Draft Preliminary Findings
Three sessions were planned and participants were placed in three generic categories: “buyers” of information; “sellers” of information; and “intermediaries” (those displaying characteristics of both “buyers” and “sellers”). Rather than performing three individual sessions of “buyers,” “sellers” and finally “intermediaries,” a more interactive approach was chosen.
The first session contained a mix of “buyers and intermediaries” while the second held “sellers and intermediaries.” It was reasoned that a session solely of “intermediaries” would not yield enough new information to warrant a separate group. Since intermediaries acted as both buyers and sellers, they could be placed in both “buyer” and “seller” sessions and contribute their perspective without being viewed as an “adversary” by the rest of the panel. The third group would be free to act as a forum where differing views could be actively developed, discussed, proposed, rejected and added to those raised during previous sessions.
A total of 13 participants attended the “buyers and intermediaries” panel, 10 the “sellers and intermediaries” session and 12 the mixed group of “buyers, sellers and intermediaries.”
The Coalition for Networked Information READI Project expert panel sessions were held on Wednesday, June 17, 1992; Thursday, June 18, 1992; and Tuesday July 7, 1992 in New York City. New York City was selected because of its central location and ease of access to participants.
Sessions ran all day, starting at 10:00AM and ending at 4:00PM, with a one hour break for lunch at noon.
A “seller” was defined as:
Authors, primary publishers, secondary publishers, database providers, professional societies, government representatives, and corporations or universities that create, publish or repackage “data.”
An “intermediary” was defined as:
Software vendors and companies, royalty-collection agencies, attorneys, information brokers or retrieval services and network service providers and others who perform services on behalf of, or act as, both “sellers” and “buyers.”
The term “buyer” was defined as:
Individuals, libraries, library computer centers, corporations, retail outlets, government representatives, universities–both for technical and general administrative purposes–who purchase published information.
Initial candidates were selected employing client recommendations, recommendations made by other respected figures in networking and electronic publishing, on the basis of a “call for statements of interest and experience” issued by the Coalition via a number of electronic and hard-copy means starting November, 1991, and by word-of-mouth.
Telephone Screening Interviews
To select appropriate participants, brief interviews were conducted by telephone to approximately 87 potential candidates. Interested candidates were also asked to send a resume or CV to supplement responses.
A telephone script was prepared by Robert Ubell Associates and approved by the client. The objective was to assemble twelve to fifteen participants for each session.
The client chose a representative cross-section of backgrounds and specialties which accurately represented the profiles of the marketplace they wished to study.
In addition to the three expert panels that have been convened as part of the READI Project research, an Advisors group was formed of 35 interested candidates who could not attend or were not selected to attend the session. While this group did not formally meet, they were sent a copy of the draft report and asked to comment and add their perspective to that in the report.
None of the participants received an honorarium for participation in the group. However, in many cases travel expenses, hotel accommodation expenses, or both were reimbursed.
The client was present in the room to observe the session and was given the opportunity to interject questions to participants toward the end of the session.
Because of the specific nature of this type of research, it is the normal practice of Robert Ubell Associates to disclose the identity of the client to all participants in an expert panel. As early as the initial telephone contact the client’s identity was revealed to potential candidates. At no point in the process was the identity of the client hidden.
Participants agreed to attend with the knowledge that the client would be present and that the session was being tape recorded.
Moderator and Associates
Robert N. Ubell, President of Robert Ubell Associates, moderated the session. Mr. Ubell was assisted by an associate, Mark Tesoriero, Market Research Account Executive.
Robert Ubell Associates created a comprehensive script designed to stimulate comment from participants on topics identified by the client. The client reviewed a draft script and suggested changes that were incorporated into a final version. An identical script was used in all three sessions, however, some results of discussions from earlier panels were made known, as appropriate, to later ones–either to stimulate additional comments or to save time when the discussions were parallel.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
Assessments made are based upon qualitative, not quantitative, analysis. Consequently, while significant information was solicited from participants at each session, caution should be exercised in making decisions based solely on evaluations offered by participants.
While every effort was made to gather a representative sample of the population under study, participants may be far from representative and their responses may reflect narrow experiences.
Robert Ubell Associates believes that small-population groups of narrow-interest market segments, in this case specialists involved in the establishment and growth of networked information, can offer strong clues of total marketplace perceptions and is an excellent method at stimulating insights and understandings as preconditions to the emergence of consensual strategies. Therefore, it is wise to perform additional research or to employ the results of these expert panel sessions within the context of other ongoing research programs.