Computers & Geosciences, Volume 21, Number 9, 1995

John C. Butler
Department of Geosciences
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204

A Survey of Reader's Expertise and Interests

The first ANON column appeared in the June, 1995, issue of Computers and Geosciences (volume 21, number 5) and included a survey designed to assess the level of interest in the Internet. To date, 24 responses have been received. Two of the responses arrived by snail-mail and 22 by email. Another 10 responses were obtained by sending out surveys to 64 individuals who have served as referees for the journal (list obtained from Graeme. Bonham-Carter, Editor-in-Chief). Thus, 34 responses were received from a readership of some 400 individuals; about 8%. I have been roundly and soundly criticized for trying to make too much out of too little - both scientifically and socially - but I think that the results will be of some interest to some readers.

Twenty of the respondents have university affiliations, 4 work for geological surveys and 10 gave corporate addresses. Most of the companies would appear to have primary focus on information processing or software development; only one (Chevron) represents a major petroleum complex.

A total of 12 countries are represented : Australia (4), Austria, Canada (5), Germany (3), Finland, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, and the United States (13).

All 34 use email on a daily basis with 27 characterizing themselves as ³heavy users² and 7 as ³intermediate². All have access to at least one computer at work and 30 have access at home. Twenty-eight use a PC and 12 a Macintosh. Sixteen have access to the Internet from their home computer.

Twenty indicated that they ³often² use one of the numerous searching services ("webcrawler", "harvest", etc.) in their work and only 4 indicated that they rarely, if ever, resorted to such "tools".

All respondents indicated that they have (or will "soon" have access to one of the WWW browsers (7 listed "Mosaic", 25 listed "Netscape" and 2 listed both).

All respondents indicated that they have access to and use an FTP "browser" (such as "Fetch") but only 12 indicated that they use "Archie" (for locating files and images on FTP servers) and only 20 indicated use of "Gopher". Several indicated that they no longer found these sources of information viable. Only 14 indicated that they read "Newsgroups" but 26 indicated they participated in at least one mailing from a "Listserver".

The "average" respondent is quite a heavy user of Internet resources at this time but is the "average" respondent an "average" reader of Computers& Geosciences?

The low response may reflect a lack of interest in responding to surveys in general (or this one in particular), a lack of interest in the Internet, a lack of access to the Internet, or some combination.

Clearly, one unknown is the percentage of the readers that have Internet access. This may be something that the membership committee of the International Association of Mathematical Geologists will want to assess during their next mailing of renewal information. It appears that many (67%??) of the Geoscience academic departments in the United States are represented on WWW. Colleagues in corporate positions who have Internet access often have a limited access due to the installation of a "firewall" between their station and the "outside Internet world". It sounds like that unless or until security issues are manageable many of these individuals will be limited, at best, to email from (and to) their work place. In Houston, as may well be the case in other areas, the increasing availability of "Internet providers" seems to be resulting in an increasing number of geoscientists who do their Internet work from home. All of my 17 colleagues in the Department of Geosciences have access to the Internet in their offices, 17 routinely use email (a departmental edict), but only 3 routinely (probably daily) "use" the internet in an active way and only 2 have created their own "WWW home pages". Most have "browsed" WWW at least once but are not willing to make the time investment until there is a good reason to do so. Is our Department "typical" of those units (academic and corporate) which have access to the Internet? If a goal is to increase the number of Internet users, then one might be well advised to focus on the development of those features that will provide the "good reason". Most of the geoscientists that I know spend considerable time trying to locate "things" - journal articles, data, people, sources of funding, etc. As an "assignment", I offer the following.

  1. The survey respondents provided a list of "key words" which described their research interests. This information has been compiled and can be reviewed This is one of the experimental sections of the Another Node On the interNet - ANON - home page which was announced in the 95/7 issue of Computers and Geosciences. These data could be distributed as a text file for input into the users favorite data management application. If there is interest in this project then please make sure that you are included. It is never to late to submit your material.

  2. Contact Jorg Schulz-Rojahn's On-line Earth Science Journals home page if electronically published journals are of interest.

  3. Two other addresses submitted by Donald McIntrye (a survey respondent) are for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Astrophysical Journal. If you are not familiar with the power of "Adobe PDF Page Images " this is a good site to look visit. Would you find time to use the Internet if your "favorite" journal was published electronically? If abstracts or titles only were published electronically?

Comments, suggestions for future columns, suggestions for articles that need to be published, etc. are always welcomed.

   Since January 27, 1997