NEWS16 February 2021

MRS hits back at Cummings qual research claims

Covid-19 News Public Sector UK

UK – The Market Research Society (MRS) has criticised claims from former chief adviser to the prime minister Dominic Cummings that the qualitative research industry lacks high levels of competency, honesty and reliability.

The comments come at the beginning of a High Court case brought by campaign group The Good Law Project examining the government’s decision to award opinion polling firm Public First a contract worth almost £500,000 without a public tender.

In an evidence statement to the High Court, Cummings said that he had hired Public First for the contract because they “were very good at running focus groups” and had “thought extensively about how people who usually ignore most news and political communication think and might be influenced”.

Cummings said he was friends with the founding directors of Public First, but said that he had not recommended them for government work on that basis.

The statement from Cummings went on to say that Public First “would give us honest information unlike many companies in this sector”, adding: “Very few companies in this field are competent, almost none are very competent, honest and reliable.”

A statement Jane Frost, chief executive of MRS, said: “The sector is a world leader in its standards, innovation and development. It has had a rigorous code of conduct for more than 60 years to which more than 500 companies commit themselves.

“Such statements as have been published are wild generalisations which have no basis in fact.”

An article from Jan Gooding, president of the MRS, on the MRS website said that it is best practice to procure work from MRS-accredited suppliers, and that the MRS’s concerns about the Public First contract had been relayed to government.

Gooding said: “We reinforced with senior civil servants the importance and rigour of many years of work with government to develop a sustainable, effective and affordable approach to market, social and opinion research procurement.

“There are many – often daily – examples of how our sector’s brilliant work has had a profound impact on critical government projects, including those which have been recognised with MRS awards and high-profile Covid-19 testing. To imply otherwise suggests a total ignorance of the facts.”

@RESEARCH LIVE

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