For those of you on LinkedIn there is a great debate on this topic in the Marketing Science group.
Taking part in that discussion has certainly sharpened my thoughts about what marketing science is and what it could be (along with topics such as what do we mean by a ‘scientific approach’ and what is the role of different epistemologies in market research).For me the key things that have arisen out of the debate so far are:
1) Market research is not a science, just as medicine and engineering are not sciences. Market research can use science, just as medicine can be the application of science and engineering can be the application of science.
2) Some market researchers believe that all market research (quant and qual) can/should employ a scientific method, for example creating and testing hypothesis, seeking cause and effect, and trying to produce findings that can be replicated.
3) Some market researchers, particularly some of those who specialise in qualitative approaches, do not subscribe to an epistemology that embodies the scientific method, for example they may take a constructionist position.
4) Market research is part of marketing, but only a fairly modest part.
5) Marketing science could be a useful term for identifying that part of market research which uses non-trivial, mathematically or statically based techniques in ways consistent with what is generally understood as the scientific method to provide marketing-related insight.
6) Whist the boundaries of marketing science might always be hard to define the core of the domain should be relatively clear, for example discrete choice modelling, structural equation models, and regression.
7) The core of marketing science should, in my opinion, be expanded to include all mathematical/statistical techniques used by marketing, for example web analytics, churn data, network analysis, etc, not just those traditionally used by market researchers.
One issue that arose in the debate is the point that most clients are not well equipped to query the nature of the advanced techniques they might be presented with, due to time, interest, training, or aptitude. This situation, in my opinion, makes it all the more important that researchers work hard to define what they mean by marketing sciences and to define what they mean by good and best practice.
What are your thoughts?