NAPSNet Membership Survey and Status
I. Summary Report
At the end of 1997, the Nautilus Institute conducted a survey of the membership of its Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network (NAPSNet). The survey was sent by email to all email recipients of the NAPSNet Daily Report, posted in a form on the Nautilus Institute web site, made available via automatic response to emailed requests, and publicized in the Daily Report throughout the survey period. NAPSNet received 187 responses to the survey.1 The number of responses alone, as well as their content, indicate a continuing and growing high level of interest in NAPSNet and the Daily Report. The survey questions, and the data compiled from these responses, is provided in Appendix B following this report. This report discusses the survey objectives and assesses the survey results in light of those objectives.
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2. Survey Objectives
The survey questions were designed to elicit specific information concerning the NAPSNet Daily Report and other NAPSNet services in order to review their value and assess the desirability of prospective revisions. The survey's original objectives are summarized in the following chart, along with reference to the specific questions intended to generate information on those topics:
|Means of Introduction to NAPSNet||1-2|
|Uses of NAPSNet resources||3-4, 11-14|
|Issues regarding the Substantive Focus of the Daily Report:|
|Usefulness of Overseas Sections||9|
|Issues regarding the Format of the Daily Report:|
|Other NAPSNet services: :|
|Willingness to pay for NAPSNet services; feasibility of a voluntary, "two-tier" system of subscription dues||20|
|Issues regarding alternative sources of information, including comparisons of NAPSNet to alternative services||15-18|
|Computer and WWW skills and accessibility||14, 15|
|Scope of Distribution and Solicitation||19, 21|
The remainder of this report discusses the results of the survey with respect to each of these objectives.
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3. Introduction to NAPSNet
The results from questions 1 and 2 provide an image of how and when the current NAPSNet membership has been introduced to NAPSNet services. Responses to question 1 indicated that 44 percent of respondents have joined NAPSNet within the last year, and 74 percent within the last two years. This result is consistent with the geometric growth in NAPSNet membership indicated by the near doubling of the Daily Report email recipient list during the past 18 months. Presently, this email list is growing at a rate of approximately 30 subscribers per month (with new subscribers to the list outnumbering "unsubscribers" by approximately a 5-1 ratio). Further details on the growth of the NAPSNet membership are given in the "Scope of Distribution" section, below. Responses to question 2 indicated that a clear majority of respondents (69 percent) learned about NAPSNet through a "recommendation from colleague or acquaintance," while Internet-related references ("link from another web site" and "topical Internet search") comprised another 19 percent. However, cross-tabulating these results with those of the first question indicated that the Internet has marginally increased in importance as a means of reference to NAPSNet: Among those respondents coming to NAPSNet within the last year, 67 percent were personal references and 24 percent were from the Internet. The following graph depicts this relationship2:
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4. Use of the NAPSNet Resources
The results of question 3 (ranking the value of differing NAPSNet services on a scale of 1-5) strongly suggest that the primary value of NAPSNet continues to be the Daily Report as a daily news service. Among the respondents, 68 percent selected the news summaries in the Daily Reports as the most valuable aspect of NAPSNet for their work, and 83 percent selected this as among the top two. The average ranking for each of the six categories (with "1" the highest possible and "6" the lowest) was as follows (see Appendix B, question 3):
|Daily Report news summaries||1.42|
|Special Reports (supplemental analyses and summaries)||2.36|
|Daily Report analyses||2.63|
|Policy Forum postings and distributions||4.01|
The value respondents assigned to the Daily Report news summaries is reinforced by the results from question 4, which indicate that half of all Daily Report recipients read the reports "every day," while over 90 percent read the reports "most days," suggesting email recipients do not simply relegate the report to obscure corners of their "in" box. Supplementing this conclusion, a vast majority of respondents considered the report either "essential" or "highly useful" in value compared to other information sources, as discussed below (see the "Alternatives to NAPSNet" section). The relative rankings of the other services also are addressed below (see the "Other NAPSNet Services" section). Issues this finding raises regarding the balance of news coverage and analysis are discussed in the following section.
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5. Substantive Focus of the Daily Report
The survey asked a series of questions regarding current and prospective substantive foci of the NAPSNet Daily Report. These results indicated substantial but not overwhelming support for current practices, suggesting that there is opportunity to evolve and enhance the Daily Report, but that constructive change is likely to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The results also provided insights into the types of changes that might be made.
Questions 5 and 6, designed to elicit meaningful responses to prospective trade-offs among mutually desirable enhancements to the Daily Report, asked respondents to assess its current "balances." Among respondents, 54 percent preferred the current balance of "news" and "analysis," and 40 preferred the current balance of "breadth sources" and "depth of coverage of issues." However, responses to the latter question were in fact more "balanced," insofar as respondents seeking more breadth outnumbered those seeking more depth by only a 7-5 ratio, while those seeking more analysis outnumbered those seeking more news by 2-1.
Perhaps most significantly, approximately one-third of all respondents favored both more analysis and deeper coverage of issues, suggesting a clear opportunity (but not mandate) for a NAPSNet shift of focus in this direction. Correlating the first finding with that of question 4, regarding frequency of readership of the Daily Report, indicated that the percentage of those inviting more analysis is higher among those who read the report more frequently, as the following graph indicates (see Appendix B, questions 4 and 5):
The desire for greater analytical content in NAPSNet also found expression in the additional comments some respondents provided. Examples include the following:
|"I would like to see more interpretation of news events...predictions from you experts on what this item means to the region... more personality and subjectivity, instead of objective reporting."|
|"Perhaps more interplay of opinion and discussion by academics and practitioners (akin to that of the Johnson Russia List)"|
|"in depth analyses on specific issues, dealing with 'different positions' involved (for example, individual positions of participants in 'Four Party Talks')"|
|"It would be perfect if the NAPSNet services could provide more in-depth analysis on the breaking news and its historical reasons, i.e. Japan-ROK fisheries dispute, its impact, its origin and future development predictions"|
Question 7, assessing the coverage of NAPSNet's "core issues," offered mildly surprising results. Although NAPSNet was born of the Korean nuclear crisis, only a very small percentage ranked "Korean nuclear issues" as the first priority in coverage. The highest value was placed on the wider focus on "Northeast Asian security issues" and, secondly, on "Korean security issues," while intermediate value was placed on "Korean political issues" and relatively little value was given to nuclear issues in regional and global contexts. These results indicate that the interests of the current membership are presently broader than nuclear issues narrowly defined, and geographically broader than the Korean peninsula while still largely focused on the Northeast Asia region. Second priority choices supplement this conclusion.
The results of question 8, assessing the coverage of a "wider array" of issues, served to delineate the outer boundaries of this wider scope of memberships interests, while also offering complementary indications of its direction. Although the most evident result is the large majority that ranked NAPSNet's current "core issues" as the highest priority, perhaps more indicative is the distinct emphasis, among the other potential sets of issues, on security in the neighboring region and economic issues, as opposed to energy or environmental issues.
A reasonable conclusion from the results of these two questions is that the NAPSNet membership now perceives the interdependence of Korean and regional security, and of security and economic issues, and would welcome seeing NAPSNet focus itself accordingly.
First, these results clearly bear on the question of whether to shift the substantive content of NAPSNet away from daily news service and toward more analysis. As Internet based news has become increasingly available, NAPSNet has become relatively less unique in this regard (although as evident by our recent survey of other web sites, NAPSNet still stands out in both its substantive focus, collation of sources, and timely delivery). On the surface, the satisfaction expressed with the current balances of NAPSNet coverage suggests that many among the NAPSNet membership still find the daily news service quite valuable and would view a dramatic shift away from this service undesirable. However, this loyalty can also be viewed as simply a reflection of NAPSNet's current emphases, and given that approximately one-third of all respondents favored both more analysis and deeper coverage of issues, a greater amount of meaningful and unique analysis would undoubtedly develop its own constituency.
Hence, the results on this issue point to a strategy of maintaining the Daily Report news summaries as an attraction that will draw readers to analyses. Issues that remain to be considered include what type of analyses to generate, delivered in what form, on what topics, provided by whom. A return to greater commissioning of analysis pieces is one idea that should be explored; in particular, the greatly expanded numbers of the attentive NAPSNet membership provides a potential resource for soliciting an increased variety of analyses.
Second, these results also suggest that a shift away from a central concern with Korean nuclear issues (to perhaps a guiding concern), accompanied by an explicit decision to orient Daily Reports more to placing equal weight on all types of security issues throughout the region, would be consistent with the desires of the membership. Such a directive would also implement the intentions (specified in the NAPSNet Workplan) to incorporate reporting of the PRC-ROC relations and to introduce a South Pacific node.
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6. Overseas Sections
The results of question 9, asking respondents their views on the value of each of the four "overseas" sections of the Daily Report, were illuminating. Views on the four sections fell into three groups: very strong support for the ROK section (83 percent rating it "essential" or "highly useful"), strong support for the PRC and Japan sections (roughly 70 percent rating them in these terms), and tepid support for the Russia section (more than half rating it only "useful" or "occasionally beneficial"). These percentage distributions are depicted in the following graph:
The additional comments provided by some respondents yielded additional clues as to the value of the overseas reports. In particular, as Internet access to overseas newspapers has become increasingly common over the course of NAPSNet's life, what a number of respondents found most valuable were summaries of items carried in less overseas common media and media for which English translations are not commonly available. Examples of such comments include the following:
|"Since I read the AP, Reuters, Xinhua almost daily and other wires frequently, I find the repetition of routine news items not so useful and would much prefer items, such as those from Russia, to which I do not have easy access."|
|"Your service is excellent. I would like to add that I find your translated summaries of regional reaction to major events, e.g. Jiang's US visit, or the revised US-Japan security agreement, to be especially valuable, and impossible to get elsewhere. Congratulations to all your people. Keep up the good work!"|
|"NAPSNet provides some convenience by emailing news directly to me, but it's largely news I hear elsewhere simultaneously. One service I value is the coverage of media not immediately available in English, but would like to see more (i.e. Sankei Shimbun, Jiji Press newsfeeds). I use NAPSNet as a casual pointer to what issues deserve further scrutiny. For serious research, I turn to FBIS."|
|"I particularly like your efforts to present relations between Asian nations. This is rare to come by in the US. I find the analysis a little less useful than the straight news. Analysis by more critical voices would be particularly welcome. The straight-up official stuff is useful as background, but not terribly edifying. Still these are quibbles. You run a great service, and I know that a large number of journalists and researchers regularly rely on your service to get their work done."|
First, although these results provide strong support for the ROK section, in fact some rethinking of this section is required. Issues for consideration include the continuing desire to expand the range of political "voices" in the ROK represented in NAPSNet, which would respond to desires expressed by some readers for inclusion of a greater scope of views on Korean affairs (including those of the DPRK) as well as the effort to expand NAPSNet's analytical content, discussed above.4
Second, the related desire expressed in a number of the comments quoted above for less readily available and/or untranslated material should almost certainly be a heightened focus of NAPSNet in the future. Prioritizing this material over that now more readily available through easily accessed Internet sources will be a key means of keeping NAPSNet a unique and valuable service.
Third, the relatively poor review of the Russia section suggests that a reconsideration of this section is also required. This may in part reflect the fact that NAPSNet has already shifted toward including more analysis in the PRC and Japan sections. A similar shift in emphasis of the Russia section is warranted. Additionally, this section could also pay more attention to viewpoints generated in the media in the Russian Far East (rather than coverage by Moscow media of issues in this region), in keeping with the more general effort to collect material from sources out of the mainstream.
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7. Format of the Daily Report
The main question asked regarding the format of the Daily Report was question 10, pertaining to the method of integration of the items provided in the overseas sections. Respondents strongly favored the present system in which the overseas sections are kept together, rather than the alternative of sectioning the report by topic and grouping together related items from each of the country sections.
Indirectly, questions 4 and 5 also generated information useful to considerations of the Daily Report format. The results of question 4, which indicate that over 90 percent of all Daily Report recipients read the reports either "every day" or "most days," coupled with the value placed on the Daily Report as a daily news source revealed in the results for question 5 (discussed above), suggests that it would probably be unwise at this juncture to begin, as part of a shift to more analytical content, to issue the reports only twice or thrice a week. This periodicity, although less costly in production and perhaps more consistent with analytical content, could serve to drive away readers who rely on the news component, diminishing the potential audience for the analytical content.
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8. Other NAPSNet Services
A series of questions asked about several services provided by NAPSNet other than the Daily Report: the periodic Special Reports, the NAPSNet contributions to the Nautilus Policy Forum Online, and the NAPSNet Archive (accessible through both World Wide Web and FTP browsers).
The results from question 3 indicated that the NAPSNet Special Reports, introduced in early 1997 and consisting of longer analytical pieces and larger summaries (e.g. transcript excerpts from official briefings, press releases, conference statements, etc.) were deemed more valuable than analytical sections contained within the body of the Daily Report itself. Reinforcing this finding are the results of question 11, which show that 77 percent of respondents read the Special Reports either "always" or "often."
These results contrast sharply with those of questions 3, 12, and 13, pertaining to the NAPSNet contributions to the Nautilus Policy Forum Online.5 The relatively poor ranking of the Policy Forum postings in question 3 was reinforced by the results of question 11, which show that 52 percent of respondents read these postings either "occasionally" or "never," and the results of question 12, which show not only that some 90 percent of respondents do not reply to Policy Forum postings, but also that some 70 percent fail to reply due to "insufficient time and/or interest," rather than they "don't know how." These results reinforce the pre-existing knowledge that very few individuals have replied to initial Policy Forum postings and that, accordingly, it has not functioned very successfully as a "forum."6
The results of question 14 indicated that most respondents visit the NAPSNet Archives "once a month or less." Combined with the finding in this and the following question that very few respondents lacked access to the World Wide Web, these results clearly indicate that the NAPSNet Archive is not being utilized. This finding is not surprising, given that:
Two issues are apparent. First is the future of the Policy Forum Online. This issue involves a number of factors, some addressed above, that relate to other issues raised elsewhere in this report. Most notably, a rethinking of the Policy Forum Online should be done in conjunction with discussion of how to implement a shift toward supplying more analytical content in NAPSNet.
The second issue is the utility of the NAPSNet Archive. The improvements accomplished in 1997 (detailed below, in the "Computer and World Wide Web Skills" section) came about significantly as a result of the diligent efforts of Nautilus interns. These improvements, albeit useful in their own right, provide merely the foundation for developing the kind of unique research resource that only the Nautilus Institute's combination of information access and Internet presence could make available. Development of the NAPSNet Archive along the lines discussed above - sustaining a flow of fresh information into it and providing easily accessible Internet means to gather information out of it -- will require a specific commitment of intention and resources.
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9. NAPSNet Fees
Question 20 sought to explore explicitly the feasibility of implementing a voluntary system of subscription dues for NAPSNet, and in particular a "two-tier" system in which organizations would be asked to contribute at a higher level than individuals.7
Of those answering this question, 39 percent indicated a willingness to contribute voluntarily (this represents 34 percent of all respondents to the survey). Among those respondents who indicated that they would be willing to contribute a voluntary fee, 56 percent also replied to the additional request to specify an amount. These responses were unstandardized and varied considerably; although most were in the range of US$10 to US$20 per year, there were also a fair number in the range of US$100 to US$240 (See Appendix C, Item 3). The average among the amounts given in US dollars was $57.50.
Based on these results, it is possible to speculate that approximately one-third of the listed email recipients of the Daily Report might be willing to contribute voluntarily an average of $50 per year to support NAPSNet. With a current email recipient list of 750, this works out to an estimated income of $12,500. However, this estimate is probably excessive: cross-tabulating these results with the length of time respondents have participated in NAPSNet reveals that willingness to contribute decreases among newer members, as the following graph indicates:
Because newer members are a far larger proportion of the membership, and because respondents to the survey probably over-represented the older "core" membership (although the survey provided no data on the latter assumption), a reasonable estimated income from a voluntary fee system is probably about half of the $12,500 figure calculated above.
The issues raised by this finding include whether a more reliable income amount can be estimated, whether the income would compensate for the costs of soliciting, collecting and accounting contributions, and whether the scheme would also entail non-monetary costs (such as to the image of NAPSNet) that would be significant enough to factor into this decision.
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10. Alternatives to NAPSNet
A series of questions sought to explore respondents' use of alternative Internet and non-Internet resources for gathering information on NAPSNet core issues, and to elicit respondents' views on the relative utility of these alternative sources.
The most significant conclusions to be drawn from question 15, pertaining to Internet resources, is that most respondents reported being thoroughly "plugged in" to the World Wide Web. Some two-thirds of respondents reported using World Wide Web browsers or search engines to "find information on peace and security issues in Northeast Asia," and one-third cited specific World Wide Web sites that they use to garner information. Solid percentages also reported relying upon email and newsgroups. Conversely, only a tiny fraction of respondents reported making use of text-only Internet access or having no Internet access at all. (The issues of technological capability raised by these findings are addressed in the following section).
The results of question 16 were unsurprising: solid percentages, ranging from 49 percent to 85 percent, reported making use of each of the non-Internet media offered by the question.
The results of questions 17 and 18 provided a strong endorsement of NAPSNet in comparison to these other sources: 78 percent found the NAPSNet Daily Report "essential" or "highly useful" when compared to such other information sources, and 70 percent reported that there were no other features in other information sources that they would find useful to be incorporated into the Daily Report.
However, this finding is slightly qualified by the cross-tabulation of question 17 with question 1, which indicates that NAPSNet is valued as "essential" by about half its longer-term members, but by only about one-third of the more numerous group of newer members:
Following from the presumption that the longer-term participants in NAPSNet represent its "core" membership, this finding shows that NAPSNet continues to be valued most highly by this core.
Whether or not NAPSNet is "staying ahead of the competition" is a question that needs to be constantly kept in mind. Apart from strictly technological issues (addressed below), the results above indicate that NAPSNet still provides a highly useful and unique service valued as such by its members, especially its "core" members. The geometric increase in NAPSNet membership in the last year or two shows that NAPSNet continues to be viewed as useful and unique enough to attract new participants, rather than only enough to hold on to past participants. However, the findings of question 15 ought to be interpreted as cautionary: as World Wide Web access becomes increasingly ubiquitous, particularly among those types of individuals most likely to find the substantive content of NAPSNet most useful, NAPSNet must continue to be on the cutting edge of providing World Wide Web access to its resources. This view is reinforced by the finding, noted in the following section, that longer-term members have no less facility with the Internet than do newer members.
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11. Computer and World Wide Web Skills
Question 15 provided useful data on the degree to which respondents have access to and utilize the World Wide Web and other Internet resources. In particular, fully two-thirds of the respondents reported making use of a World Wide Web browser. Moreover, a cross-tabulation revealed that this ratio did not vary across length of membership in NAPSNet. Conversely, only four percent of respondents to this question (and six percent to question 14) indicated that they had no access to the World Wide Web at all.
Anticipating this development, in 1997 NAPSNet achieved a significantly higher World Wide Web (WWW) presence than it had at the beginning of the year, through development of the following capabilities:
One approximate measure of the value of the development of NAPSNet's WWW capabilities over the past year is given in the cross-tabulation of the those who reported using an Internet browser in their work and the replies to question 17, regarding the value accorded to the Daily Report. This cross-tabulation indicates that the percentage of those who found the NAPSNet Daily Report "essential" is nearly the same among those who use WWW browsers in their work as those who do not, and the percentage of those who found the report either "essential" or "highly useful" was identical between the two groups, as the following graph indicates:
This finding shows that respondents' Internet access was not a factor in their assessments of the value of NAPSNet. One reasonable interpretation of this finding is that NAPSNet's efforts to maintain a "two-tier" delivery system have thus far been successful: neither those with nor those without WWW access appear to be "missing" anything. This interpretation validates the efforts required to maintain the "two-tier" system.
The choice to maintain a "two-tier" delivery system, and its apparent merit, raises two specific issues regarding the expanding WWW side of NAPSNet:
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12. Scope of Distribution
The results from question 19 provided invaluable data that allow us to estimate the combined readership and "reach" of the NAPSNet Daily Report and other services. In particular, virtually one-half of the email recipients of the Daily Report who responded to the survey indicated that they forward the report to "friends and colleagues." Asked to provide the number to whom they forwarded reports, the results ranged from a low of 1 to a high of 121, totaling 557. As indicated by the survey results for this question (see Appendix B), this works out to an average of 3.0 forwards per respondent. As the email recipient list for the Daily Report currently numbers just over 750, extending this figure to the entire list yields an approximate email recipient count of 3000.8
The data also enable us to estimate how much of this "extended" readership receives the Daily Report regularly. Among those forwarding the report, the average number of forwards was 6.6. In reply to another portion of this question, only 17 percent of these respondents indicated that they forwarded the reports "regularly" rather than "occasionally." However, compensating for this figure, those forwarding the report "regularly" also tended to forward to more people: the average number of forwards for regular forwarders was 17.6, whereas the average number of forwards for occasional forwarders was 4.4. 9
Supplementing these estimates of the NAPSNet membership and Daily Report readership are the results, independent of the survey, of tracking the number of visits to the Nautilus web site location at which a web page version of each Daily Report is placed as soon as it is completed. As noted above, provision of a WWW version of the "latest" Daily Report has been in place since January 1997, and we have tracked visits to this location for the past 14 weeks. For this period (and consistently throughout the period), this location has received an average of 50 visits (or "hits") per day, concentrated into some 60 visits per weekday, when new Daily Reports are issued. For comparison, this rate is approximately five times that of the Nautilus home page. Moreover, statistics show that less than half of these visits are frequent "repeat" visits, suggesting that some 100-200 individuals visit the "latest" report regularly while some unknown additional number visit the site occasionally. Thus, the community of those relying upon WWW access to the Daily Report has now become significant, although still a small minority of the overall (and growing) NAPSNet community.
Although the number of WWW readers of the Daily Report is a small fraction of the email recipient list, web site visits are "active" efforts while email receipt is "passive." Thus, each web site visit represents an explicit interest in that report. Given the increasing ubiquity of access to the World Wide Web, a growing reliance on this form of access to the NAPSNet Daily Report is likely. Greater focus on this dimension of the service would be consistent with more general efforts to make greater use of the World Wide Web to heighten attention to NAPSNet and distribution of its services, as discussed in preceding sections.
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1. This represents approximately 25 percent of the average of 725 email recipients of the Daily Report over the survey period. This percentage is comparable to that achieved by marketing research firms conducting self-administered surveys through regular mail. This sample cannot be considered statistically representative of the NAPSNet membership, given our survey techniques (for example, it is biased toward those more interested in responding). However, we consider this response rate to be quite healthy and well indicative of views of the membership - and in particular, of the "core" membership -- on the questions of interest in the survey. [See Appendix A for a breakdown of the general membership and survey response rates across the categories of nationality and occupational status.] Return
2. Note: labels 1-5 correspond to responses a-e to questions 1 and 2. See Appendix B. Return
3. Note that all added comments are collated in Appendix C, Items 2 & 4 (along with each respondent's assigned number). Return
4. NAPSNet recently distributed, as a Policy Forum Online posting and Special Report, an op-ed by Kim Myong Chol laying out likely DPRK perspectives on current affairs. This is the first product of this newly established relationship for which the U.S. government granted approval in 1997; it will now be ongoing and promises to introduce more DPRK perspectives into NAPSNet. Return
5. Note that there is an overlap in these categories: the NAPSNet Policy Forum postings on the Nautilus web site are also distributed in simple text versions as Special Reports to the NAPSNet email list. Return
6. The most recent posting -- the oped by Kim Myong Chol laying out likely DPRK perspectives on current affairs, noted above -- was the first in many months to attract a response that could be distributed in a follow-up posting. However, criticisms we received of the quality of this response also reflect on NAPSNet, suggesting that simply generating any or more responses is an insufficient standard. Return
7. We chose not to include the "two-tier" concept as part of the question, to avoid confusion and facilitate accurate responses to the more basic concept of a voluntary fee structure. We placed this as the last question asking specifically about NAPSNet so that it would follow other questions that would remind respondents of the value of NAPSNet, in order to gain as "generous" a response as possible. Return
8. This method of calculation probably exaggerates the number of forwards by non-survey respondents. However, this error might be balanced by the number of "second-order" forwards by those receiving forwards, which is impossible to estimate from this data. Return
9. These data are skewed by the single respondent who reported forwarding reports to 121 others; without this response, the average number of forwards for regular forwarders was 9.7. However, this single response is itself quite noteworthy, insofar as the respondent is an official in a large Asian government. Return
The Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network invites your comments on this survey. Please send responses to: firstname.lastname@example.org.