Researching Consumer Research. An Analysis of Consumer Researchers in Austria with Some Implications for the Scientific Field and Consumer Policy

Abstract

Since over a decade, there are ongoing debates about the relationships between the scientific field of consumer research and the political field of consumer policy. To date, there exist theoretical overviews of the international state of the art in consumer research and its historical developments regarding topics, and theoretical and methodological advancements. There also exist few empirical studies which approached this field through content analysis of scientific articles, case studies or literature reviews. Nonetheless, prior research has yet neglected consumer researchers themselves and, above all, their stances toward consumer policy. To fill this gap, this article seeks to enhance knowledge about consumer researchers by presenting empirical results of a survey among Austrian consumer researchers. In contrast with previous research, this article relates its empirical findings to better understand how consumer research can become a more integrated and institutionalized research area, in Austria and elsewhere. As the results indicate, there are some commonalities in Austrian consumer research which may serve as a fertile ground for a closer integration of the field and which could enhance cooperation between the scientific and the political field. Yet, as this article shows, there also exist some obstacles, which may hinder such efforts. It concludes with some propositions for consumer research as a scientific field and discusses obstacles and prospects of a future collaboration between this scientific field and consumer policy. In doing so, this article seeks to contribute to the debate about a so-called “evidence-based” consumer policy suggesting that consumer policy can draw on a wide array of scientific perspectives and should not restrict itself to behavioural insights alone, a current trend in some European countries and in the European Commission. As will be shown, the Austrian case is furthermore informative to better understand internal and external (political) efforts to foster cooperation within consumer research and the relationship between consumer research and consumer policy.

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