MRS will award 25 Honorary Fellowships in 2021, more than it ever has in a calendar year, to mark its 75th anniversary as the UK’s professional body for research, insight and analytics. The first nine names have now been revealed, with Sir David Spiegelhalter and Dr Camilla Pang leading the cohort of prominent individuals from all walks of life – including politicians, business leaders, storytellers and scientists – set to receive the accolade in the coming months.

The number 25 is significant as that is how many members the MRS founders deemed were needed to make up a professional organisation in 1946. In the end, they would identify an elite band of just 23 professional researchers to make up the original membership. 75 years later more 64,000 people are employed in the sector and MRS has a membership of over 4,000 individuals and over 600 Company Partners. All this year’s Honorary Fellows, like those original 23, are a testament to the importance of high-quality evidence and transformative power of curiosity and insight across society.

The announcement comes ahead of the 2021 MRS Impact conference, to be held virtually between 16-18 March, when several of the recipients will be speaking. The Honorary Fellows include:

  • Sir David Spiegelhalter, for his rigour in assessing public statistics, including his high-profile efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic. Drawing on these experiences, Sir David will be appearing at Impact 2021 to discuss the challenges facing businesses that deal in the consideration, generation and dissemination of data.
  • Dr Camilla Pang, for her achievements in studying societal behaviour and her campaigning around neurodiversity. Camilla will be speaking about her work at Impact 2021, specifically about ensuring research is conducted inclusively and that it reflects the perspectives of all types of human behaviour.
  • Deborah Mattinson, for a career in research and insight, including founding BritainThinks a decade ago. Deborah will be leading one of Impact 2021’s most hotly anticipated sessions, interviewing keynote speaker Sir Keir Starmer.
  • Melanie Courtright and Elissa Molloy, reflecting their positions as international research association leaders, as CEOs of the US Insights Association and Australia’s The Research Society respectively.
  • John Gambles, for his innovative development of business in the research sector as chairman of research and strategy business Quadrangle, as well as his consistent support of the sector body.
  • Stian Westlake, reflecting his position as CEO of the Royal Statistical Society and his championing of the business of evidence.
  • Belinda Beeftink and David Wilding, for their consistent championing of the sector, and of data in marketing and advertising. Belinda is now the research director at the Institute of the Practitioners in Advertising, and David is the director of advertising planning at Twitter UK.

The 2021 MRS Impact Conference is being held virtually for the first time in its history, between 16 and 18 March.

Jane Frost CBE, CEO of MRS, comments: “This has been a watershed year for insight, and we have chosen to award 25 Honorary Fellows to reflect how far we have come in 75 years and the truly world-leading status of the UK’s market and social research sector. These brilliant individuals have all championed the value of evidence in some way and the breadth of their disciplines demonstrates the far-reaching value and impact of our sector, both nationally and internationally.

“It seems pertinent that this special anniversary is happening this year. When MRS was founded the country was recovering from the Second World War; now we find ourselves on a different but challenging road back to economic and societal prosperity. Today, as in 1946, research and insight will continue to play a critical role in our country’s recovery.”

Click here to see highlights and the full programme for Impact 2021.

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