Earlier in the week I was fortunate to attend and speak at the International Journal of Market Research Methods Forum. It was one of those one-track, everybody in the same room conferences with lots of time to interact. Myself excepted, the speakers and presentations were of uniformly high quality and centered around the theme of "Fit for Purpose." The conference site was the headquarters of The Royal Society, a group founded in 1640 by a handful of "natural philosophers" including Christopher Wren. Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Alfred Einstein, and Stephen Hawking have all been fellows. In 1687 they published Newton's Principia Mathematica, a copy of which is prominently displayed in the lobby. Not a bad setting.
Simply put the major question we all struggled with was how to maintain the scientific fundamentals of research in a world of shrinking budgets and declining professionalism. Over the course of eight presentations and two panels we got the public sector view from Sr. Michael Scholar (Chair of the UK Statistics Authority), the research agency view from Ben Page (CEO of Ipsos MORI), and the client view from Richard Ellwood (Senior Manager, Brand and Marketing Research at Walt Disney). We talked about the place for new methods in a presentation by Mike Hall (Development Partner at Verve) on MROCs and data integration by Julian Dobinson (Research Director at BSkyB). And, of course, yours truly on panels.
I wish I could say that we came up with a single compelling answer, but we didn't. There were calls for stronger professional standards by the industry and professional organizations, better training of young researchers, more effective education of clients about good and bad methods, and more research to systematically evaluate and validate new methods before adopting and selling them. It's a battle with many fronts.
But it was a great pleasure to be among so many like-minded and thoughtful people.