Social analysis of the AWHN Digest readership

Final Report June 2013

Report prepared for:   Wildlife and Exotic Disease Preparedness Program 2012-2013

Report prepared by:  Tiggy Grillo, Australian Wildlife Health Network in consultation with project team based at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES). 

Background

The Australian Wildlife Health Network (AWHN) is an initiative of the Australian Government comprising a network of stakeholders across Australia with an interest in wildlife health.  The AWHN aims to promote and facilitate collaborative links in the investigation and management of wildlife health in support of human and animal health, biodiversity and trade.

An important activity for the AWHN is the production of a weekly electronic ‘Digest’ (synopsis) of wildlife health information of relevance to Australia. The Digest is produced through ongoing scanning of web-based, media, focus group activities and publicly available information. Scanning informs the content of the Digest and assists AWHN in delivery of one of its core business activities: coordination of wildlife health surveillance information, which is then used to improve decision making, management and policy development to protect Australia’s trade, human health, livestock health and biodiversity. 

The Digest has been circulated since 2004 and is generated by AWHN staff and sent by email to approximately 500 AWHN subscribers around Australia and overseas. AWHN subscribers include representatives from federal and state conservation, agriculture and human health departments, universities, zoos, private practitioners and wildlife carers and diagnostic pathology services, and others with an interest in wildlife health.

Content of the Digest includes wildlife health and disease related news from both Australia and overseas and links to media stories, research news, upcoming events and recent publications.  Open source publically available information is utilised. Information on upcoming PhD, postgraduate, volunteer, employment and funding opportunities is also included.

The Digest aims to provide up to date and relevant information to subscribers to maintain awareness of diseases with wildlife as part of their ecology that may impact upon Australia. It provides a basis for maintaining a network of interested individuals with an interest and/or expertise in wildlife health and is one of the key outreach and awareness mechanism for facilitating preparedness in the wildlife health area for Australia. The Digest also acts as a direct communication vehicle for subscribers who can submit information and request that it be circulated to other subscribers as part of the Digest.

It is important for Australia’s emergency disease preparedness that the audience, impact and uptake of the information contained in the Digest is maximised.

Objectives

This project

  • assessed the demographics of the recipient subscribers and their stakeholder groups (organisation, role, etc.)
  • gained an understanding of the impact of the Digest
  • explored to what extent the Digest increases awareness and knowledge of wildlife health and disease
  • examined whether the Digest is achieving its objectives
  • identified its strengths and weaknesses, and
  • made recommendations as to how its impact can be improved.

Activities

  • In consultation with social scientists in ABARES, a methodology and survey design was developed, including appropriate questions to address the project objectives
  • a pilot study was conducted with AWHN Digest subscribers, and the survey modified as required
  • the survey was sent to AWHN Digest subscribers using a web based survey (SurveyMonkey®)
  • the data generated were analysed
  • the data were used to make recommendations for improving the content of the Digest (and to explore the option of including a focus group to verify findings and fine tune recommendations)
  • the data were used to inform development of new mechanism(s) for interaction with AWHN subscribers such as via the AWHN website and use of social media, and
  • report on the findings of the survey with recommendations was prepared.

Summary of Activities and Progress (as of 24 June 2013)

Activities and Progress

  1. Develop a methodology and survey design, including appropriate questions to address the project objectives; Completed
  2. Conduct a pilot study with AWHN Digest subscribers, and modify survey as required; Completed
  3. Send the survey to AWHN Digest subscribers using a web based survey (SurveyMonkey®); Completed
  4. Analyse the data generated;  Completed
  5. Utilise the data to make recommendations for improving the content of the Digest (and explore the option of including a focus group to verify findings and fine tune recommendations); Completed
  6. Utilise the data to inform new mechanism(s) for interaction with AWHN subscribers such as via the AWHN website and use of current social media; Completed
  7. Prepare a report on the findings of the survey with recommendations. Completed

Activities Completed

Develop a methodology and survey design

A questionnaire was implemented via an online survey tool, using SurveyMonkey. The survey was designed and developed in consultation with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Invasive Species team and Social Sciences team. 

The Project Team included:

  • Sandra Parsons – ABARES Invasive Species
  • Bertie Hennecke – ABARES Invasive Species
  • Lyndal-Joy Thompson – ABARES Social Sciences
  • Tiggy Grillo – AWHN

Questions were designed to mainly require a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or multiple choice answers (single or multiple selection). Where appropriate, a text box was provided to allow further comments or ‘other’ responses. Where relevant and required, qualitative (open-ended) responses were used. The length of the survey was a balance between the need to maximize results and the recognition that a small number of simple questions were required to maximize the chance of respondees completing the survey. An assessment of the time required to complete the survey was estimated as part of the initial pilot survey.

Survey Questions

Survey questions were developed in order to meet the project objectives, including a need to understand where AWHN subscribers source wildlife health information; their use of the AWHN Digest including those aspects they consider valuable and areas that require improvement; as well as summary information about each subscriber.  Based on the project objectives, a few examples of the survey questions are provided below.

  • Demographics of the recipient / stakeholder group (organisation, role, etc)

    Examples: (Q26) Please indicate the type of organisation you work for?; (Q29) Please indicate the approximate percentage (0-100%)  of your role that is related to wildlife health?

  • Gain an understanding of the impact of the Digest

    Examples: (Q11) Please indicate your uses of the information in the AWHN Digest?; (Q12) If you share publically available information contained in the AWHN Digest with others, with whom and how do you share this information?

  • Examine whether the Digest is achieving its objectives, identifies its strengths and weaknesses and makes recommendations as to how its impact can be improved.

    Example: (Q15) Please rate how relevant each section of the AWHN Digest; (Q13) Thinking about the AWHN Digest, please rate your level of agreement given the following choices:  Strongly disagree, Somewhat disagree, Neither agree or disagree, Somewhat agree or Strongly agree.

    • The information provided in the AWHN Digest is from credible sources
    • The information provided in the AWHN Digest is accurate
    • The information provided in the AWHN digest is ‘up to date’
  • Explore to what extent the Digest increases awareness and knowledge of wildlife health and disease which in turn may assist in strengthening Australia’s biosecurity and preparedness for diseases with wildlife as part of their ecology.

    Example: (Q14) Thinking about each of the topics below, please indicate the extent to which the AWHN Digest increases your level of awareness given the following choices:  Unsure, Not at all, Slightly, Somewhat, Moderately, A lot.

    • Wildlife health in Australia
    • Wildlife health Overseas
    • Wildlife disease incidents in Australia

Conduct Pilot Survey

Following the design and development of the initial Survey Questions, a pilot survey was conducted. A group of 14 AWHN subscribers were requested to participate, with 12 agreeing to participate in the pilot. Pilot participants included individuals from AWHN (not involved in development of the survey), government agencies, research organisations, universities and one peak industry body. The pilot survey was sent on 1 December 2012. All twelve completed the survey within 10 days of receiving it. Feedback in general was positive with a few requests to adjust wording to clarify questions or modify Survey Monkey to increase usability. The main concern was the time taken to complete the survey which ranged from 15-20 minutes. On the basis of feedback from the pilot participants, some of the survey questions were modified.

Distribute Survey to AWHN Digest Subscribers

The final AWHN Digest Readership Survey used the web based survey tool (SurveyMonkey®). The weblink to the Survey was sent via email to 497 AWHN subscribers on 12 February 2013 at 1:27pm (see Figure 1 for email sent). The Survey was available for a period of three weeks. A reminder email was sent to AWHN subscribers two weeks after the first email (26 February 2013 at 10:32am). Reminders for the Survey were also included in the weekly AWHN Digest on each Friday whilst the Survey was available (15 and 22 February and the 1 March 2013). See Appendix 1 for the final AWHN Readership Survey.

Figure 1: Email sent to AWHN Subscribers:

'Australian Wildlife Health Network Digest Readership Survey

As a subscriber to the AWHN Digest, we are seeking your input into our Readership Survey. The survey will help us understand what aspects of the Digest you find valuable, and where we can improve.  This survey is open to anyone who receives the Digest. We estimate the survey will take 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Further information about the survey can be found via the link below.

Everyone who completes the survey has a chance to enter a prize draw. The winner will have a choice between:

• Medicine of Australian Mammals (2008)

OR

• a 2 year subscription to Australian Geographic.

The survey is available online until 5 March 2013 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FPYYXSS (Note: Link no longer active). Thank you in advance for your time and valuable input. Kind regards, Tiggy'

At the end of the AWHN Digest Readership Survey (5 March 2013 at 11:45pm), a total of 222 individuals had entered the survey, of which, 204 completed the Survey.

Analysis of the Data Generated

Data from SurveyMonkey® was downloaded into Microsoft Excel. Descriptive statistics were performed for relevant survey questions using IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows Version 19.0. Open-ended questions were reviewed for common themes. Full details of the analysis have been reported in the Final Report “Social analysis of the Australian Wildlife Health Network electronic Digest readership” prepared by Sandra Parsons, ABARES, with input from AWHN. AWHN is considering the best way to share results from the analysis with stakeholders and subscribers.

Prepare Report on the Survey Findings & Recommendations

The Final Report “Social analysis of the Australian Wildlife Health Network electronic Digest readership” was prepared by Sandra Parsons, ABARES, with input from AWHN. This report provides a full descriptive analysis of the survey results. In addition, the report summarizes the AWHN Digest achievements and provides recommendations for future activities to maximize uptake and impact of the AHWN Digest. A brief summary has been provided in the section below.

Utilize Data to Make Recommendations

The results of this survey indicate that the AWHN Digest is meeting the needs of its readership and is considered a valued resource by its readers. The AWHN Digest is a major outreach and awareness mechanism for wildlife health in Australia, with most respondents not being a subscriber to any other wildlife health organisation. The impact of the AWHN Digest can be evidenced by most respondents using it as their first port of call for information on wildlife health, as well as the majority of respondents using information within the AWHN Digest in their role.

Overall the results from the survey indicated that the AWHN Digest readership was satisfied with the information provided in the Digest and happy to continue to receive the Digest via email.

The following recommendations were made:

  1. Update the format of the Digest to match that of the refreshed AWHN website.
  2. Continue to monitor the readership's preference for receiving the AWHN Digest to ensure that the AWHN Digest continues to remain in a format accessible to its readers.
  3. Further exploration of groups receiving the AWHN Digest.  AWHN should further explore why conservation and wildlife groups were under represented in responses to the Survey.
AWHN is considering the best way to share results from the analysis with stakeholders and subscribers.