ESOMAR condemns uncorroborated allegations made by Mr. Dominic Cummings

ESOMAR supports Market Research Society-led efforts reasserting research’s commitment to excellence and professionalism
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Date 16 February 2021
Author Iliya Hull

ESOMAR, the global voice of the data, research and insights community, in support of the UK national association, the Market Research Society (MRS) condemning statements made by former advisor to the UK Prime Minister, Mr Dominic Cummings.  The erroneous statements risk undermining public trust and confidence without any evidence to substantiate the allegations. 

Mr Cummings submitted a statement to the UK High Court as part of the government’s defense for a research contract that was awarded to a particular agency. Widely relayed in the various media including The Times, the FT, the Evening Standard and the BBC in the UK yesterday, the following excerpt from Mr Dominic Cummings statement was quoted in the Guardian and the Independent:

“I knew they would give us honest information unlike many companies in this sector. Very few companies in this field are competent, almost none are very competent, honest and reliable.”

This is an unsubstantiated and misleading statement, and ESOMAR strongly supports its UK partner the Market Research Society (MRS) in refuting the broader sectoral implications from this assertion. The statement from the MRS may be found on their website and was further relayed by the Research Live digital magazine.   

"Such statements - made by former top government officials - undermine our sector's proven ability to conduct impartial research which is amongst the few independent measures of the health of our democracies. To seek to devalue skilled professionals' expertise for the sake of one's own personal defense is both uncalled for and dangerous at a time when societies are questioning the very basis of truth," said Finn Raben, Director General of ESOMAR.

Judith Passingham, Chair of ESOMAR’s Professional Standards Committee said, " Our industry has a long history of operating in highly effective partnerships with governments, institutions and commercial organisations  to represent the views of citizens and consumers on a national and global basis.  It provides an objective and impartial reference for critical decision making, and its success in achieving this is widely documented.  The industry operates a set of clearly defined and rigorous quality standards. To suggest that players in this field are not competent, honest or reliable is insulting to the thousands of Market Research professionals whose skills are widely sought.”

Significant efforts have been made by the data, research and insights sector to engender trust and confidence in public opinion research. The sector highlighted its commitment to serving the public interest as declared in its recent position statement underlining the role the sector is willing to play in support of societies worldwide (available on the ESOMAR website), or the willingness of research providers to make their research findings publicly available to support societies as they traverse the COVID-19 crisis.

Apart from the lack of any substantiating evidence and of any reference to the numerous other approved firms on the UK governments own official market research roster, Mr Cummings is clearly unaware of the MRS’ Code of Conduct which exists to enable the public to report any suspicious findings and thereby safeguard public confidence and trust in the research sector , as well as the sector’s worldwide and long-standing reputation for honesty, transparency and independence, built up over more than 60+ years and backed-up with a robust self-regulation mechanism with disciplinary sanctions for the worst offenses.

These systems have been established with no government pressure to do so but rather an innate understanding by the research sector of its responsibilities to all of its stakeholders.

ESOMAR roundly condemns such uncorroborated statements, and is more than happy to provide in-depth information on the sector's voluntary Codes of Conduct, its members’ acceptance of regulatory and disciplinary procedures, as well as their whole-hearted embrace of data handling obligations, privacy commitments and evidentiary recommendations. 

ESOMAR condemns uncorroborated allegations made by Mr. Dominic Cummings...

Iliya Hull
ESOMAR Staff, Senior Marketing and Community Coordinator at ESOMAR