Chair of MRS, Phyllis Macfarlane reflects on what this year's MRS Awards tells us about the state of the research sector. 

There was some controversy when Gartner dropped big data from its hype cycle in 2015, which charts the evolutionary stages of major technologies. The reason? Big data was just too big and too prevalent to isolate; it was a ‘megatrend’ that couldn’t be associated with any one technology or application.

This year sees the introduction of a new MRS Award for Innovation in Data Analytics. Looking across all the entries the judges noted an increase in case studies incorporating (you guessed it) ‘big data’.

The judges were keen to stress however, that the winners were chosen because they incorporated large data sets into the broader research toolkit. Most importantly, they didn’t “equate rigour with large numbers of interviews, rather than quality of sample.”

So this year’s awards see the coming of age of big data as it emerges, in Gartner terms, from the ‘trough of disillusionment’ into the ‘slope of enlightenment’.

Also reflecting the spirit of the age is the transformation of the Best New Agency award into ‘Breakthrough Business of the Year’. With new criteria, this Research Live award acknowledges both the entrepreneurial attitude of those setting up new agencies, as well as the achievement and ambition of those who have transformed or turned around an existing business or department.

One of the judges for the Research Live awards observed that this year saw ‘some of the most intense discussions yet about winners’.

Congratulations to all the finalists – may you enjoy a strong start to the new year.

Phyllis Macfarlane is Chair of MRS and Global Training - Programme Manager, GfK.

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