Number 2
FAS Home | Download PDF | PIR Archive
Front Page
Dirty Bombs: Response to a Threat
Making Sense of Information Restrictions After September 11
The "War on Terror" and the "War on Drugs": A Comparison
Results of the FAS Member Survey
FAS Staff News

Just In! Results of the FAS Member Survey

In early 2002, FAS conducted a survey of our members. Our purpose was to better understand member interests, document expertise, and engage members in helping affirm old priorities and set new ones.

The survey's results profile a highly educated membership with in-depth expertise in such sciences as physics, biology, and chemistry, and who work either full-time in these fields or are retired from positions in academic institutions. FAS members share the concerns of civil rights, environmental, and human rights organizations, and are active supporters of Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the ACLU, People for the American Way, and Human Rights Watch. The largest percentage of our members joined FAS in the 1970s. When asked how members came to join FAS, 60% said that they had "known about FAS forever." While half of FAS' responding members are over 70 years of age, a growing number of individuals under the age of 50 are joining up. We were pleased to learn that 68% of our members find the Public Interest Report "informative, timely and relevant;" 20% agreed that the PIR "is perfect as is;" and 19% would like us to cover more energy and environmental issues.

FAS' members are a group with mutual concerns, common backgrounds, and scientific interests. Their survey responses do differ, though. Let's take a closer look.

"My fields of expertise are . . ."

Based on survey results, [FAS] members' priorities are right on target with FAS' agenda.

FAS was founded by physicists working on the Manhattan Project in 1945 and was known back then as the "scientists lobby" and the social conscience of the nation's scientists. When we asked members to identify the fields in which they worked, sciences such as physics, biology and engineering outnumbered the fields of foreign policy, economics, law and finance. Nearly 30% of survey respondents identified themselves as physicists. The next largest fields represented were medicine (18%), biology (15%), engineering (15%) and chemistry (13%).

It is especially interesting to compare fields represented by FAS earliest members with more recent members. Nearly half of FAS members who joined before 1955 are physicists. FAS newest members, who joined since 2000, are also physicists (21%), but 29% said their field of expertise is national security, 25% said aerospace, and 22% said computer science. This reflects significant growth in security-related fields over the past decades-and an increasingly diverse membership. Other fields were environmental science, psychology, public policy, finance, law and transportation. Nearly half of responding members work in nonprofit or academic institutions as opposed to private industry (13%) or in government (8%).

"The highest level of education I have attained is . . ."

FAS continues to attract highly educated scholars and analysts, and the composition of members' level of education does not change as the fields of expertise do from one age group to another. Among all respondents, 63% have Ph.Ds. Individuals with professional doctoral degrees such as doctors or lawyers account for 14%. A master's degree is the highest level of education attained by 12%, and 7% have a bachelor's degree. Two percent of members are high school students or graduates. These two latter groups are our most recent members, having come to us through our website.

"Go to . . ."

In addition to giving access to technical information and policy analysis, the FAS website is our most effective member recruitment tool. Since 2000, 85% of FAS newest members joined over the web. More than half of these members also use the website once a month; more than a third use it every week. The survey also shows that among FAS' earliest members (members who joined between 1945 and 1970), 43% use the website once a month or less. For members who joined in the 1980s and 90s, we see a modest increase in members' use (46%). Only 7% of our members have no access to the Internet.

The feature of the website that FAS members use most often are the technical details about weapons technologies and arms control treaties, and the country-by-country weapons sales and possessions tables. Eighteen percent refer to the site for this information, while 15% use the site to keep up to date on FAS findings and projects. This does not capture the hundreds of thousands of hits that the website receives daily from non-member users. Surprisingly, one third of our members were not aware of the site at all.

"I subscribe to . . ."

The survey offered members a wide range of choices of journals and trade magazines, including Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Foreign Affairs, Fortune, Time, Science, Scientific American, and US News and World Report. By far, the most subscribed to magazines were Science (48%) and Scientific American (36%). Subscribers to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and New Scientists each account for 21% of member respondents. While subscription to Science and Scientific American is steady among FAS members throughout the generations, only 6% of our most recent members subscribe to the Bulletin.

"I am also a member of . . ."

Our survey shows that FAS members live up to their reputation as scientists with a conscience. They support numerous causes, working to protect the world's environmental resources, eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and bring about a fair and more humane global society. They also support their professions. We found that 70% of FAS members support organizations such as the American Physical Society and the American Chemical Society. We did not ask members to differentiate among the various professional organizations.

"FAS' top priorities should be . . ."

Based on survey results, members' priorities are right on target with FAS' agenda. Members also reported that they would be willing to help advance these priorities by writing letters to members of Congress and the White House (41%). A smaller percentage of members said that they would write op-eds to local and national news outlets (18%) and mentor young people who are interested in careers in science (12%).

In three years, FAS will turn 60, an age seasoned with experience and wisdom. Findings from our member survey show that our commitment to our mission is constant. FAS is considered one of the most effective organizations in the arms control movement, and we are strong advocates for sensible public policies that reflect the latest developments in science and technology. This is due, in part, to the steadfast support of many long-time members and recent upsurge in interest among younger Americans. Your support allows FAS to continue the course that was set in 1945. We are very grateful to you.