Should Market Researchers Declare Potential Conflicts of Interest?

I have been wondering lately whether market researchers at firms such as Gartner, IDC, and Forrester should have to declare conflicts of interest when speaking for attribution with the trade press and business journalists about vendors with whom they have business relationships.

Market analysts at investment banks often are asked by journalists to disclose whether their firms have current or prospective business ties to technology vendors on which they pass comment. By revealing whether a relationship exists, the analyst provides the journalist and his or her readers with additional context in which to judge the objectivity of the commentary. It is a form of disclosure that adds to the credibility of both the article and the sources quoted in it.

I think the same practice should be applied to technology’s leading research houses. Journalists and their readers have a legitimate right to consider, for example, whether a business relationship Gartner or IDC has with Cisco, Oracle, or Microsoft might inhibit or otherwise color commentary and opinions that might be offered regarding a vendor’s product strategy, launch campaign, or prospects for continued success.

At the very least, such a practice would provide full disclosure to readers, so that they could more completely evaluate the pronouncements of the technology industry’s pundits. What do you think?

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