Quality Standards, ISO and IQCS

Frequently Asked Questions

(International Standards Organisation) ISO 20252 is the international standard for market, opinion and social research. 

ISO 20252 establishes the terms, definitions and service requirements for service providers conducting market, opinion and social research, including insights and data analytics. 

Section 1 sets out the scope and section 2 cover the ‘normative references’ (there are none for this standard).

Section 3 sets out a comprehensive set of relevant terms and definitions.

Section 4 sets out the research business core framework requirements for service providers.

The ‘Normative Annexes’ A to F, provide the specific framework for various globally recognized research methodologies. The service provider can align their practices to the requirements as stated within each annex in order to attest conformity to the particular research methodology or functions.

The methodologies covered by the Annexes are:

  • Annex A: Sampling including access panels
  • Annex B: fieldwork
  • Annex C: Physical Observation
  • Annex D: Digital Observation
  • Annex E: Self-completion
  • Annex F: Data management and processing

The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the UK’s National Standards Body.  It represents UK economic and social interests across all European and international standards organisations.  Standards are developed by dedicated panels of experts within BSI technical committees.  The relevant BSI technical committee for the ISO 20252 standard is SVS/3.

Separately there is the MRS Market Research Quality Standards Advisory Board (MRQSA Board) which brings together a number of trade and professional bodies, under the umbrella of MRS.  The membership of MRQSAB and SVS/3 is the same and it is this group which represents the UK in the development of the ISO 20252 standard.

Within BSI, SVS/3 as with all BSI technical committees, comes under the direction of the BSI Standards Policy and Strategy Committee, which is responsible for the development and maintenance of standards.

IQCS is an independently run scheme managed by a Council of Management representing both market research industry bodies and elected member companies.

The IQCS standards covers the recruitment, training and appraisal of fieldwork staff, and the implementation of various administrative and validation procedures the maintain the quality and accuracy of fieldwork data collected. 

ISO 20252 is a standard which covers the entire research process and a variety of methodologies.

The IQCS standard is not an ISO standard. The IQCS standard mirrors Annex B of the ISO 20252:2019 standard which specifically covers fieldwork.  IQCS is a predecessor to the ISO 20252 standard.

Yes, organisations can elect to be certified to both standards. Companies which are ISO20252 registered can apply for IQCS Membership.

UKAS is the UK’s National Accreditation Body.   It is the only body recognised by the UK Government to access the competence of organisations that undertake certification, testing, inspection and calibration services.

The MRS Market Research Quality Standards Advisory (MRQSA) Board and IQCS only accept certification bodies that have been recognised by UKAS.

ISO reviews standards and issue updates, and write new standards where there is a need. UKAS assesses the competence of the organisations which certified organisations adherence to ISO and other related standards.

Yes. For ISO 20252 it is a requirement for organisations to use UKAS accredited certification companies. For ISO 20252 there are currently two certification bodies approved by UKAS: MQA and SGS.

The list of ISO 20252 certified organisations was last compiled in June 2021 and is available here.

The list of IQCS companies is available via the IQCS website – see here.

ISO 20252:2019 covers the entire market, opinion and social research process including insights and data analytics.  ISO 19731:2017 covers a sub-set, specifically digital analytics and web analyses used for the purposes of market, opinion and social research. All of the mandatory requirements of ISO 19731:2017 are covered in the Annexes of ISO 20252:2019, specifically Annex A and D.

The main differences between the 2012 and 2019 standards are:

  • Integration of the mandatory requirements from ISO 26362: 2009, Access Panels in Market, Opinion and Social Research – Vocabulary and Service Requirements(a standard which has subsequently been withdrawn) and the mandatory requirements from ISO 19731: 2017, Digital Analytics and Web Analyses for Purposes of Market, Opinion and Social research – Vocabulary and Service Requirements
  • Restructure of the core requirements of the standard and differentiate the core requirements from the methodology specific requirements
  • Removal of duplication where it existed
  • Creation of Annexes for specific methodologies
  • Addition of requirements for new and emerging issues such as data analytics, automation and so on
  • Clarify that organisations undertake certification to relevant Annexes which are appropriate to business activities

Certification to ISO 20252:2019 is mandatory from February 2023.  The deadline was originally February 2022, but the MRQSA Board decided to extend this due to the pressures on research service businesses and their supply-chains as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is a requirement of ISO 20252:2019 that service providers create a Statement of Applicability (SoA).  The SoA describes the complete scope of services that are attested as to meeting the requirements of the ISO 20252 standard.  The SoA identifies which Annexes are included within the scope of services being attested.  This will include all subcontracted services.

Yes. ISO 20252 requires primary records to be retained for 12 months or for a period agreed with clients.  Project research records that are required for project traceability and replicable must be retained for 24 months or for a period agreed with clients.

IQCS has 3 tiers of membership:

Tier 1/ Fully Inspected Members

These are companies who have their fieldwork annually assessed and accredited by our independent inspectors.

Tier 2/ Member Only

These are Member only companies who are ISO 20252 registered and so have fieldwork assessed against the ISO20252 fieldwork standards which are aligned to the IQCS – but are not inspected by the IQCS.

Tier 3/ User Members

These are UK based research agencies or consultancies who do not have their own in-house data-collection but commit to using providers who are IQCS accredited or ISO20252 registered.

The IQCS only inspects Data collection that has an interviewer involvement including recruitment.

Interviewer Quality Control Scheme

The Interviewer Quality Control Scheme (IQCS) is an independently run scheme, which requires members to adhere to a set of benchmark market research industry standards. These cover the recruitment, training and appraisal of fieldwork staff, and the implementation of various administrative and validation procedures to maintain the quality and accuracy of data collected.

The IQCS standards have been serving the demands of the market research industry since 1978, and are held in high regard by both clients and the research industry, globally. The IQCS Council comprises elected members working in the industry and representing not only the various types of market research fieldwork undertaken, but also clients and various other industry bodies, including the MRS, MRQSAB and AURA.

Further information on IQCS can be obtained from their website at www.iqcs.org or by telephoning IQCS Administrator, Gill Wareing on 07935 057275, or emailing gill@iqcs.org.

Market, opinion and social research – Vocabulary and service requirements

BS ISO 20252:2019 establishes the terms and definitions as well as the service requirements for organizations and professionals conducting market,opinion and social research.

The standard sets out requirements for a quality management system. The standard requires senior management to be responsible for quality of client service, and the development, interpretation and continual improvement of the system. It also requires the appointment of a quality manager with sufficient authority to be responsible for and have control over the entire system.

The standard also sets out requirements for the confidentiality of research, project documentation, training, outsourcing, and reviewing the effectiveness of the quality system as a whole.

Ordering copies

MRS has arranged for members to receive a 25% discount on copies of BS ISO 20252. To order please contact publications@mrs.org.ukor tel: 020 7566 1853.

In addition to MRS standards, researchers should also be aware of other legal, ethical, professional and regulatory rules.

Other Professional and Regulatory Bodies

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

Association for Qualitative Research (AQR)

Association of Users of Research Agencies (AURA)

Data & Marketing Association (DMA)

ESOMAR

Insights Association

Social Research Association (SRA)

Government standards

Government Social Research - Ethical Assurance for Social Research in Government

The guidance sets out the key principles which should be upheld in the conduct of social research for government. The document was written in consultation with MRS and has been aligned with the MRS Code of Conduct.

Directgov Government website, portal to all public services

Equality and Human Rights Commission Amongst other information it provides insight into categories for ethnic monitoring

Food Standards Agency covers research and labelling legislation, food handling advice

Local Authorities Research & Intelligence Association (LARIA)

Local Government Association (LGA)

Trading Standards Institute (TSI)

Public standards

Acas

Citizens Advice Bureau

Consumers Association (Which?)

Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Academic Standards

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

UKRI

Sociological Research Online

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