Updating earlier guidance, ESOMAR and the Global Research Business Network (GRBN) have released a new Guideline for Conducting Online Research, complemented by their Guideline for Online Sample Quality.

The Guideline for Conducting Online Research aims to assist researchers in navigating legal, ethical and methodological considerations in using new technologies in their online research. (It is an update of guidance last issued in 2011 by CASRO and ESOMAR.)

It discusses the responsibilities of researchers to three different audience targets: research respondents; clients; and the public. "While many of the technical and methodological issues involved in online research have been clarified over the last decade, ongoing developments in technology and in the types and variety of digital data that can be collected online require ongoing review and updates to professional and ethical guidance."

The Guideline for Online Sample Quality, released in March 2015, aims to help researchers address concerns about:

  • "Professional research participants who through various means try to maximize their survey opportunities;
  • inattentive if not deliberately untruthful research participants;
  • the potential for duplicate research participants as online sample providers broaden their sources in search of more diverse samples and low incidence populations; and
  • representativeness, that is, the degree to which research results accurately reflect the target population, however defined."

The Guideline "responds to those concerns by providing guidance on the operational requirements" of marketing research, laying out methods for "online sample providers, buyers, and end clients to ensure that a sample meets widely accepted quality criteria. It is recommended reading for all stakeholders in the research process, from survey designers to data users. It is meant to apply to all types of online samples, including those recruited from panels, from social media, and by web intercept methods. It is not meant to cover client-supplied samples such as lists of customers. Nor is it meant to cover samples recruited for qualitative research such as focus groups or one-on-one interviews since direct interaction between the researcher and research participant provides opportunities for quality assurance that is generally lacking in self-administered quantitative research. Nonetheless, researchers may find some of its suggested practices useful when working with those sample sources."