FEATURE8 November 2021

Marie Hobson – Research Hero

Features People

This year, the Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Marie Hobson has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2021.

Marie Hobson, senior manager, audience research and insight, Victoria and Albert Museum 


Marie Hobson is the senior manager for audience research and insight at the Victoria and Albert Museum. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience working in the audience research sector for museums, having previously held roles at the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and National Lottery Heritage Fund.

When the pandemic closed museums worldwide, Hobson set up a ‘Covid Museums’ Twitter account @covidsitor to act as a forum for researchers working across the cultural sector to share data, methods, insights and issues relating to audience research and museum visitors during Covid-19.

In addition to promoting relevant research, events and conferences, Hobson summarised the emerging findings and shared them free of charge in an accompanying Google Drive to help museums adopt an audience-led approach to reopening safely.

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

The biggest challenge is convincing colleagues of when audience research is and is not appropriate. Often, I start off on project teams trying to advocate the value of conducting audience research to embed it in project plans and resource it adequately. Once established, then teams want every single thing evaluated even when a decision could reasonably be made using their professional judgement or prior organisational knowledge. It is very hard to change from persuading them to do audience research to persuading them it is not needed to make every single decision.

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

I think there will be greater efforts and pressure for research to be used to help institutions become learning organisations. Learning organisations are ones which are skilled at creating new knowledge and modifying their behaviours in light of that knowledge. The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important it is for organisations to adapt to new situations and the crucial role that audience insight plays in facilitating that.

Who inspires you as a researcher?

Although it sounds saccharine, it is the research participants. Every time I hear or read the findings from a piece of audience research that provide insight into the world of the museum visitor (or non-visitor), I think “this is why we do it”. It reminds me that the time, effort and resource involved is worth it and motivates me to find out more.

View the full list of Research Heroes for 2021

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