Research and Global Engagement Prioritized by Members in Comprehensive IAMCR Membership Survey
By Derek Moscato, University of Oregon
A comprehensive survey of IAMCR's membership conducted between October 12 and November 3, 2015 has revealed what many in the organization have long suspected —that members prioritize both scholarship and global engagement. The 34-question survey enjoyed an extraordinary response by any association’s standards, answered by over 530 members or 30 percent of the IAMCR membership. The high percentage of completed surveys is in and of itself an affirmation of members’ passion for the organization. The survey was divided into five key areas: membership sentiment, academics/publication, community/network, professional opportunities and rights, and engagement/outreach. Broken down regionally, respondents came from all corners of the globe. Responses from Western Europe accounted for 24%, while East/South Asia, and North America accounted for 20% each. Members from South America, as well as Africa and the Middle East, accounted for 14% each.
Among the highlights of the survey: IAMCR members support in an overwhelming way existing and new venues and forums for the dissemination of communication and media scholarship. They strongly endorse IAMCR's engagement with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies who are working to diversify, democratise, or otherwise improve media systems and environments. They strongly identify with their sections or working groups within the association, and welcome further activities or opportunities for engagement from them. Finally, members value IAMCR highly for its international network, with communication scholars from all parts of the world, and for both the academic and professional empowerment afforded to members. This includes strong support for the organization’s advocacy for professional rights – in the contexts of both media professionals and academics.
IAMCR members place a high value on their membership's contribution to their professional roles as researchers and educators. Over 90 percent of respondents consider their membership a very valuable or valuable dimension of their professional and scholarly success. Asked what factors underpinned their aim to continue being members, respondents most highly rated engagement with IAMCR’s network of scholars and professionals, their continued attendance at the annual conference, and IAMCR’s cultural and international diversity as a communication research association. Not surprisingly, the feedback mirrors the reasons individuals originally decided to become IAMCR members: annual conference attendance (74%), research opportunities and collaboration (50%), and cross-cultural and global engagement (47%).
It is in the realm of research, however, where members seemed to reach greatest consensus. Over 90 percent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that IAMCR should be a facilitator of academic research and publication. To this end, overwhelming majorities noted as extremely or very important the following: intellectual exchange at IAMCR conferences and IAMCR’s listing of open access journals in media and communication. Strong majorities also advocated for the Global Handbooks in Media and Communication and information about books published by fellow IAMCR members. Many are also interested in publications of selected papers presented at IAMCR conferences.
Another kind of publication, IAMCR’s newsletter, garnered interest as a form of membership outreach. Strong majorities said the newsletter should provide information about research, IAMCR news, member updates and activities, annual conference previews/recaps, and even opinion columns from members.
IAMCR's global network received virtually unanimous support for the opportunities for engagement and collaboration it offers. An overwhelming majority of respondents said they would like to network further with fellow members; and that engagement with other IAMCR members has contributed to their professional or academic success. IAMCR activities, including the annual conference, publications, mailing lists, and social media channels, were deemed as contributing to the ability of members to extend this engagement and networking. On the social media front, IAMCR’s presence on the microblogging platform of Twitter —with the handle @IAMCRtweets— has recently surpassed 2,800 followers and is a testament to member engagement online, as are the 5,000 followers of facebook.com/iamcr.org.
A majority of respondents endorsed these social media groups, as well as local and regional events, an organization-wide mentorship program, and the IAMCR membership directory as a tool to support engagement and networking.
IAMCR sections and working groups have emerged as ideal venues for members to collaborate, network, and grow as scholars, and also to feel connected to the larger association. A majority of members feel connected to IAMCR through their section or working group. In particular, respondents are compelled by area-specific calls for papers, job opportunities, and conferences from their sections. They also like the idea of sections collaborating with regional events when appropriate.
Just as IAMCR members advocate for engagement with their sections and working groups, they also advocate for the association engaging with employers. Asked how they felt about IAMCR taking a more active role in promoting better employment standards for communicators educators and researchers, a large majority (roughly 75%) rated such activity either “very highly” or “fairly highly.” A similar percentage valued to the same degree IAMCR’s undertaking of advocacy efforts aimed at government bodies or institutions on behalf of impacted members in cases of unjust dismissal, budget cutbacks, or labour action.
Along the same lines, members also value IAMCR continuing to engage the larger research community as well as other external audiences—including NGOs, governments, media —through activities such as media outreach and publications. Among the outreach approaches and opportunities, members most valued the organization’s providing public statements or viewpoints on key political/communication topics, collaborating with international or national bodies to help formulate or inform communication policy, and partnering with NGOs or agencies to support communication initiatives.
Such a high level of engagement helps to explain what members cited often as a key attribute of IAMCR: its ability to foster real change in media policy, communication, journalism, and related fields. Coupled with a continued emphasis on research and scholarship, the 2015 survey is an important reminder that IAMCR members remain as committed as ever to research venues and opportunities as well as intellectual exchange, but also to leveraging the association’s position as a global leader in providing academic and professional leadership.
IAMCR would like to thank Derek Moscato for his contribution to preparing and analysing this survey.