Most notably, from 1 April 2010, the MRS Code will include a new rule that prevents clients’ goods or services, or vouchers to purchase these, from being used as incentives in a research project.
This new rule is based upon legal requirements defined within the Data Protection Act 1998 and follows existing MRS regulations. Any project using such incentives can therefore no longer be classified as purely research: new MRS Incentive guidelines have been developed to assist research practitioners with managing this change.
The changes come after a year-long consultation, with the new code, in combination with existing MRS Regulations on Using Research Techniques for Non-Research Purposes, setting out the legal and ethical responsibilities for researchers in conducting all their research and non-research activities.
The new MRS Code also recognises some of the fundamental changes in data collection, notably in the online environment by incorporating new definitions for what constitutes an ‘interview’ and a ‘data collection process’.
The revisions to the research Code are the first to be made since 2005 and are based on a set of 10 new principles which have been extended to cover researchers conducting non-research activities.
As research and marketing techniques have developed, demand has increased for researchers’ skills and techniques to be used for purposes beyond research. Clients across the public and private sectors frequently ask researchers to apply their techniques in areas such as policy development, marketing, professional development, regulation and quality control – requiring the sector’s Code to extend to cover these non-research applications.
Geoff Gosling, chair of the MRS Market Research Standards Board, says it is “crucial” that the research Code reflects the concerns of those commissioning research and conducting research whilst at the same time protecting respondents who participate in research.
“The MRS Code of Conduct is founded on the principles of transparency and consent, and these principles have been retained whilst acknowledging some major societal, legal and technological changes ensuring the Code is robust and fit-for-purpose for the 21st century.”