Pre-conference COMFOCUS workshop “Enabling future-proof food consumer science: the role of BIG(ger) data from interlinking our efforts

The workshop was held as part of the pre-conference program of the International Food Marketing Research symposium Prague on June 13, 2023. The workshop aimed to discuss the harmonization of measures and protocols in food consumer science (FCS) and its impact on research quality and creativity. The agenda of the workshop included three brief presentations and group discussions. Ellen van Kleef opened the session with a welcome message and the COMFOCUS video.

Liisa Lähteenmäki started off with the topic of harmonization of measures in food consumer science (FCS) and raised important questions about its impact on research quality and creativity.

Liisa stressed the importance of accessibility of harmonized measures and protocols to promote their adoption across different research projects. She emphasized the need for checklists and templates that can support harmonization efforts and facilitate data sharing among researchers. To provide practical insights, Liisa shared the results from roundtable discussions conducted in Denmark, Nordic countries, Spain, and Slovakia, which focused on the benefits of harmonization and the challenges that need to be overcome. These discussions highlighted the importance of understanding and accounting for cultural aspects in food consumption, the limitations of measures developed in “western” countries, and the sensitivity of data to situational factors.

Hans van Trijp’s presentation focused on the topic of translations and scaling, with a specific emphasis on ensuring cross-cultural comparability and inter-linkage of data in food consumer science (FCS). He highlighted the challenges that arise when translating measures and developing in FCS studies, as it involves more than just translating language. Cultural applicability and validation of measures become crucial to ensure the meaningfulness and validity of data across different cultural contexts.

Hans acknowledged that most measures in FCS have been developed in “western” countries, often using student samples, which may limit their applicability and validity in other parts of the world, including Europe. This highlights the need to consider cultural diversity when harmonizing measures for cross-cultural research.

Additionally, Hans explained the need for an ontology in FCS. Developing an ontology offers several advantages, primarily in enabling the exploration of higher-order research questions. They provide substantial support for data fusion, system modelling, and the analysis of big data.

During her presentation, Lisa Mohebati focused on the topic of cultural and other biases in the use of harmonized measures and protocols in FCS. She highlighted the importance of considering these biases and their impact on research outcomes when implementing harmonization efforts. Lisa emphasized the need to adhere to principles of FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) practices in the development and implementation of harmonized protocols and measures. This ensures that data and metadata are readily available, retrievable in machine-actionable form, consistently structured and described, and sufficiently annotated for both machine and human users.

Group discussions

Participants were organized into small groups to examine the COMFOCUS harmonized scales of ‘subjective nutrition knowledge’ and ‘food involvement’. During these discussions, participants explored the complexities surrounding measurement invariance and sensitivity, considering cultural disparities and individual differences.

The discussions first focused on the challenges and potential solutions related to developing and using harmonized measures in the field of food consumer science. Participants recognized the importance of harmonization for comparing and integrating data from different studies. However, they acknowledged that achieving harmonization can be challenging due to variations in cultural contexts, language translations, and evolving constructs over time.

In conclusion, the acknowledgment of the importance of harmonization in food consumer science was widely recognized, as it allows for better comparison and integration of data.

The meeting concluded with a recognition of the relevance and importance of harmonization in the field of food consumer science. However, the participants emphasized the need for flexibility and consideration of evolving concepts, cultural differences, and sub-cultural variations in order to ensure that measures remain relevant and reflective of current trends and perspectives.