Stopping focus group fraudsters

I read the market research feature on focus groups with interest, and found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the call for increased industry willingness to invest in the recruitment profession.

These are ongoing issues, which the whole industry is committed to working through, whether it be through organisations such as the Association for Qualitative Research, companies working together or on their own initiative. We believe one solution is database recruitment, which is why we established Saros three years ago, and have developed a database of over 35,000 respondents.

Because we advertise publicly for potential research participants, we are a target for the “groupies” we all know are out there. To avoid them, we make careful sweeps to guard against duplicate entries – however imaginative (like the eight women in Leeds who share a set of initials and a mobile phone number).

Very often, experienced participants give themselves away in the early stages just by the terminology they use and their expectations. And we have encountered a number of people who have attended very frequently and are unaware that this is not approved of – how could they be when the same recruiter keeps coming back to them?

The idea of sharing information on the cheats is attractive, but data protection legislation, the MRS code of practice and our own privacy agreement with respondents does not permit this. Instead, we focus on robust screening processes intensive, detailed interviewer training and supervision.

This takes major investment, and recruitment needs to be better valued and respected within the industry. If researchers insist on choosing by price then there is no incentive for quality to rise. Recruitment can add value to the whole process, from project design and sampling to follow-ups and feedback.

If clients are surprised at the recruitment costs, they need to consider the reality of finding people who meet increasingly demanding specifications as well as recognising the tremendous qualitative difference to their projects’ output when enthusiastic, accurately recruited and fresh respondents are recruited.

Research participants are the foundation on which every insight and conclusion is based, and skimping on the foundation rarely makes sense in the long run, especially if you want to build something towering and impressive.

Maya Middlemiss

Saros Research

London SE18

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