In recent months, the MRS has sent out letters of intent to a number of special interest groups. Around half are organisations like the AQR, who have always operated outside the MRS orbit, while the rest are groups who operated initially under its umbrella but are now to become independent.

There has been little written about these overtures in the press because, it seems, the move has prompted discussions over a number of issues with relevant organisations that have yet to be resolved.

"Their proposal is that we would formalise and develop what is already a good relationship," says AQR chair Ann Whalley. "Ideally they would like to set up a network, so that they and however many organisations would have a more formalised ongoing communications with each other ­ and a sharing of information ­ leading to a more efficient operation. They see themselves as carrying out authoritative liaison with Government infrastructure while other organisations will provide in-depth expertise in specific areas."

Initial meetings have already taken place between the AQR and the MRS, talking through all the major issues. It is generally agreed that the whole process of professional development and the media would become more efficient if there is an opening up of communication.

AQR would, in addition, have a greater input into qualitative accreditation development and qualifications. It would also benefit from a more consistent referral approach, with AQR seen as the source of knowledge of anything to do with qualitative research.

In fact, the only overlap could be in training and education, where both organisations have full schedules. The MRS is slightly more dependent on education as a revenue generator than the AQR.

The next step is for the education committee to meet with its MRS equivalent to establish what overlaps and gaps exist in training requirements, to explore each other¹s aims and ambitions and, as a result, produce some proposals.

It is generally agreed that it would be mutually beneficial for there to be closer cooperation on standards, professional development, public affairs representation and media relations.

Accruing accreditation

AQR courses could move into a whole new era, now that the MRS has been awarded Government status as the accrediting body for training for market research qualifications. The recent move has come about because of a desire to make market research more of a profession, with professional qualifications and new entry criteria to the MRS seen as essential steps in this direction.

After a lengthy, and somewhat bureaucratic process, the MRS has now satisfied the Government's requirements for those organisations that want to become the recognised accreditation bodies in their field; they are known as "awarding bodies".

In future, it will have the final say on which courses leading to market research qualifications it chooses to accredit. "AQR is one of many potential training providers which could eventually be accredited by the MRS as leading to accredited qualifications," says Philly Desai, the Committee member in charge of education, "and this would involve MRS and AQR working in partnership, with AQR training provision being submitted for accreditation against MRS Qualification units."

Accredited training, meanwhile, is not that far off. The MRS, for instance, has piloted it with two of its own training courses and will soon be ready to work with other providers like AQR. The framework for accreditation will shortly be in place.