Who do research consultants work for?
I was prompted to write this post because when I was looking through my blog stats (geek!) I noticed that someone landed on my site because they had typed into Google “Who do research consultants work for?”
No problem! I can answer that!
First just as a bit of context.
People who call themselves ‘Research consultant’ tend to offer the following services:
- Providing expert advice on designing and conducting research.
- Planning and managing research projects.
- Providing strategic recommendations based on research findings.
Research consultants usually work for an agency, which is a business set up to provide the research services described above. You will have heard of some of the big ones (Ipsos MORI, TNS, Gallup, YouGov who employ hundreds of research consultants) but there are smaller ones across the country too, as well as people like me who work for themselves.
Research consultants do not work for the client that has commissioned research from them. This is important to clients who commission a research consultant, because they are specifically looking for research to be credible and independent.
How it works is: the client says they would like to buy some research, we agree what they will buy from us (and we do not have to sell them something unless we want to – for example if what they request is inethical), and then we undertake the work and deliver it back to them. The client is the customer, it is a straightforward transaction.
So here’s an analogy. Consider the guy behind the bar at your local pub.
He is the face of the pub, your main point of contact. He is employed by the pub. You go to the bar guy if you want to buy beer. If you are drunk already, he is empowered by his employer and the law to refuse to serve you beer.
Well, being a research consultant is pretty much like being the bar guy. Except with more research and less beer.
The research consultant is the face of the research agency, a client’s main point of contact. The research consultant is employed by the research agency. A client goes to the research consultant if they want to buy research. If the client wants to do some dodgy research, the research consultant is empowered by their employer and the Market Research Society to refuse to sell them research.
There are other types of researchers too, including academic researchers (who undertake research at an educational institution) and clientside researchers (who are employed by and look after the research of a specific organsiation).