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NEWS19 July 2010

Esomar chief disputes ‘draconian’ charge over US rep row

North America

NETHERLANDS— Esomar director general Finn Raben today defended the organisation against charges that it was “draconian” in its decision to remove US representative Tom Anderson from his post following his criticism of attempts to introduce the ISO research quality standard to the US market.

The Esomar Council decided last week that Anderson’s “continued stance on this issue was not compatible with his role and obligations as an Esomar representative” and as such his status as representative was revoked.

Speaking to Research, Raben said: “If anybody assumes that just because someone speaks out we are out there brandishing fire and brimstone they are wrong. There were many attempts to move forward in partnership before this action took place.”

Anderson ran into trouble with Esomar over comments made in his blog and, in particular, on the Next Gen Market Research (NGMR) group he runs on business networking site Linkedin.

A debate began after Research reported news of the Council of American Survey Research Organisations’s (Casro) decision to establish a committee to audit US agencies who wished to adhere to the ISO research process quality standards, ISO 20252 and 26362.

Esomar is a supporter of the ISO standards – but Raben says the organisation was prompted into action more by Anderson’s criticism of Casro, with whom it maintains a working relationship, than by his attacks on the ISO.

In one post Anderson implied that Casro’s interest in promoting the ISO standard in the US was financially motivated. He wrote: “Probably good part [sic] of the reason Casro is interested (an additional revenue stream)” – but Casro’s ISO audit committee has been set up to run as a not-for-profit.

“The debate around the ISO standards was reasonably balanced until the attacks made against Casro,” said Raben. “It was that which prompted Esomar to get invoved… it was too forceful an attack on an organisation that is only trying to do its best for the industry.”

Raben said Esomar communicated its concerns to Anderson both verbally and in writing. “We told him we fully understood that he had his own point of view, but as a representative and ambassador for Esomar, if those kinds of views are going to be expressed, the least we would require is that the debate would be balanced,” said Raben.

“We felt that that balance was missing from Tom’s contributions and in the way he hosted the debate.”

Raben insisted: “We are not against having an active and energetic debate about where the industry should or should not go, but that debate should be informed and participants should benefit from that debate. Such debates need not be personal or critical of others’ views.”

In the wake of the Anderson dispute, Esomar issued all 82 of its country representatives with a charter outlining their responsibilities. Some have construed this as an attempt by Esomar to clamp down on further dissent in the ranks, but Raben says this is not the case.

“Esomar has a set of values and we have to ensure that those values are respected,” he said. Representatives have previously been required to sign a charter, though not for a number of years, and Raben acknowledged that recent events had prompted the organisation to revisit the document.

Council members have to sign a charter, he said, but asked whether representatives also had to sign it, Raben said: “We would like them to sign it. If they have an issue with it, we would like to have that discussion with them.”

And as for Anderson, Raben said: “Tom is still a member. The fact that he isn’t a representative any more does not prevent him from being a member and I would sincerely hope that he remains one.”

3 Comments

9 years ago

Any way you read the ESOMAR pledge, it will lead to a conflict, and signing it binds representatives from the real universe of active discussion. I have explained elsewhere my argument - the parallel that lends itself is that conflict between the dcotrs' Hippocratic Oath and their own working contracts at hospitals. For the most part the two sets of values are in harmony - but not always. But where hospitals and doctors generally resolve the conflicts between saving lives and meeting budgets (for example) ESOMAR is showing no such flexibility. Really I think ESOMAR has over-reacted here. A noisy discussion board will blow over in a few days and the participants will move on to the next discussion. I feel ESOMAR took unwise PR counsel in this instance. This action of introducing a Pledge, in effect a new contract, after representatives hve already been elected, is a retrograde step. Discussion Board topics fade pretty quickly. Top-Down actions, tangible actions, such as those taken this alst week by ESOMAR leave a sour lingering message that will hang around for a long time. And not with any positive effect. ESOMAR comes across neither as reasonable, flexible or demonstrably good at listening. Sign the pledge, keep quiet - we're here to look after YOUR interests. The charter isn't a clarification: it is a Maginot Line and it won't prevent or resolve the underlying problem.

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9 years ago

Read the entire NGMR thread. It was demeaning, unprofessional and childish. Those who disagreed with Tom's position were challenged or ridiculed. It is unfortunate that civil discourse is so rare these days, and even more so that ESOMAR can't just assume reps will adhere to basic professionalism. Indeed I am posting anonymously to avoid unwanted response.

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9 years ago

Anon - the entire thread was not childish, demeaning or unprofessional, and you slight a lot of considered comment by your intemperate remark. It is true to say that the tone of some comments was unfortunate, but the gist of the thread - the majority of the thread - was a lot more serious than you perceived, clearly.

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