When planning a new bulletin, an assessment of readers’ needs will increase the likelihood of providing useful information (e.g. what type and depth of information is needed, whether local or overseas authors are preferred - see Chapter 4). From this initial assessment, clear objectives for the bulletin can be formulated. Future evaluations can then measure to what extent the objectives are being met and help guide ongoing work planning.
An evaluation of an established bulletin can tell you whether the information published is useful and relevant, and what is needed to improve quality and effectiveness, such as using a new format, providing abstracts, improving indexing, etc. An evaluation can also sometimes establish whether a behavioural change (e.g. a change in prescribing behaviour) has occurred in response to information in the bulletin, and can be used to measure the degree of change. Evaluation can be used to determine if the bulletin is actually being read.
An evaluation can positively reinforce the editorial team's efforts and give assurance that resources, particularly time and money, are being used effectively. It can also demonstrate the value of the bulletin when seeking increased or continued funding. It may be the only way to counter funders who prefer to put their money into activities with more obvious immediate outcomes.
Evaluations are often perceived as difficult, costly and time-consuming. This may be true for large impact assessments (see below), but any bulletin can successfully carry out simple audit and obtain feedback from readers, even if experience and funding are limited. Starting with smaller, simpler tasks will also build the knowledge and confidence needed to undertake more complex evaluations.