NEWS5 August 2010

TNS-BMRB examines mode effects in moving social research online


UK— Researchers at TNS-BMRB are embarking on a year-long programme of research to explore mode effects in social research and trends work.

The research is being carried out in partnership with WPP sister company Lightspeed Research, which is making its online panels available to see whether web-based research produces significant differences in results as compared to more traditional offline survey methods.

TNS-BMRB chief executive Michelle Harrison said: “In social research, nothing matters more than quality and coverage. We have to constantly review the best ways of getting coverage of society and because of how society and technology has changed, its possible that some online modes will now be better for reaching certain population segments.”

But what of the issue of cost? Online has achieved dominance in the commercial research sphere for being cheaper for clients and higher margin for agencies. Mindful that UK and European governments are in ‘austerity’ mode, Research asked Harrison whether TNS-BMRB was preparing the groundwork for a shift away from more expensive telephone and face-to-face methods in the social research sphere?

“We are aware of the need for best value and this work will ensure we are not missing any opportunities to get better value for our clients,” she said. “But until we have finished this project we do not presume that online is necessarily cheaper.”

Harrison said it is possible that any switch to online modes might require significant investments – in panels, for example – to ensure the methods are appropriate for social research.

And regardless of the cost issue, she said: “We would need to do this work anyway because this is a point in time when the majority of society is now online.”

The first batch of results are due back next month.