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The Public Opinion Research Directorate is recognized as the Government of Canada's repository of best practices and techniques in listening to Canadians. In fulfilling that role, the Directorate has assisted in the renewal of the standing offer process, which will strengthen the management of public opinion research and lend transparency to all transactions. As well, it has created several new resources in the past year to help public service practitioners in designing and conducting their public opinion research. A brief description of these tools and resources follows.
A POR on-line database was implemented in 2003 to respond to concerns raised by the Auditor General and to strengthen accountability, improve transparency and promote information sharing. The database was widely tested, beginning with participation in the 2003 GovNet exhibition "Transcending Technology." Once fully operational, this database will offer a streamlined Web-based system to simplify project management, accelerate the dissemination of research results, facilitate partnering and reduce duplication. The database will be accessible to all departments to serve as their own project management system for their POR projects and as a tool to promote greater coordination on horizontal issues, which adds value to each undertaking.
The database was developed to provide on-line access to details of research projects that are planned, under way and completed, along with results. Departmental research coordinators will be able to submit research details for new research projects as well as track progress of projects.
Several departments are participating in a pilot project to use the database and an independent usability study was conducted in March 2004. Full-scale utilization is expected in 2004-2005.
The Directorate has worked with departments and the Communications Procurement Directorate of PWGSC to develop tools, such as standing offers and supply arrangements that facilitate the timely and efficient procurement of research projects. The recent renewal of the Government's policies on public opinion research services began with consultations between four industry associations - l'Association de l'industrie de la recherche marketing et sociale, the Canadian Association of Marketing Research Organizations, the Professional Marketing Research Society and the Canadian Survey Research Council - and representatives of government departments. They unanimously favoured a new approach, and an industry-government working group collaborated in laying the foundation for a new policy. In May 2004, new standing offers and supply arrangements were put in place. (See Appendix Four: Standing Offers)
Key elements in the new tools ensure value for money by creating a larger pool of suppliers across Canada and more transparency in the selection process. They sharpen competition between firms while giving each one more opportunities to compete for government business.
The Public Opinion Research Directorate and the Privy Council Office co-chair an interdepartmental committee of public opinion research coordinators involved in evaluating major Government of Canada advertising campaigns. The principal vehicle used to assess advertising campaign effectiveness is the newly developed and tested Advertising Campaign Evaluation Tool (ACET), which is a series of standard questions to be added to departmental evaluations of Government of Canada advertising campaigns.
Its use is required on all major advertising campaigns with a media buy of more than $400,000, but departments are encouraged to use it on smaller campaigns as well. In addition to measuring effectiveness, the use of ACET will help departments save money in the design of questionnaires and enhance research consistency through the use of standard questions.
This publication provides Government of Canada employees with an overview of public opinion research. It reviews the advantages and disadvantages of current data collection methods including conventional research methods and emerging techniques using the Internet.
Among its strengths is the step-by-step guide it provides to take the user through the process, beginning with the question of which methodology best serves the objectives of the project. It helps the user decide whether qualitative or quantitative data, or a combination of the two, would be the most useful. There are examples and comparative tables.
It defines public opinion research and includes an outline of procedures to be followed in acquiring research, a check list of key elements in the research process and a glossary of key research terms.
More than 1,300 copies of Guideposts to Value were distributed within two months of its release at the 2003 Communicators Conference. It was also distributed to departmental clients, heads of Communications and some departmental regional offices. It continues to be a popular "primer" for those undertaking research across the Government of Canada.
Research Techniques: Guideposts to Value is available from the Public Opinion Research Directorate. Electronically, it is on the PWGSC Internet site and at the CommNET Extranet site.
The 2002-2003 annual report was distributed to Cabinet Ministers, senior departmental officials and departmental POR coordinators in November 2003 and posted on the Internet. As well as highlighting the overall public opinion research activities managed by the Public Opinion Research Directorate, the report included summaries of work done in departments that had made the largest investments in POR. The information from the most active departments provided insight into the importance and scope of public opinion research within these organizations. This feature is continued in the 2003-2004 annual report, offering practical examples of the value and versatile capabilities of POR to all managers in the public service.
This tool kit helps government communicators to communicate in a way that is easy to understand and effective for all users and recipients. It offers an overview of key techniques for successful communications, practical examples and case studies for communication using all media, as well as evaluation tools. Unveiled at the Government of Canada's Communicators Conference in May 2003, it became the basis for a workshop co-sponsored with Health Canada that featured the practical applications of the tool kit to cigarette package messages.
CommNET, the resource site for Government of Canada communicators, includes a prominent section on public opinion research. There is a list of POR advisors and the departments and agencies each one serves, along with a bilingual list of close to 3,000 Government of Canada public opinion research reports produced since 1994. These are on deposit in the National Library of Canada and the Library of Parliament.
The public opinion research section of CommNET has become a valuable tool for researchers. They have access, for example, to the annual report of public opinion research for the Government of Canada that provides a corporate snapshot of the research work being done by leading departments and agencies.
The site also contains helpful information for those new to public opinion research. Users will find an outline of the public opinion summary that must be completed when a public opinion research project is started. It accompanies a section that discusses the advantages and challenges of on-line public opinion research.
All of the Public Opinion Research Directorate's publications are available on the site. The POR section of the CommNET site has had over 5,400 visits in the last two years.
An expanding program of seminars and information sessions held in a variety of fora and the increasing number of participants reflect the growing reliance on public opinion research in government and the interest in it among academia.
Public Opinion Research: Thinking Outside the Box, an overview of POR in the Government of Canada and an explanation of the tools available to departments, drew more than 200 people during two sessions at the annual Communicators Conference.
From Pop-Ups to Panels: Conducting Effective On-Line Surveys was repeated in the year and once again attracted more than 100 participants.
The Public Opinion Research Directorate has developed a 90-minute session on POR, which is included in the course material for new executives in the public service. Initial reactions from participants were extremely positive and Directorate resources are distributed at the course for new executives, which is held six times a year.
The Directorate continued to coordinate and participate in bi-monthly meetings of the informal interdepartmental working group on public opinion research. This expanding group now has representatives from nearly 30 departments and agencies that meet regularly to discuss issues of mutual concern, such as procurement, emerging research techniques, interdepartmental initiatives and partnering on research. Of particular note this year was the demonstration of new Internet sites being developed in several departments to share detailed research results.
As well, the Directorate provided strategic advice and research expertise as a member of the newly formed interdepartmental research committee that coordinates all POR related to Government On-Line. It assisted in developing a best practices guide and participated in workshops to present the advantages and disadvantages of on-line survey research.