The AQR (or AQRP as it was originally known) was founded as a fringe Interest group of the MRS by a handful of qualitative researchers in 1980. Within a year AQRP had attracted a following of 120 Qualies and Bill Schlackman was the main speaker at the first official Open Meeting in March 1981. Schlackman’s talk had the provocative title “Qualitative Research may not have a future”. Qualitative Research was in its infancy and still seen very much seen as a "dark art".

Qualitative research today

Today, commercial qualitative research is a global industry and according to the MRS’s Business of Evidence 2016 report, qualitative research is growing side by side with data analytics at the expense of what they call non-traditional data sources, ie traditional survey methods, particularly telephone research.

In this world of big data and data overload, qualitative resarch, investigation and analysis are more important than ever.

Qualitative research covers a wealth of methodologies, approaches and ways of thinking. As the Hub of Qualitative Research, we, The AQR, play a vital role in supporting, endorsing and promoting the benefits of our unique profession.

We specialize in looking at, understanding and analyzing other people’s lives on behalf of our clients, and we also act as a professional body supporting the needs of young researchers who are starting their careers through education, training, debates and social networking events.

We also support mid-career researchers in helping keep them up to date. And our more experienced members act as our mentors and invaluable sources of wisdom.

We are astonishingly lucky to have such fascinating jobs, and to learn about people, places, products, and brands in a way that very few other professions offer. We are detectives, strategists, diplomats and therapists all rolled into one.

The AQR in its 36th year

During the intervening years since our foundation there have been 14 previous Chairs and I’m proud to be finishing my first year as the 15th Chair in this the 36th year of the Association.

It has been a great year for the AQR and I must thank Rose above all for her energy, enthusiasm and the passion she has for the AQR which helps make us the successful Association that we are. Thanks also to Angela for all her support of Rose.

I’m sure Rose would also be the first to say that the success of the AQR also lays with the huge support and hard work that the AQR Board deliver throughout the year. And a huge thank you must go to all of them.

Membership increased

There have been many achievements this year, notably the increase in membership. We have recruited over 60 more members in the last 12 months and now have over 800 members in total. Group membership has continued to be a success with over 25 companies now taking advantage of this initiative. Our thanks to the Membership committee of Rebecca Harries, Caroline Noon and Gill O’Hanlon.

Training and mentoring

There has been an Increase in the number of training courses and a new series, Breakfast Bites, has been introduced. Over 130 members have been trained in the past 12 months. AQR’s Mentoring Scheme has also been developed with more mentors being trained. Our thanks to the Education Committee, Chloe Fowler, Blue Martin, Caroline Noon, Gill O’Hanlon and Katharine Cunningham.

We also wish to thank all our tutors who also give their time for free. Special mention goes to Ruth Preston for continuing to run our Moderating Skills Workshop and Iain Carruthers and Kate McEnery Evans for continuing to run the Welcome To The Games Workshop.

Conferences and events

AQR’s Being Human Conference in September 2015 attracted over 100 people. A great success, and many thanks to Sarah Jenkins and her team for organising this.

There has been an increase in our events for young researchers, this year headed up by Jen Solomon, Katharine Cunningham, and the YUG’s (Young Unfocused Group). Special thanks to them. Spark events have been very successful sellouts this year and particular thanks to Gill O’Hanlon for all her efforts throughout the year.

Another highlight of the year was the Not The Christmas Party held in February at The Ivy, another sell out. And we successfully drank the bar dry by 9pm.

Liaison with other organisations

Liaison with other organisations and associations has continued to grow. We have a very good on-going relationship with MRS and we are pleased to welcome Debrah Harding here this evening as our guest of honor.

We have been Association Partner at several events and conferences this year including ESOMAR, QRCA, and Qual360. We are again having an AQR seminar at AURA in September and had a successful stand at the Insight Show earlier in the year.


Our website has had continuous development and has been a guided brilliantly by Selena King and Skill Zone. The glossary section has been enhanced thanks to Peter Totman and is constantly being added to.

In Brief and In Depth have both had successful makeovers and advertising slots are now available in both publications. Special thanks to Louella Miles our Editor and wordsmith. And to Blue Martin and Roddy Glen for all their time and energy.

Professional Accreditation

Professionalisation and accreditation have been motoring on this year. Julie Fuller has headed up the Recruiter Accreditation Scheme in conjunction with the MRS and this should be ready for launch later this year. Mike Herbert, with support from Blue Martin and Peter Totman has continued with his efforts of securing a qualitative qualification and this is also progressing well with the help of a prestigious steering committee from across the industry.

The PRS Qual Excellence Award

The Prosper Riley Smith Qualitative Excellence Award is now in its 14th year and I’m proud to be chairing the judging panel for the 5th year in succession. We continue to get a high number of excellent quality entries. The judging panel consists of highly regarded people from our industry and other associations including MRS, AURA, ESOMAR, APG, and the award is now recognized as one of the top qualitative awards in the industry.

New initiatives

We have supported a new initiative of "Field Hub - making it happen". Social events for field people are taking place a few times each year. An exciting new event is being organised by Judy Taylor and is planned for the autumnm called "Eyes Wide Open".

Board members

Finally I’d like to say some special thank yous. Firstly to my two Vice Chairs, who are both sadly standing down at this time and who have been so instrumental in making everything happen over the last year. Chloe Fowler has been on the Committee for eight years and has done an enormous amount for Education, and Blue Martin who has done a wonderful job as editor of In Depth. Thank you to you both.

The Board are also saying goodbye and thank you to Selena King, who has done so much to transform our website into the excellent site we have today, and to Rebecca Harries for all the hard work she has done for membership and the membership survey.

The AQR Board is run by volunteers who give their time for love, not money, and I would like to make a special mention today for 25 years of service on the AQR Board from our Treasurer and Honorary Secretary Liz Sykes. Thank you very much Liz.

Finally I’d like to thank all members for all your continued support and enthusiasm as we look forward to another great year for Qualitative Research.

Thank you very much.