In March, the UK government brought in measures to control the spread of COVID-19, with a complete lockdown stopping a large amount of research in its tracks.  The implications of this can be far-reaching, both in terms of the continuity and quality of data for ongoing programmes and for the financial health of the research industry as a whole.

Now, as the restrictions are gradually lifted, it’s a good time to talk about some of the ways in which you might re-start your existing research programmes, and how we can all work to support the wider industry navigate its way out of a post-pandemic slump.

Safely resuming research

The lockdown has caused many organisations to pause research projects, particularly where these involved face-to-face research.  The resulting delays to planned research has created uncertainty in the market and will have a continued impact on the continuity of research-related projects.

While the risk of coronavirus is still present, you should consider whether there are alternative methods or modes for your research programme, such as telephone interviews, focus groups via video conference or other online methods, which would still allow you to achieve your objectives. 

For existing agreements, get in touch with your research provider to discuss what’s possible. The Research, Insight and Behavioural Science team within the COVID-19 Communications Hub at Cabinet Office has successfully run a programme of research using online focus groups, and are happy to discuss their learnings – contact them to learn more.

Viewing facilities and other venues used for market and social research were able to re-open from 4 July, making face-to-face qualitative research a possibility again.  Face to face quantitative resumed in mid-May including the Department of Health and Social Care and ONS project which is tracking the rate of infection. 

The Market Research Society (MRS) has published guidance for undertaking safe face-to-face data collection and specific guidance for viewing facilities / research venues and face-to-face mystery shopping.  If face-to-face research is essential for your project, you should seek reassurance from the research agencies you work with that they and their suppliers are following this guidance.

Reviewing your existing research contracts 

You should think about how your research contracts are being managed.  For example, where a supplier has undertaken work on your behalf, and has raised invoices for this work, you should make sure that they are paid in line with the agreed terms to help maintain cash flow and support their ongoing financial stability. 

Consider the payment mechanisms within your research contracts, and whether these are helpful for suppliers who may be struggling with cash flow.  For example if your contract stipulates milestone payments, but work has stalled due to COVID-19, this may have an immediate impact on your supplier’s financial stability. If your supplier has raised concerns with you, consider whether amending your agreement to include alternative payment terms, or changing your payment method to procurement card, might help ensure the supplier’s continued stability. 

The UK Government has recently issued a few Procurement Policy Notes (PPNs) on payment of suppliers, which may apply to your existing contracts:

PPN 02/20 Supplier Relief due to COVID-19 (including Model Interim Payment Terms)

PPN 03/20 Use of procurement cards – COVID-19

PPN 04/20 Recovery & Transition from COVID-19.

We’re here for you

Hopefully this has given you some helpful tips on how to resume and continue your research in a way that supports the overall sustainability of the research market. 

This is new territory for all of us, so please don’t forget that the Research & Insights category experts at Crown Commercial Service are here to help you along the way.  Let’s work together to ensure our research objectives are met in a safe and sustainable manner whilst supporting the market through this challenging period. 

Get in touch with us via email.