Research, ethics, morality and quality – the map is not the territory

Neil McPhee
Nuance Research Ltd, United Kingdom


This paper will discuss this framework and argue that the changes in the research and marketing worlds are too significant to pass without a review of this emphasis on process and a revitalisation of the less formal aspects that represent real Ethics, Morality and Quality.

This paper is intentionally challenging and provocative, seeking to provoke debate, and encourages the world research community to rethink its blind faith in process and to recapture a belief and focus on the outcomes, not the mechanisms and procedures of research projects.


In the beginning, depending on where and when you feel the beginning actually was, the research industry was not an “industry” at all. It was a relatively small group of providers and critically, individuals, offering something akin to a truly professional, unique service to clients. These clients tended to be ones with vision and a lack of self-perceived craft/necessary skills, and thus went to people with particular knowledge and those skills. The exchange was thus based on intangible characteristics, like trust, belief, need, and knowledge. This can be seen in the exchange between Edward Bernays back in the 1920s, or through Ernst Dichter and Bill Schlackman for Qual and the founding fathers of the European research industry in the 1950/1960s.