conducted for IRS 2008 Round 1 in the region of Rajasthan was found to be manipulated. Therefore, Media Research Users Council (MRUC) will be delaying the releasing of this data by a month. Hansa Research, the agency which undertakes the fieldwork for IRS, reported to MRUC that some publications were trying to influence the results in some markets.
Suresh Nimbalkar, associate vice-president, Hansa Research, revealed that there are multiple levels of back-checks conducted with the respondents to find out the authenticity of the data acquired. One of the levels include back-checking the data after exactly 48 hours. Variations of 1-2 per cent are acceptable, but this time, the variations were found to be more than the normal range. As a result, the field team has been sacked and a new team is being formed to go and collect the data all over again in the region.
Investigations are on to rule out the regions and the publications which have tried to influence the data. When asked how research data can be manipulated, Sabina Solomon, general manager, MRUC, explains, "If the publications come to know in which area the research will be conducted, they can dump extra copies of their newspaper in advance and lead to altering the true responses of respondents. Another way could be to influence the state team which is conducting the research. If people in the state team are picked up from the local region and happen to have links with any of the publications, then it definitely leads to the team working in accordance to the needs of the publication.
Therefore, for the new research, we are taking precautions to form a research team that is not at all linked to the local research regions."
Solomon says that incidents like this are not very frequent, but they have happened at least four-five times in the past. Therefore, the MRUC board has decided to create a code of conduct which, in the future, will suppress research data from being released in the final report for particular publications found guilty of such manipulation.
A standing committee is being formed that will thoroughly investigate issues relating to publication interference in the research process, whether identified through the quality control process of the research agency or through complaints raised by members. The standing committee will be empowered to appoint an external agency to investigate such issues, if required.