|FAS Public Interest Report
The Journal of the Federation of American Scientists
|March / April 2002
Volume 55, Number 2
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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 . . ."
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.