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FEATURE21 December 2023

Review of 2023: People and research of the year

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As part of Research Live’s end-of-year review series, we asked research leaders to share their top person and favourite research of 2023. From athletes to academics and industry figures to entrepreneurs, to campaigns from McDonald’s and Women in Data, our contributors share the individuals and projects to have made a particular impression.

Who is your person of the year?

Kelly Beaver, chief executive UK and Ireland, Ipsos
Mary Earps. While we may have only been runner up in the Women’s World Cup, what Earps and the team have done to raise the profile for women’s football and sport in general has been phenomenal over the last few years – as well as being a brilliant role model to a future generation – my nine-year old daughter included!

Amy Cashman, executive managing director of the UK insights division, Kantar
For me, Sophie Pender wins this title. She’s the founder and chief executive of The 93% Club, which is working to tackle barriers to social mobility. This is a really important issue for market research, which is all about understanding the habits, wants and views of a diverse population. We’ve made encouraging progress in diversity, equity and inclusion in the sector but there’s still more we can and must do, and Sophie’s efforts with The 93% Club are impressive. And did I mention she’s only 26 years old?

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
Melanie Courtright, chief executive of the Insights Association – as well as leading the IA, Melanie has been building bridges across the industry and helping drive the Global Data Quality initiative.

Andrew Cooper, founder and chief executive, Verve
Anushka Asthana from ITV’s Peston programme – for bringing kudos to research and analytics talents with their ‘Geek of the Week'.

Jessica DeVlieger, chief executive, C Space
I'm a great admirer of Scott Galloway and particularly impressed by his work that extends beyond (yet is connected to) macro and microeconomic commentaries: male mental health, forgotten generations, loneliness. He’s an academic thinker with a significant following who focuses on real human problems. We need more Scott Galloways.

Hannah Rogers, business development director, Kokoro
Dr Lara Ramdin, chief innovation and science officer at Upcycled Food Inc, Lara breaks down barriers wherever she goes. She practices what she preaches inspiring teams and giving them practical advice on what they need to do to get to the next steps. Brave and bold, she’s a true champion of sustainability, innovation and female leadership – what a person!

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
Leane Cullen-Unsworth is a marine scientist. She is founder and chief executive of Project Seagrass, the first seagrass restoration scheme in the UK. Using robots to plant seeds they are restoring underwater meadows that store carbon and protect our coastline. An exceptional example of someone working hard in her field to conserve the environment for us all.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
In a year that has been beset with challenges, I’m delighted that we’ve made impressive progress in a number of ways, particularly on representation and inclusion. This isn’t down to one person – it’s been a collective effort of changemakers across the board.

From those who invested their time in the MRS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Council and the people who reinvigorated MRS Unlimited and put the spotlight on disability inclusion, to those who have supported our apprenticeship programme, the tireless work and collaborative spirit I’ve seen from people at all stages in their careers has been inspiring.

What was the best piece of research or insight?

Joanne Pearson, global customer insight director, Jaguar Land Rover
The one that springs to mind for me is for McDonald’s and the insight behind its ‘Raise Your Arches’ campaign, which uses the insight that the invitation to grab a McDonald’s is so universal that it can be communicated without saying a word. In fact, the campaign focuses on groups of people in locations, like offices, rather than the McDonald’s restaurants or products.

With its catchy theme tune and social media call to action to take pictures and videos featuring the distinctive eyebrow wiggle, it has been a very successful campaign because the insight resonates with the target audience. I have definitely seen my children do the eyebrow wiggle as a request for me to stop when we drive near to any golden arches!

Bethan Blakeley, research director, Boxclever
For me it has to be the big piece of research Women in Data did on being a woman and the risks that brings with it – they’ve been slowly releasing stats from it since, and they don’t surprise me, which is upsetting, really. Go check it out.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
The research conducted by Matt Reynolds and Bex Grove at Vitreous World into the benefits of representative research springs to mind. They found that there was an unmistakable commercial advantage in improving inclusivity, as businesses were able to reach new target audiences. They also found that there was no cost penalty for undertaking research inclusively. While the study was completed at the tail end of last year, the insights were so significant for our sector and how we view inclusion that they still fully deserve our applause.

This article is part of Research Live’s Review of 2023 series, exploring the standout trends, developments and moments of the past 12 months.