Wherever I may wander, wherever I may roam, I always come across a divide in the interpretation of market research ethics. Some people think all market research must be permission based. Other people think anything in the public eye is fair game. The gap therein is wide, rife with arguments, and seemingly unsolveable. But I think I’ve figured out what the problem is.

Many people playing in the market research sandbox have no training in market research. They did NOT take an undergraduate degree in market research. They did NOT take statistics and research methods and research ethics courses in school. They did NOT take philosophy or medical or psychology or sociology courses in ethics. They have NOT taken certification courses offered by market research institutions. In fact, many people playing in the market research sandbox come from computer science, database management, and many other non-social science research spaces. They don’t have the same understanding of people as market researchers do.

Our industry is suffering from a massive influx of workers with insufficient or no training in important market research skills and knowledge. Sure, you can pick up things on the job, from your colleagues, from mentors, from conferences, from webinars, and from many other places. But you can’t pick up everything and you can’t pick up everything correctly. And you certainly can’t pick up research ethics without the careful guidance of someone who has spent decades debating that issue with trained and respected colleagues.

It is only with appropriate training that we will be able to reduce the gap. The gap will always be there but as more of us better understood the human condition and the rules that go along with using humans as data points, there will be more points of agreement. So raise your voice. Raise your voice every time it’s needed.