One nice feature of this conference was the significant representation from the public sector, some clients but mostly companies that do what we in the US might call social policy or government research. By and large, MR and government researchers go their own separate ways here but in Australia and to a lesser extent in Europe that’s not always the case. I have always felt that both MR and government research in the US would benefit from closer collaboration, but I don’t expect to see that happen any time soon.
There also was a significant contingent of client-side researchers, more than one usually sees in the US save for the artificial environment created by TMRE. And, as conference co-chair Ray Poynter wryly observed, they weren’t hiding their name badges, suggesting that they felt more like colleagues than targets of opportunity.
There were five plenary sessions, mostly featuring the usual suspects (like me). Our job was to be thought provoking and I think we managed. I’ll leave it at that.
To accommodate that many papers there had to be some parallel sessions, and I attended three of them. Some observations:
· I’m not sure that MR has yet tuned into big data in a meaningful way. It’s more than loyalty card data or social media data. It seems to me that it’s more about combining different kinds of data from lots of different sources, and more about the techniques of data mining and machine learning than it is about sampling, inferential statistics, and hypothesis testing. We continue to view big data through the lens of our current paradigm, and I don’t think that’s where the big data movement is going.
· Mobile seems frozen in place. Everyone continues to talk about “in-the-moment” and geolocation but I don’t see mobile as being really there yet in a meaningful way. The unintentional mobile respondent issue is where the action is right now and I’m surprised it’s not getting more attention. Long surveys designed for computer administration are a serious problem and the industry ought to be running as fast as it can to solve those two problems now. But I don’t get a sense of urgency.
· Finally there is behavioral economics, neuroscience, neuromarketing, behavioral science – whatever name you put to it. MR has been struggling to figure out what to do with it beyond wiring people up in qual settings or grabbing images of faces and making inferences that some might say go beyond the current science. There is a lot of experimenting going on, which is a good thing, but I think we are still in the learning phase.
The conference closed with one of those personally inspiring talks from an author of what we used to call “self-help” books (maybe we still do) that have become standard fare at MR conferences these days. Nigel Marsh has written Fat, Forty, and Fired and Overworked and Underlaid. He was typically personable and funny. As always happens to me in these situations I was nearly overcome with envy of his command of the stage. But I never feel especially inspired to go out and take command of my life like I am supposed to do. Maybe it’s an age thing.