FEATURE8 November 2021

James Vaughan-Smith – Research Hero

Features People

This year, the Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. James Vaughan-Smith has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2021.

James Vaughan-Smith, Operations Director, Northstar 


James Vaughan-Smith, operations director at Northstar, has been nominated for his prescience in putting remote working systems in place before Covid-19, which meant the company could focus on emotional support during the early phases of the pandemic.

Vaughan-Smith created a ‘wellbeing Wednesday’ advice pack for colleagues, as well as tuition on how to switch off while remote working.

Vaughan-Smith also diverted the office fruit order to a homeless shelter when the office shut during lockdowns, with the company still committed paying the supplier.

He is leader of Northstar’s diversity and inclusion hub and also delivers mentoring and training for apprentices, in addition to leading the company’s ISO accreditation and IT services.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?

My biggest career challenge has been the constant balancing act of making the workplace fun, interesting, easy and agile for all our staff, while ensuring that their work is delivered to the high standards Northstar expects of itself. One eye on joy and one eye on the law and our industry’s vital standards, in a safe, fair, diverse and inclusive environment gets me up in the morning. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that my role activates people to enjoy their job while doing it as best they can.

What will be the next big trend or development in the research industry, and why?

I believe the future of market research is the balance between digital and human progression. How can we progress our insight toolbox to create faster, less expensive and more robust results while keeping the heart of the industry beating – engagement with humans, their behaviours, joys and difficulties.

Who inspires you as a researcher?

My inspiration in research is anyone who is challenging the established norm. Any single person, no matter their experience or background, who can ask and debate the most important questions in our fast-evolving society deserves to be championed and pushed to ask more questions. I hope that we all collectively evolve our industry and ourselves to be equipped to tackle all that is difficult in the world and make life fair and happy for as many people as possible.

View the full list of Research Heroes for 2021

In Spring 2022, MRS will be requesting nominations for Research Heroes 2022.