Research Studies …..What and Why?

Certain UK newspapers, have the propensity to publish a piece of Research nearly every day. I would love to be a fly on the wall when some of these research bodies or individuals pitch their research to their sponsors.

Teenagers who spend more time playing computer games spend less time doing their homework, writes Martha Roberts. The research, led by Hope Cummings of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, studied the time use of almost 1,500 teens for a year, concluding that boys who play computer games read less while gaming girls do less homework.

Martha Roberts -The Guardian

In their study entitled People’s clothing behaviour according to external weather and indoor environment, researchers in both Denmark and Italy discovered that when it’s a bit nippy, people will dress accordingly.

Apparently, the outside temperature at 6am plays a significant role in whether a person pulls on a woolly jumper or a sundress. They also found that if a person feels either too hot or too cold throughout the day, they will make what the scientists term clothing adjustment to combat this. Apparently, your gender doesn’t determine whether or not you’ll dress for the weather.

Only this week The Times published an article concerning some research carried out in Lisbon, to determine whether Children’s Lung health was better in a rural environment than in Urban areas. Well Cor blimey o’riley , as our well revered Bard once said (no, I know he didn’t or rather it is worth a research project to be sure), knock me down with a sparrow’s feather, if I had been given a fat cheque and a 10 minutes worth of thinking I might have produced a very similar report, with a lot less pages therefore taking up less time for the sponsor .

Research is an essential tool in all aspects of lives, medical, science, health, sport, business, education and the list goes on . It is an absolute necessity. There is, however lots of tosh written in the name of research. The word itself 9research) hints that these contents are very serious and should not be questioned.

Bad Research

There is perhaps few medical research papers that have done more damage to public perception and understanding of any vaccine, in modern times .

Science is at once the most questioning and . . . sceptical of activities and also the most trusting,” said Arnold Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1989. “It is intensely sceptical about the possibility of error, but totally trusting about the possibility of fraud.” Never has this been truer than of the 1998 Lancet paper that implied a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and a “new syndrome” of autism and bowel disease.

BMJ 2011 referencing the Andrew Wakefield paper connecting the MMR vaccine with Autism and bowel disease.

And unfortunately it does not stop there .The very latest comes from the Sunday Times August 2022

Just over a month ago , the academic journal Science published a bombshell investigation that detonated the at the heart of the multi billion dollar race to develop a breakthrough treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The report’s central claim was that a foundational research paper ( 2006) might, in fact, be an ‘elaborate mirage’ in which the lead researcher doctored lab images to prove a newly discovered group of proteins caused cognitive impairment.

Sunday Times 21 August 2022

In the UK there is much ‘Research’ carried out by Think Tanks . These so called Tanks often have an inbuilt bias as they are funded by individuals or organisations seeking a particular outcome but their titles are often very misleading . Two listed as recognised UK Think Tanks, were blocked by my PC virus software. That’s not to say they are all bad, but most will have an angle, politically they will generally have a label , either left leaning or right leaning .

My motivation for this post was my participation in some research from a UK university concerning pets and their owners emotional wellbeing. Having completed the first questionnaire, I felt a little dissatisfied that some of the questions did not enable me to give an accurate answer. I emailed the lead researcher who quickly responded saying a number of participants had made the same point. They pointed out that the format was a Internationally accepted Scale but that they agreed it needed adjusting. Secondly , I pointed that there was no edit facility and I know I had made an incorrect answer on a least one question but clicked too quickly and could not go back to change it . Again they agreed and would insert a back button on future questionnaires . All very positive apart from the matter that at very least a small number of participants would have given incorrect answers. I am sure that some Professor Figure Person would say there is some complex formula to account for this . But is it relevant and was it used?

Yes they are relevant -but its anyone’s guess if the correlate 😁

Good Research

Cancer research, Alzheimer’s, Malaria, most everything medical, but unfortunately the Andrew Wakefield case and many others create doubt within society and this doubt creates other dangers of their own. As amply illustrated with Vaccinations during Covid and the increase in measle cases due to parents concerns over various vaccinations.

Within our own market places we rely on research . All businesses rely on research, even if they don’t conduct their own. Research develops products, assists in market entry, is a core part of any marketing plan, offers possibilities, highlights problems or opportunities. Or at least it should . Yet many businesses don’t and often there is good reason. Detailed research can be very costly and good detailed research maybe unavailable. That is to say there is not the expertise in a particular market place to enable such research.

Examples of successful products that exist without the benefit of initial research programs….

Pacemaker

Pacemakers used to be huge – the size of televisions. Then Wilson Greatbach made a mistake that revolutionized medicine. When building a heart rhythm recording device, he pulled out the wrong sized resistor and plugged it into the circuit. When it was installed he realized it sounded like a human heartbeat. With some work, he miniaturized the device to two cubic inches. The result was an implantable pacemaker, which has since saved thousands of lives. Forbes magazine.

Dyson Vacuums

Currently, Dyson is one of the top-selling vacuums of all time. However, founder James Dyson’s road to the top was lined with failure. He tested 5,271 prototypes before finally found a vacuum that worked – but even then, he couldn’t find an American or European company to license and manufacture his product. As a result, in 1993, he created his own manufacturing operation. Just two years later, Dyson vacuums were a worldwide sensation, demonstrating that it pays to never give up. Forbes Magazine

There are, of course, many examples of companies ignoring their research because they don’t like the answers . Kodak instituted research into the early development of digital photography. The results were that it was very popular and would capture a large chunk of the photography market. They chose to ignore this and continued making and developing film cameras and film . The result being the market turned their backs on Kodak .

Much commercial research can be impacted by conscious or unconscious bias. That is to say that the sponsor recruits a market research agency to conduct research on a certain subject. The ‘however’ is that there can be an inbuilt real truth filter . That is to say the project is given strict parameters such that they can impact the results they want as opposed to the results they need.

Coke’s prominence in the soft drink industry is well established, and its iconic marketing campaigns have contributed to its loyal following. But even Coke isn’t immune to making a marketing misstep. When sales began to fall off in the 1970s and the first part of the 1980s, the company thought taste was the cause of the decline. To fix the situation, they introduced New Coke, a beverage sweeter than both the original version of Coke and Pepsi.

Taste tests indicated that success was on the horizon. Market research indicated that more people preferred the taste of New Coke to original Coke and Pepsi. But the product’s introduction had many flaws. Market researchers did not factor in the emotional impact Coke, with its specific design, has on people. They also did not explain to taste test subjects that they would eventually have to choose between drinking original Coke and New Coke.

Disaster occurred when the company withdrew original Coke from shelves to sell only New Coke. Rather than boosting sales, this move proved a huge flop. Consumers missed their familiar beverage and were put off by a differently designed Coke announcing “NEW.”

Traqline

Fundamentally the research asked the wrong questions and Coke had instructed to discover the taste of the new product and not the other factors that surrounded the Brand. Put simply its like asking a research company to check out if the consumer liked your Green Widget. The result comes back saying they love the Green. Product fails as no one asked if any body still uses a Widget . A number of years ago I was involved in some market research , Fortunately I was not financing it nor commissioning it. The project was carried out by a top agency and executed primarily ( but not solely) by Focus Groups. The results were extremely encouraging and were made into a very professional presentation (pre-Power Point) to all major buyers . The product failed. There were two key problems . One was a technical product problem. But more importantly there was never any mention of price in the research . There was something like a 90% positive buy response by the focus groups. When it came to market the finished price was nearly treble any similar products (that did not have this innovation). The price was just not sustainable within the market place. It did not factor in the research and I was told it would not matter . It did. The product flopped dismally.

Worldwide spends on various types of research -in Billions of Dollars

Statista World wide spend on Market research -Billions of Dollars

In Billions of Dollars-Congressional Research Service (CRS)

These figures sort of speak for themselves . Sort of answering What & Why . But not necessarily How. And how much is wasted .

The biggest challenge in big data today is asking the right questions of data. There are so many questions to ask that you don’t have the time to ask them all, so it doesn’t even make sense to think about where to start

Gurjeet Singh : co-founder of Ayasdi, a Silicon Valley startup named 2014′s Most Innovative Company in the Big Data category by Fast Company.

Of course, we cannot ignore research of any type but neither can we always take it at face value. If there are any elements of doubt in your own conclusions….

...Do your own Research !

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