The MRS has issued new guidance for areas affected by Covid-19 variant. The following is MRS’ interpretation of the new UK Government advice for parts of the UK. This UK Government advice applies to the areas where the Covid-19 variant is spreading fastest, which are currently:
- Bedford Borough Council
- Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
- Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council
- Burnley Borough Council
- Kirklees Council
- Leicester City Council
- London Borough of Hounslow
- North Tyneside Council
The MRS interpretation of this advice applies to these and any new areas which are added to this list. The UK Government has stated that, where possible, in the areas affected individuals should try to:
- Meet outside rather than inside where possible.
- Keep 2 metres apart from people that they don’t live with (unless they have formed a support bubble with them), this includes friends and family individuals don’t live with.
- Minimise travel in and out of affected areas.
The current MRS guidance (issued on 12 April 2021) contains the following requirements:
- Research practitioners must undertake a risk assessment of any proposed data collection exercise before beginning any face-to-face data collection.
- Research practitioners must consider the amount of travel required to undertake face-to-face data collection and introduce approaches which minimise the amount of travel required e.g., localise data collection to specific areas.
- Research practitioners should limit travel for face-to-face data collection purposes unless absolutely necessary for the purposes of the project.
- Research practitioners when travelling for face-to-face data collection projects, must plan ahead or avoid busy public transport times and routes.
- Research practitioners must follow any lockdown travel restrictions which apply to each of the UK’s four nations.
- Research practitioners must check whether additional restrictions apply in their area.
In light of the new UK Government advice, when applying the MRS requirements practitioners must consider the following:
- The results of any project risk assessments (including those projects already underway) and determine whether the risk mitigations associated with any face-to-face data collection activities are sufficient in light of the new conditions in the affected areas.
- Limiting the amount of travel which research practitioners need to undertake for any planned face-to-face data collection activities in affected areas.
- Only using research practitioners from affected areas to undertake face-to-face data collection activities in the affected areas.
The MRS Standards Team are continuing to review and update the MRS guidance as and when required. The existing MRS Covid-19 guidance documents continue to apply, supplementing the UK Government guidance:
- Undertaking Safe Face to Face Data Collection
- Undertaking Safe Face to Face Mystery Shopping
- Guidance on Facilities Used for Face-to-Face Data Collection
- Guidance Interpreting Scotland’s Level System
Following the government’s announcement regarding plans to lift restrictions, The Market Research Society has updated its guidance on face-to-face data collection in England.
MRS has updated the suite of MRS guidance interpreting the implications for face-to-face data collection following the announcement of the new restrictions for England.
The new MRS guidance sets out the conditions for limited resumption of face-to-face data collection activities as England cautiously plans to lift restrictions via the 4-step plan issued by the UK Government on 22 February.
To enable practitioners to prepare for the change, the guidance is being issued prior to its application date, which will be from 29 March 2021. Until that date the MRS lockdown guidance, issued on 6 January 2021, will continue to apply.
The fundamental principle underlying this guidance is that face-to-face data collection will only be undertaken when no other alternative methodology can be used. This principle should be followed until the working from home and social contact messaging is reviewed as part of step 4 of the UK Government’s roadmap. Please note, the MRS guidance may change before 29 March 2021 if government advice regarding the proposed 4-step plan is modified.
Some points to note from the new guidance:
- Research practitioners must only undertake face-to-face data collection which cannot be achieved using other methods.
- Research practitioners must undertake risk assessments of any proposed face-to-face data collection exercise before beginning the activity.
- When face-to-face data collection is undertaken it can only be in those locations that remain open as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and in locations allowed within the MRS guidance.
- In-home face-to-face data collection continues to be restricted to on the doorstep only.
- Research practitioners have a responsibility to protect vulnerable groups, participants and the reputation of the profession.
The three core documents covering face-to-face data collection, face-to-face mystery shopping and face-to-face data collection in facilities have all been updated with a status update across the four nations and detailed guidance for England, in readiness for 29 March, and are available via the following links:
- Undertaking Safe Face-to-Face Data Collection
- Undertaking Safe Face-to-Face Mystery Shopping
- Facilities Used for Face-to-Face Data Collection
The MRS Standards Team will continue to review and update the MRS guidance as and when required.
There has been a further update from the MRS on face-to-face research guidelines:
MRS reiterates face-to-face research guidelines
Face-to-face data collection during Covid-19 should take place on the doorstep, not inside participants’ homes, the Market Research Society has reiterated.