Ethical considerations

All research should consider the wellbeing of the participants completing the research and the researcher / interviewer throughout the research process. This not only ensures the safety of all, but that participants take part giving their consent, understand what the research is about and are not mislead in any way. Some key principles that need top be abided by are as follows:

  • All participation should be voluntary
  • Informant consent should be obtained in all instances
  • No harm should come to participants or researcher
  • Ensure anonymity and confidentiality throughout
  • Transparency and not deceiving participants

The MRS (Market Research Society) Code of Conduct

The Market Research Society (MRS) is a professional body for the market research industry. They have devised a code of practice which all MRS members are obliged to follow and is also an excellent guide for those not working in the market research sector. For more information and for the full, official code of conduct, see https://www.mrs.org.uk/standards/code-of-conduct

  1. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in research

Data protection is extremely important in research, not only to abide by the law, but to protect sensitive and personal information from participants. Ultimately, to ensure participants feel comfortable completing surveys and uphold research credentials in the industry.

There are many considerations that need to be taken on board and implemented in research in order to be compliant with GDPR guidelines and regulations. The most important ones to note are:

  • Data collection
  • All participants need to give informed consent and made aware upfront if they will be asked sensitive topics or questions. If you want to invite your customers to take part in a survey, you can only reach out to them if they have given explicit permission to be contacted for these purposes. In addition to this, you will need to gain consent in the first wave of research to recontact participants again if you have any farther questions to ask them.
  • Ensure all data from participants, regardless of whether this is quantitative, qualitative, face-to-face or online, is anonymised and remains confidential unless specific consent is gained at the beginning of the research.
  • Data storage & transfer
  • Make sure all data, even when it is anonymised, is stored securely. If any personal information is obtained, it needs to be securely destroyed within sensible retention period.
  • If the participant contacts you and asks for their data to be deleted, you will need to quickly respond to them and delete their data from all sources as requested.

All research agencies should be abiding by these steps and have a variety of measures in place to ensure no data breaches happen.

Adapting research in accordance with target audience & other considerations

Research among children

If the research involves interviewing a child under 16, parental (or locus parentis) consent is required. For further information on points to consider see https://www.mrs.org.uk/pdf/MRS-Code-of-Conduct-2019.pdf – point 16-22

Research among vulnerable people

The research design and process will need to be reviewed if research is carried out among vulnerable people. Those running the research will need to make sure that participants are able to give informed consent and careful consideration will need to think about their wellbeing during the research which may mean introducing specific safeguarding measures.   

For more information visit: https://www.mrs.org.uk/pdf/MRS-Code-of-Conduct-2019.pdf – point 23-24

Research on sensitive topics

Before any research is carried out, consideration should be taken if the survey or interview covers any questions or areas that may be sensitive to others or cause embarrassment. Such topic areas could be, sex, health, religion, ethnicity etc.

To minimise this:

  • Make sure topic area is outlined at the beginning of the research and informed consent is gained before research commences
  • Potentially provide details of a confidential helpline telephone number and email address which participants can contact if they need support or information.
  • Reassure participants about the anonymity of their data
  • Make sure participants are not forced to answer any sensitive questions or provide demographic information if they feel uncomfortable doing so.

For more information visit: https://www.mrs.org.uk/pdf/MRS-Code-of-Conduct-2019.pdf

Conducting pilot research and/or participatory research methods help to minimise some of the risks associated with these types of research. It is always good practice to reach out to market research specialists if you have any worries or concerns.

This article was kindly contributed by Hannah Kilshaw, Research Director at ICM Unlimited.

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