OPINION30 November 2009

Should we take the politics out of research?

Is the position of research to seek the truth being quashed by its political use

Yet another survey, yet more measurement:  I mean it’s nice that you ask, I’m sure you are trying to understand but does anything really change?  Are my results sent into the ‘black hole’ of analysis to spew out some poorly conceived interpretation that actually says little or nothing at all? And certainly does not change my experience of your firm.

But perhaps I am looking a little outside-in rather than inside-out; the real reason this exists is for the benefit of the firm not for the benefit of understanding ‘what I want’.

I raise the point because it seems to me that there are some blatantly political research surveys out there that mean nothing to the consumer. From poorly constructed scales – where most of the choices are on the positive side – to unrealistic conjoint tests – I am getting the feeling from some surveys that you’d be better off just asking me straightforwardly: tell me what you think.  Although I guess then you’d have no numbers to claim ‘this is the unadulterated truth’.

Perhaps we should follow the pharmaceutical industry route of laying out the methodology before undertaking the research? Perhaps education is the key?

Research has always been a complex beast; we all know question order influences results as does question wording and statistical technique.   So what are we doing about de-politicising it? Should we do anything?  I guess a more rigorous approach would end some of the ‘pop surveys’ out there and seriously question the validity of some entrenched approaches – but isn’t this better than just following a method because it keeps the department employed?