In addition to an annual review, in 2018 MRS has published for the first time a stand alone review of its policy and standards work.

A statement from Jane Frost CBE, Chief Executive

With GDPR shining a light on how businesses should protect personal data, the year gone by has provided MRS with the perfect opportunity to highlight its core message – indeed its founding purpose – to establish and enshrine the highest standards for the research and insight sector. While customers are at the heart of all business, their personal data is the lifeblood of the research and insight sector. We must constantly reassure participants that they can expect the highest ethical standards or this profession will quite simply cease to exist.

It is also for this reason that we have for the first time produced in conjunction with the annual review an MRS Policy and Standards Review. I am proud of the work this organisation has done, especially in preparing our members and Company Partners for this transition into a data aware society. MRS will continue to adapt its guidance as this new landscape reveals itself over time.

The evolution of big data is of course the driver behind this new legislation, and MRS is also adapting its offering to accommodate the blossoming data analytics sector that complements traditional research. The 350% growth of data analytics that was determined two years ago by our joint MRS/PwC report The Business of Evidence is now being fully realised. In this report you can see how MRS is developing products and services that support both sides of the analytics/research equation to encourage collaboration, best practice and shared standards.

This shared territory was especially evident at annual conference, Impact 2018, where clients and suppliers spoke often of the need to bring analytics and research closer together.

Indeed, MRS has recognised for some time the need to rethink how we talk about the work of this sector, in a language that resonates with those that hold the purse strings; the commissioners, buyers and investors in research.

That’s why we launched at the start of 2018 what will be a long running initiative called Intelligence Capital™. The premise is simple – to establish Intelligence Capital™, in which insight is a core element, as the third pillar along with financial and human capital on which successful growing businesses are built.

To support such wide-ranging initiatives, MRS simultaneously created an MRS Client Council to ensure a balanced view in the outputs. You can read more about Intelligence Capital™ here.

Maintaining high levels of client involvement at the heart of MRS was also the motivation behind another first this year – the introduction of client open houses over the course of MRS’ inaugural Impact Week, 12–16 March.

With Brexit looming, MRS is strengthening its relationships with international trade and professional services associations and government, whilst lobbying the UK government to protect the research sector’s trading relationships with the EU. Compounding the reputation of MRS as the centre of global excellence for research and data standards and policy also fortifies the position of the UK research sector – the second largest in the world.

Finally, I would like to thank our members, Company Partners, advertisers and sponsors who have supported MRS in a multitude of ways over this period ensuring MRS can continue to strengthen its core mission, and I hope will continue to do so. As ever, if there is more you think we could or should be doing I welcome your feedback.

Protecting Research

MRS Policy Unit

MRS advocacy and lobbying activities are targeted at effective representation of the interests of the market, opinion and social research sector. During the year under review pending legal reforms took centre stage as we engaged with the extensive legislative and educational programme for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which demands higher standards for all organisations processing data.

Data protection

MRS liaised with officials in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the data regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to ensure that the data protection reforms detailed in the the new UK Data Protection Bill worked for the research sector.

Clear and workable understanding of new legal concepts is critical for business certainty. We participated in various working groups and forums with other businesses, trade associations and regulators to aid alignment and assist in practical interpretation of the new provisions.

Electronic communications

In order to control the level of unwanted calls to consumers there has been growth in call blocking initiatives. MRS worked with a range of stakeholders to ensure that Company Partner accredited organisations were not adversely impacted by these developments. This included liaison with fixed line and mobile operators as well as trade associations, companies and trading standards departments rolling out new call blocking technology. The schemes were provided with the Caller Line Identification numbers (CLI’s) of accredited Company Partners to allow them to identify organisations undertaking legitimate research.

This complemented our continued participation in an ICO and Ofcom led standing group on ‘nuisance calls’. Attendance at meetings and involvement in follow up projects has facilitated access to intelligence on key projects and allowed us to provide early input into shaping activities and policies around core policy and regulatory issues impacting on accredited MRS Company Partners and members.

Select Committee Inquiries

A House of Lords Committee launched an inquiry into Political Polling and Digital Media. At the Committee’s request MRS CEO Jane Frost gave oral evidence, supplementing MRS’ written response. Our evidence focused on the robustness of the current framework for accredited professional researchers and research organisations whilst highlighting the additional challenges (outside of methodological issues) that impact on the accuracy of polls and media coverage of polling.

We also submitted a short response to the call for evidence issued by the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence highlighting the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and suggested that a regulatory framework to govern this evolving environment needs to encompass both legal and self-regulatory initiatives that build consumer trust.



EFAMRO, the European Research Federation, represents the interests of research businesses to the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of Europe. MRS has been a member since 2006, and since 2009 has undertaken all standards, policy and public affairs activities on behalf of the Federation.

EFAMRO continued to lead representations on data protection (working with ESOMAR). Activities included:

  • Engagement with EU institutions on the European Commission proposal for an e-Privacy Regulation. EFAMRO’s research sector advocacy addressed the impact for audience measurement research in light of the proposed new restrictive rules on placement of analytic cookies. Worked with ESOMAR and a newly convened Audience Measurement Coalition on this area.
  • Participation in Article 29 Working Group meetings developing GDPR guidance on core topics.
  • Publication of EFAMRO Guidance Notes on GDPR.
  • Presentations and webinars for EFAMRO member associations.
  • Preparatory work on a GDPR Research Code to specify the application of the GDPR for the wider sector. 

Global Research Business Network

The Global Research Business Network (GRBN) of which MRS is a founding partner, went from strength to strength during the period. Activities included:

  • Speaking at conferences across the globe.
  • Issuing Invest in Insights: A Guide to demonstrating the value of insights to business.
  • Issuing joint guidelines in partnership with ESOMAR.
  • Issuing bi-weekly the Global Insights Newsletters on matters of interest to the research sector, including thought-leadership contributions from featured guests.
Standards and Self-Regulation

The MRS Code of Conduct is the basis of the self- regulation framework for the research sector. This works with the relevant legal framework via the UK’s Data Protection Act and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation to ensure research is carried out in a professional and ethical manner. Ongoing reforms driven by the EU GDPR strengthen both the ethical and legal foundations for regulation of the sector.

The MRS Market Research Standards Board (MRSB) continued to pro-actively review the self-regulatory framework to ensure it remained fit for purpose and that data protection advice and guidance provided to members was robust. Although disciplinary matters/ cases remained at modest levels, during this period a complex complaint case was concluded by a Disciplinary Tribunal. The hearing of this complaint took place in accordance with MRS Byelaws, MRS Disciplinary Regulations, MRS Code of Conduct (2014 edition) and the MRS Indicative Guidance on Use of Sanctions.

On the educational side the MRS standards team worked hard to prepare and advise members. In line with this MRS published:

  • New GDPR in Brief topics covering Data Protection Officers, Informed Consent Guidance and Checklist Transparent Privacy Information Notices as well as Client-side Checklist for Research Projects.
  • MRS/EFAMRO/ESOMAR Guidance Note for the Research Sector:  Appropriate  use  of  different legal bases under the GDPR to provide research practitioners with clear guidance on the basic principles of the new GDPR framework focusing on the data processing and collection principles.

The Standards Department also used the MRS Roadshow, face-to-face presentations and webinars to deliver up-to-date targeted information. This included:

  • Design and delivery of new Company Partner GDPR Masterclass on Accountable Research Organisations which explained best practice in different types of research projects
  • Webinars on preparing for GDPR as well as client-side research
  • Participation in panels and delivery of keynote addresses to a range of associations such as BIG, CGG, AEO, Festival of Marketing, Cvent, BHBIA, PARN, VSG and EphMRA
  • Delivery of individually tailored in-house GDPR Briefings for five client side teams and four accredited research companies.

The demand for Codeline services increased significantly this year in line with member preparations for the reforms to the data protection framework.

Overall the number of written queries increased from 242 in 2016–2017 to 357 during 2017–2018. Members of the team also provided telephone advice, although in line with the approach taken last year, the volume of telephone queries is not recorded in the statistics. The increase in data protection queries (which more than doubled from 78 to 190) was largely responsible for the high level of demand for advice. Members also sought specific advice on incentives which must be administered carefully to maintain the distinction between research and non-research exercises such as marketing. Critically, there was greater complexity in the level of advice sought with multiple queries in a single contact.

During 2018 MRS will be refining the Codeline Service to an email only advice service for accredited individual and corporate members. This will allow us to better manage the high volume and increased complexity of queries. As part of our obligation to encouraging best practice across the sector limited general generic advice and information will continue to be available to non-members.

Activities and highlights

Find key statistics for all of our products and services.

Speaker evenings and IJMR lectures

The regular programme of speaker evenings and IJMR lectures continued throughout the year. Topics included ‘Galvanic Skin performance’ and ‘How Semiotics is helping Radio 4 content stay modern’.

Special interest groups

In November ADAN, the MRS Advanced Analytics Network, organised another very popular event on ‘Multiple Source Analytics’ with speakers from the UK, Belgium and Hungary.



Around the UK

Events were run by existing networks in Manchester, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the South West. The Best of Impact conference returned to The Lowry in Salford for it’s biggest year yet, incorporating the first MRS workshop for insight professionals working in Higher Education, and a half-day conference was held in Leeds in November.

Social events

The 19th annual 5-a-side football tournament took place at Hanwell Town FC in July, with 22 male teams and 7 female teams; the Charity Golf Day in aid of the MRBA returned to Chobham Golf Club; and the rooftop of The Grange St Paul’s hosted another well-attended Summer Party.

Industry Leaders’ Lunch

Jane Frost hosted the sixth annual lunch for agency CEOs and senior client-side professionals during Impact 2018. The 57 invited guests were given a presentation on what the incoming wave of AI means for marketing and research.


Six new Fellows were presented at the sixth Excellence Awards lunch at Paternoster Chophouse in June, along with two Honorary Fellowships for Professor Patrick Sturgis, who lead the BPC/MRS polling enquiry, and out- going President of MRS Dame Dianne Thompson; an MRS Gold Medal, the first since 2008 and only the tenth ever awarded, was bestowed upon Dr Barry Leventhal on his retirement from 25 years of Chairing the influential MRS Census and Geodemographics Group; the Oppies took place in September, celebrating the operational teams and businesses that keep the sector running; and the MRS Awards Dinner returned to Supernova in December, again breaking all previous attendance records with 946 guests.


The &more network currently numbers 1,600 young researchers, who this year benefitted from discounts and online resources, as well as access to the MRS Annual Conference Keynote, presentations from MRS Awards nominees, events on ‘AI and Tech’ and ‘How Cool Brands Stay Hot’ and the chance to compete in the ‘&more Research Challenge’, with the winners being featured in Research Live.

MRS & AQR University Roadshow

This year, the MRS & AQR University Roadshow had its most successful year to date. Between October 2017 and May 2018, our team of 35 Senior and Junior volunteers made 22 visits to universities across the country, and over 1,300 students attended a Roadshow presentation. With thanks to all our volunteers and to Unilever for their continued support.


2400 individuals received some form of training from MRS, including 1481 in face-to-face training in our fully equipped training suite.

113 training courses were delivered over 139 days in MRS’s face-to-face training programme, covering research skills and complementary business and leadership skills across all levels of complexity and catering to delegates with different levels of experience.

These covered the principal methodologies along with new and emerging techniques to keep the programme up-to-date.

New courses were introduced on subjects such as innovation delivery, game-based research methods, facilitating action from insight, understanding consumer behaviour and negotiation strategy.

594 individuals took part in MRS’s flexible online training courses, covering both research and business/ leadership skills.

275 candidates achieved the introductory level MRS Certificate via the MRS online exam.

37 days of bespoke in-company training were delivered to 21 different clients including blue chip clients, academia, central government and government agencies and research businesses.

324 attendees received tailored MRS training during this period.

We delivered a series of 15 webinars (a mix of live and pre-recorded) in late spring and again in the autumn that drew in 512 attendees across the two series.


MRS Advanced Certificate in Market & Social Research Practice

328 candidates participated in assessment for the Advanced Certificate qualification.

193 candidates were awarded the qualification – a 59% pass rate.

During the year there was candidate representation in 8 countries for the MRS Advanced Certificate

MRS Diploma in Market and Social Research

There were 48 unit participations in the June 2017 and December 2017 MRS Diploma assessment rounds with 5 participants awarded the overall qualification having successfully completed all 4 units.

MRS Certificate in Digital Interviewing Skills for Market & Social Research Interviewers from Girl Effect across 4 Countries – Rwanda, Nigeria, USA & Malawi, undertook the ‘MRS Certificate in Digital Interviewing Skills for Market & Social Research’ using TEGA methodology. The qualification recognises the range of attitudes, knowledge and skills required by research interviewers to conduct effective interviews via hand-held technology with participants in market and/or social research projects. 69 TEGAs were awarded the MRS Qualification.

Bespoke Training Accreditation

Bespoke accreditations were awarded to employer programmes that map against the MRS Professional Development Framework, including Shift Learnings’ Qualitative Interviewer Training Programme.


Following the launch in 2016, the MRS mentoring scheme has gone from strength to strength with phases 2 and 3 commencing in the period. 82 partnerships were in progress and 39 partnerships successfully completed.


The MRS CPD programme continues to attract registrations, providing members with a framework to demonstrate their achievements, gain recognition for their professionalism and take control planning their careers.

MRS Company Partners saw an increase of 7.6% in organisations gaining MRS accreditation. There was growth in the number of bespoke packages for teams becoming accredited during 2017/18. MRS continued to strengthen engagement with all areas, especially in the delivery of exclusive materials to support MRS Accredited Company Partners to prepare for GDPR implementation.

MRS developed 2 exclusive Masterclasses bespoke for Accredited MRS Company Partners, each session was fully booked and covered key actions necessary for organisations to embed the accountability requirements of the GDPR within their processes and policies. In addition to the Master Classes, Company Partners had access to an exclusive GDPR webinar which focused on the impact of GDPR on client-side researchers.

MRS continued with AQR in the development of a Recruiter Accreditation Scheme to raise the profile and status of recruiters, by devising a training and accreditation scheme that will recognise the knowledge, skills and competence of professional recruiters. In response to MRS member and recruiter requests MRS has prepared some supplementary GDPR training webinars focusing specifically on recruiter activities and how the legislation impacted recruitment practises.

In 2017/2018 the Company Partner team also worked to develop a new website devoted to the use of research and insight within SMEs to improve understanding and appreciation of the benefits of good research and to highlight the benefits of using accredited researchers.

MRS coordinated an unprecedented collaboration to explore data from 4 panel companies, Lightspeed/ GMI, Lucid, Research Now-SSI, and Toluna, to examine the impact of mobile optimisation on participation, completion, and response rates. The results from this research were presented at the 2018 B2B Conference and the activities are planned for the upcoming period.

Fair Data

The Australian Market & Social Research Society (AMSRS) adopted the Fair Data scheme, and rolled it out to its members and the wider Australian market in early 2018. Australia joins the Netherlands and Singapore – two other major international research markets – which have also adopted the scheme.

Fair Data continues to grow and in 2017/18 saw a 17.5% increase in organisations becoming accredited.

Company Partner Statistics:

Impact Week 2018

Building on the success of the MRS Annual Conference, in March 2018 MRS launched the first bi-annual Impact Week to celebrate the research and insight sector, incorporating the MRS Annual Conference, sponsored by Capgemini. Seven client-side organisations Barclays, Diaego, International Hotels Group, PepsiCo, Samsung, Sky and Unilever took part in an Open House trail across London, showcasing innovation, technological advancements and a series of case studies. The Open Houses were attended by over 300 delegates and achieved the aims of Impact Week to broaden engagement and participation in the activities of the sector.

Global Research Business Network (GRBN) International Workshop

Day 1 of Impact Week welcomed the Global Research Business Network (GRBN) to London to host an interactive workshop tackling two of the critical issues facing the sector, ROI of Insights and Participant Engagement.

MRS Annual Conference – Impact 2018

The MRS Annual Conference 2018 returned to the Grange Tower Hill Hotel in London. Taking place on 13 and 14 March the conference provided a multi streamed event welcoming over 120 speakers and session chairs. Keynote speakers included Ian Hislop, editor Private Eye, Jayne-Anne Gadhia CBE, CEO, Virgin Money, Val McDermid, award-winning crime novelist, Maggie Aderin- Pocock MBE, space scientist and broadcaster. The conference welcomed over 800 participants from a diverse spread of practitioners across the spectrum of clients, suppliers, specialist, consultants, academics and the wider media.

One day conferences

MRS continued to provide a series of one-day conferences, attracting more than 1,000 attendees over the year. The annual sector conferences, Financial Services, Kids and Youth, B2B Research continued, and two new sector conferences, the Media Research Summit and Utilities Research, were launched. As part of MRS’ broader strategy to engage the data analytics sector a new conference, the Data Analytics and Insight Summit, was launched in 2017/18 which examined the implications of how using multiple data sources and advanced analytics help researchers and brands deliver insight. The conference was run in association with the MRS Advanced Analytics Network (ADAN) and was the largest attended one-day conference MRS has ever hosted.

Highlights of the MRS media campaign 2017/18 included:

  • Proactive media relations commenting on agreed themes and news stories across broadcast, national and sector trade titles including: the importance of safeguarding data to maintain trust; responding to the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandals; the essential role market research plays in successful organisations and what marketers should do to comply with the new rules on the right to be forgotten
  • Profiling MRS’ expertise on the introduction of GDPR legislation introduced in May 2018 and related implications for market research
  • Announcing the partnership between MRS and AMSRS (Australian Market & Social Research Society) to introduce the MRS’ Fair Data Scheme
  • Launching the Delphi report Great Expectations: How technology impacts consumer trust with research and marketing press
  • Announcing the collaboration between MRS and EphMRA to enhance its Code of Conduct and develop professional standards services for its members
  • Launching the 5,000 participant Quadrangle study at MRS’ Customer Summit on customers’ attitudes and expectations of brands in today’s ‘post-digital age’
  • Announcing the new publication for the International Journal of Market Research by Sage Publishing on behalf of MRS
  • Launching the ENGAGE handbook in collaboration with GRBN
  • Arranging for journalist attendance and profiling the MRS awards 2017 and Impact 2018 with a wide range of research, marketing and national media
  • Announcing the publication of the MRS League Tables as part of its Research Live Industry Report 2018

Throughout the period 62 positive pieces of media coverage were achieved in the following publications: National / International

  • Financial Times
  • The Economist
  • The Guardian
  • The Telegraph
  • The Independent
  • Reuters

Marketing and research press

  •  MR Web
  • Marketing Week
  • Campaign
  • Global Research Business Network
  • Research Live
  • WARC
  • Kantar Online
  • Turkish Research Association Periodical

Sector press

  • E-Consultancy
  • HR Magazine
  • Business Insider
  • Audience Analytics

MRS produces a range of content across numerous print titles and digital channels. This includes peer reviewed academic papers, daily breaking news, and in-depth special reports and digital interviews with research leaders.

MRS Delphi Group

MRS Delphi Group is the MRS think tank to the research insight and data sector which brings the biggest issues into focus. All reports are very popular and read by practitioners and clients. This year saw the publication of two reports:

Both reports are available here.

Intelligence Capital™

In early 2018, MRS convened a group of client-side insight directors to discuss a bold new concept for the sector: Intelligence Capital™. At the core of Intelligence Capital™ is the belief that insight powers growth. The aim of this initiative is to prove it to decision makers and finance directors. In the coming months, MRS and our sponsor, Kantar, will be producing a report with case studies, interviews and research on the theme of Intelligence Capital™, which will be available free to MRS members via

In January 2018 the digital home of MRS was relaunched with a new design providing a more usable single point of access to all MRS services and content, including events and training. The site also incorporates the online directory the Research Buyer’s Guide which has been greatly enhanced in the process.

Research Live

With a dedicated editorial team, the website continues to be the first port of call for research news and opinion, with a large international audience. High points include the publication in December 2017 of the annual Research Live Industry Report, live coverage of annual conference, and regular digital interviews with industry leaders.

Impact magazine

The quarterly members magazine, Impact, which is also sent to several thousand non-member clients and commissioners of research and insight, continues its unrivalled coverage of the trends, brands and individuals that are showing how research delivers commercial growth. Content is also available free on registration at This year saw interviews with Richard Thaler, Simon Gillespie and Dave Coplin, and case studies including NSPCC, The FA and ITV.

The Research Buyers Guide

The Guide continues to be the core reference tool for anyone buying research with over 1,500 print copies sent to vetted client side research and insight buyers.

The accompanying website is upgraded every year to better showcase company listings and ensure they are optimised for Google search. Among other improvements, users can now save their favourite suppliers list and export it for their procurement and commissioning activities.

SAGE Publications

MRS has forged a strong partnership with SAGE Publications, a publisher of quality business information. Members also have free access to SAGE’s Research Methods suite as part of their enhanced membership benefits. Sage Publications also publish the bi-monthly print edition of IJMR, which is free to MRS Fellows and Certified members. The IJMR website offers an archive of papers dating back more than 20 years as well as the latest issue and digital first papers.

Kogan Page

MRS has partnered with Kogan Page, the leading specialist business publisher to give our members free access to 40 of the latest business, brand and personal development e-books as part of the MRS enhanced membership benefits developed during 2017–18.

Social media

MRS has a network of influential Twitter handles, LinkedIn groups and Facebook pages which enable engagement with members, individuals and interest groups, and the sharing of important news and content. With a combined reach of circa 60,000 followers across all MRS Twitter accounts, including @researchlive (27,000) MRS continues to be the most influential research media brand on Twitter.

The following summary of key financial information is extracted from the audited accounts for the year 2017–18.

A copy of the Statutory Report and Accounts which will be submitted to Companies House is available to MRS members on request.

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