Radiance Blog

Online research and carbon emissions

Does online research (specifically focus groups) reduce greenhouse gas emissions of in-person research?  Given our interest in “green” we were excited to look at this report.

According to a recent report by Revelation, in-person groups create more than 2.5 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions than online research (even when all the extra computing power is factored in).  However, I have to question the savings in food and facility energy – if they’re at home on their computers are they sitting in the dark and not eating?

Still, I believe even if that is factored back in, there is still a savings, and with the number of focus groups conducted daily around the country, the impact quickly adds up.

I’m not suggesting we should use online focus groups over in-person groups all of the time – the nature of the group and the project should still dictate that choice – but the impact shouldn’t be ignored either.  Don’t forget too – video streaming of in person groups could eliminate one of the largest chunks of emissions – client travel.

To download your copy, visit their site.



2 comments on “Online research and carbon emissions”

  1. Hi David,

    Thanks for reading and commenting on “Avoided Carbon Emissions from Online Immersive Research”. My firm, Fluid Market Strategies, developed the calculator for Revelation, and the question you ask about savings in food and facility energy is a good one.

    The reason that home energy use and food was not included in the calculations for Revelation’s online immersive research was that they are not directly attributable emissions. In the case of in-person groups, food is purchased specifically to support the focus group activity, and the facility is used specifically for the purpose of conducting the focus group. However, when participants engage in research activities at home, their general energy usage (lights and heating/cooling) and food consumption are not directly attributable to that activity. The lights might be on, and there might be food in the kitchen, but those conditions are unrelated to actually participating in research activities.

    You make some great points here and in your linked post about the potential to reduce emissions associated with both in-person and online research. We look forward to continuing the discussion!

    Alison Hopcroft

  2. Thanks, Alison, for posting as well as carrying out the research to assess carbon emissions.

    In regards to eating and energy at home, I agree its not directly attributable, but the consumption is still occurring (especially for food – people have to eat, while you could argue their home is still being heated/cooled etc. even if one light is turned off when they’re not there).

    Again, fairly small factors in the big picture I imagine. Thanks again!

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