Establishing Standards For Professional Conduct in Consumer Research: a Suggested Role For the Association For Consumer Research

Monroe Friedman, Eastern Michigan University
ABSTRACT - A three-stage procedure is proposed for the Association for Consumer Research (ACR) to follow to develop standards for professional conduct in consumer research. The suggested procedure, which evolved from the work of ACR's ad hoc Committee on Professional Affairs, would draw upon the experiences of a variety of consumer research organizations and associations, as well as the perspectives of interested lay persons.
[ to cite ]:
Monroe Friedman (1977) ,"Establishing Standards For Professional Conduct in Consumer Research: a Suggested Role For the Association For Consumer Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 04, eds. William D. Perreault, Jr., Atlanta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 261.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 1977   Page 261

ESTABLISHING STANDARDS FOR PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT IN CONSUMER RESEARCH: A SUGGESTED ROLE FOR THE ASSOCIATION FOR CONSUMER RESEARCH

Monroe Friedman, Eastern Michigan University

[This article is an abbreviated version of the report of the ad hoc Committee on Professional Affairs of the Association for Consumer Research. The members of the Committee, which was established in 1974 by Jacob Jacoby, are George Brosseau of the National Science Foundation; Monroe Friedman of Eastern Michigan University (chairman); Donald Hughes of Sears, Roebuck and Company; Laird Landon of the University of Colorado; Mary Ellen Simon of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; and George Szybillo of New York University.]

ABSTRACT -

A three-stage procedure is proposed for the Association for Consumer Research (ACR) to follow to develop standards for professional conduct in consumer research. The suggested procedure, which evolved from the work of ACR's ad hoc Committee on Professional Affairs, would draw upon the experiences of a variety of consumer research organizations and associations, as well as the perspectives of interested lay persons.

INTRODUCTION

As a professional association of researchers, the Association for Consumer Research (ACR) has a responsibility to the public to assure that ACR members are both aware of and encouraged to use the highest standards of professional conduct in 1) the design and execution of consumer research, and 2) the communication and interpretation of consumer research findings to the public at large as well as such special audiences as news media representatives, educators, and public policy makers. [This statement reflects the position adopted in the "Report of the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility" in the May 16, 1875 issue of Science.] And while individuals may disagree in some instances as to what constitutes the "highest standards of professional conduct," it is important that an effort be made by the ACR Committee on Professional Affairs to identify areas of agreement and that these be communicated to the ACR membership. Equally important is the identification of areas of disagreement including the articulation of conflicting positions and the arguments which underlie them.

IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS

A three-stage process is proposed to implement these recommendations. In the first stage, which would consume the better part of a year, two subcommittees of the Professional Affairs Committee would be established, one to deal with the design and execution of consumer research, and the other to deal with the interpretation and communication of consumer research findings. Each subcommittee would begin its work by gathering guidelines and other relevant information from selected firms and organizations as well as professional research associations. The subcommittees would review these materials and recommend those portions which they believe should be incorporated into a set of ACR guidelines on professional practices. The subcommittees would also identify areas for which appropriate guidelines do not exist.

In the second stage, the subcommittees would attempt to draft guidelines for these neglected areas. This effort would take a year or more to complete depending on the number and complexity of the areas to be considered. Finally, in a third stage, two versions of a single integrated set of guidelines on professional conduct would be prepared, with each version drawing upon the borrowed and original contributions which emanated from the earlier stages of the project. The two versions would differ with regard to their intended audience, the first consisting of consumer researchers and the second of research users. The editing and rewriting required here should take no more than a year to complete. Upon completion of this third stage, ACR would have generated two parallel sets of guidelines relating to professional conduct which together would serve the needs of producers as well as users of consumer research.

STAFFING THE IMPLEMENTATION EFFORT

To staff the two subcommittees, it is proposed that invitations be extended to balanced groups of ACR members and interested non-members who could be expected to make substantial contributions to the two efforts. For example, the subcommittee on the practice of consumer research might include specialists in such areas as survey research, observational techniques, and the psycho-physical methods of the laboratory. The subcommittee on the interpretation and communication of research findings might well draw upon a broader base of expertise, including consumer journalists and consumer educators, as well as consumer researchers who have served as expert witnesses or consultants to policy makers. Both subcommittees could benefit from the participation of advisors whose origins are external to the field of consumer affairs, such as professional researchers in non-consumer areas or interested lay persons.

CONCLUDING COMMENTS

The three-stage project recommended above should take three or more years to complete. Its successful completion would constitute a significant step in the ACR effort to place the Association in a position to meet its professional responsibilities to its membership as well as the public at large.

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