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During 2007–08, the ABS continued to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion, by increasing accessibility to the outputs of statistical activities, usually released through publications, spreadsheets and datacubes. All publications back to 1994 can be accessed free-of-charge via the ABS website, while a selection of current hard copy publications are available for purchase. A complete collection of ABS hard copy publications, including historical publications and microfiche, is held with the National Library and each state/territory library. Some public and university libraries also keep selected holdings.
In addition, confidentialised unit record files are available for some collections and can be accessed, under strict conditions, by authorised users.
Dissemination methods are underpinned by the ABS’ core value of independence and impartiality. The ABS complies with this value by:
The ABS also seeks to ensure the processes used to compile statistics are open and transparent, and users of statistics have access to all the information they need to be able to interpret the statistics accurately. As such, information about the methods used in producing statistics is provided through statistical publications, such as those referred to as manuals of concepts, sources and methods, and information papers. Ongoing ABS research is often published in professional papers (a full list of those presented in 2007–08 is included in Online appendix 2). ABS data is increasingly being presented with attendant metadata that helps customers interpret and assess the ‘fitness for use’ of the data.
The following sections cover some of the methods for accessing ABS statistics, new releases in 2007–08, and uses of ABS statistics.
ACCESSING ABS STATISTICS
The ABS website remains the primary access point for the majority of users of ABS information, with website users accessing ABS web pages 140 million times in 2007–08. This is an increase of 37.7% from 2006–07 and 79.4% from 2005–06.
Along with this increase in website use, there has also been a decline in demand for printed products. Consequently, from March 2008, hardcopy publications were no longer printed and available for sale unless they meet strict criteria.
During 2007–08 a number of improvements were made to the ABS website. These included:
PROMOTION OF RELEASES
The ABS seeks to encourage informed and increased use of statistics by promoting key releases such as Measures of Australia’s Progress and Australian Social Trends as well as generally promoting the wider range of ABS products and services.
Year Book Australia
The Year Book Australia 2008 (cat. no. 1301.0) was launched in ABS House by the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (Retd).
The Governor-General, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (Retd), launched the Year Book Australia 2008 on 7 February 2008 at ABS House. Ninety editions have been published in the past 100 years and are now available online at the ABS website.
Year Book Australia is the principal reference work produced by the ABS. It provides a comprehensive statistical picture of the economy and social conditions in Australia. In addition, it contains descriptive matter dealing with Australia’s geography and climate, population, the environment, government, international relations, defence, education, health, income and welfare, housing, and crime and justice.
2006 Census Social Atlas series
In March 2008, the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, the Hon Chris Bowen MP, and the Australian Statistician, Brian Pink, launched the 2006 Census Social Atlas series at Parliament House in Canberra.
In front of a packed audience of ABS stakeholders and key media representatives, the Assistant Treasurer spoke about the Social Atlas bringing the Census to life and presenting a bird’s eye view of our cities and, importantly for the first time, our regions. He said that the Social Atlas series presented Census data in a way that makes it more accessible and understandable for users.
Following the release, there was extensive media coverage, with articles, interviews and news segments highlighting the stories from the Social Atlas series. The success of the launch, along with the associated media coverage, has assisted the ABS to generate good sales of the hard copy publications and to see a high number of downloads from the website—registering 10,319 downloads since its release in April 2008. Comparatively, the 2001 Social Atlases registered 1,122 downloads from the time of their release (October 2002) until the end of the 2002–02 Financial Year.
The stories from the Social Atlas series received extensive media coverage.
The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008
The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, launched the joint ABS and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare publication, The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008 (cat. no. 4704.0), in April 2008 at the 2nd Conference of the Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health in Sydney.
The Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, launched the joint ABS and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare publication, The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008.
Seminars and Training
The ABS also provides seminars and training courses for government and others, to promote available statistics and assist users in accessing the data. During 2007–08, sessions focused on the broad capability of the ABS, including:
The ABS has developed a number of initiatives aimed at improving the statistical literacy of teachers and students, and increasing the use of ABS data in schools. The second version of CensusAtSchool, which is an Internet based education project in which students respond to questions of interest about themselves by completing an online voluntary questionnaire, is now underway. It is now a truly international project containing a set of questions common across all countries undertaking CensusAtSchool. This will enable Australian students to compare themselves directly with students from a number of other countries. CensusAtSchool 2008 participants will also be able to compare themselves to participants in 2006, as a time series starts to develop in this popular project.
The ABS attended a large number of education conferences and workshops over the past 12 months, with the aim of raising awareness of statistics as a life skill. This, together with the re-building of a network of key senior contacts in the education sector, is aimed at trying to show the importance of statistics in a number of subject areas across state and territory curricula.
During 2007–08, the ABS also ran a successful pilot of a theatre style program to educate and engage with year five and six students visiting Canberra. The program is designed to introduce children to statistics and how statistics can influence decision-making and planning. The Student Visit Program is planned for implementation in the new financial year.
The ABS seeks to increase statistical literacy in the government and community through a nationally coordinated program. This program uses innovative approaches to improve the statistical capabilities of targeted customer segments. For example,
The ABS provides a cost-recovered information consultancy service, which provides customised data to users whose needs are not met by data available free-of-charge on the ABS website.
Information consultancy customers come from all levels of government, large and small businesses, not for profit organisations, as well as the research sector. These customers use tailored ABS data for decision making, research, policy development, planning and marketing. The range of data available to customers of the information consultancy service includes the Census of Population and Housing, Overseas Arrivals and Departures, the Survey of Education and Work, International Trade, Vitals, Demographic data and more.
Subscriptions to some data can be provided on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, according to the customer’s need.
ACCESS TO CONFIDENTIALISED UNIT RECORD FILES: SPECIALIST DATA FOR SPECIALIST RESEARCHERS
Microdata, which is the most detailed statistical information available from the ABS, can be accessed in the form of Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs). These are a valuable source of data for specialist researchers in government agencies, universities and other organisations.
CURFs include the most detailed statistical information available from the ABS. In these files, records of individual responses to ABS surveys from persons, households or organisations have been manipulated to protect respondent confidentiality. In all cases, directly identifying information such as names, addresses and so forth have been removed from the records, and a variety of statistical techniques have been applied to further ensure confidentiality is maintained.
CURFs are produced at different levels of detail:
The RADL™ is a system accessed through the Internet, which allows users to submit statistical queries to be run on CURFs. Users do not have access to the data directly, and there are checks and controls in the system to maintain the security of the data.
CURFs are available for 34 ABS surveys and have been a standard ABS statistical product for two years. During 2007–08, the ABS released 17 new CURFs, including Expanded CURFs. There are currently 91 (latest edition) CURFs available and a total count of 112 CURFs (includes Editions) available on RADL™.
While the use of CURFs on CD-ROM remains very popular, with around half of all CURF use in this format, researchers are also increasingly using RADL™ to access both Basic and Expanded CURFs. By the end of June 2008, there were 1,196 researchers from 88 organisations registered to use RADL™.
During 2007–08, the ABS has continued to develop the Remote Access Data Laboratory facilities (RADL™), with a focus on improved useability and functionality, using feedback from customers as an important driver for enhancements. For example, RADL™ now supports the SAS, SPSS and Stata statistical languages.
The RADL™ is a secure system accessed through the Internet, which allows registered users to submit statistical queries to be run on CURFs. Users do not have direct access to the data, and there are checks and controls in the system to maintain the security of the data. A further means of accessing microdata is the ABS Data Laboratory (ABSDL). This is a microdata processing environment established in a secure room or area on ABS premises. ABSDL provides a more interactive processing environment than RADL™, enabling the analysis of both standard and customised microdata files. To ensure respondents cannot be identified, any output removed by ABSDL customers is vetted by ABS staff. Both the RADL™ and ABSDL services are provided on a fully cost-recovered basis.
The ABS website lists published results of research for which CURFs have been used. It includes academic papers published in journals and conference proceedings, higher degree theses, monographs and reports.
INFORMING DECISIONS—ABS SERVICE DELIVERY CHARTER
Revised and released in January 2008, the ABS Service Delivery Charter outlines the ABS’ commitment to providing a quality customer service, and describes the products and services that users can expect when they approach the ABS for statistical or other information. The charter offers guidance to customers wishing to provide compliments, or register complaints, on any aspect of customer relationships or service. The charter also describes the service standards for which the ABS is accountable. Performance against service standards for 2007–08 can be found in Table 12.1. The Charter, together with other relevant corporate information, is available from the ABS website, using the ‘About Us’ link from the homepage.
The ABS has charters for respondents in Business Surveys and Household Surveys, also available via the ‘About Us’ link from the homepage of the ABS website. Further Information on the Charters can be found in Chapter 10, Provider/respondent relationships.
Table 12.1 Performance against service standards for 2007–08: targets and actual performance
(b) Data are for February—June 2008.
(c) Processes for recording data against these measures are under review.
(d) While 0% supplied within five days, 100% were supplied within 15 days.
RELEASES IN 2007–08
The ABS releases a wide range of information from its collections through publications (in electronic, and in some cases, paper formats), spreadsheets and datacubes. Most users of ABS statistics rely on releases in these forms, and the ABS is always seeking to expand and improve the range available. In particular, in 2007–08 the ABS has continued to expand the range of data available through spreadsheets and datacubes.
The number of datacubes and spreadsheets increased from 7,546 in 2007–07 to 8,773 (or 16%) in 2007–08. The increase in datacubes and spreadsheets on the ABS website since 2003–04 is shown in Table 12.2.
Table 12.2: ABS datacubes and spreadsheets releases by year (number)
The number of publications released in 2007–08 was 818, which is an increase from 711 (or 14.2%) in 2006–07. This increase in releases is due to the increase in the amount of Census publications that were released on the ABS website during the year. Table 12.3 shows the number of ABS releases by year.
Table 12.3: ABS publication releases (a) classified by subject matter, year and frequency (number)
(b) Catalogue numbers assigned to the Reserve Bank of Australia spreadsheets.
2006 CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING—SECOND RELEASE
A major release during 2007–08 was the second release of data from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. The first release provided statistics relating to age, gender, country of origin and household finances, etc. The second release data built on this extensive range of data by focusing on statistics relating to Australia’s workforce, level of education, the way we travel to work and internal migration.
USE OF ABS STATISTICS
Statistics produced by the ABS are widely used to support decision making and research. Some examples include:
During 2007–08, ABS statistics were used in the following ways:
A broad assessment of the extent of the use of ABS statistics can be seen in the accesses to these statistics through ABS dissemination services (shown in Table 12.4).
NATIONAL INFORMATION AND REFERRAL SERVICE
The National Information and Referral Service is the main entry point to the ABS for basic information and statistical enquiries from external customers. As shown in Table 12.4, the number of emails received by NIRS is approximately 10% higher than what was received in 2006–07, while the number of calls answered has slightly decreased. As reported last year, the unusually higher number of calls in 2006–07 was partially due to increased enquiries following the 2006 Census enumeration and output activities. The number of calls for this in 2007–08 reflects the volume of activities during a period where more free statistics became available on our website. Table 12.4 below provides additional information on the ways people access ABS dissemination services.
Table 12.4: Number of accesses, by type of access, 2003–04 to 2007–08
(b) Includes 32 secondary distributors who incur a licence fee for on-selling data purchased data.
(c) Re-calculation of the RADL usage figures has shown that slightly fewer organisations and individuals actively used RADL over the period 2003–04 to 2005–06 than was shown in previous issues of this Report. The number of statistical programs executed remains unchanged over the same period.
(d) Organisations active on RADL refers to organisations with users who executed statistical programs in RADL during the period shown.
(e) Individuals active on RADL refers to registered RADL users who executed statistical programs in RADL during the period shown.
(f) Statistical programs executed refers to jobs run in RADL during the period shown.
The ABS received widespread media coverage throughout the year. There were approximately 6,700 mentions in major metropolitan print media during 2007–08. While broadcast mentions are not easy to measure, media monitoring records demonstrate the ABS received no less than 2,800 major metropolitan radio and televisions mentions in 2007–08.
As shown in table 12.5, in 2007–08, the ABS issued 132 media releases throughout the year, promoting ABS products, as well as flagship releases, such as Australian Social Trends, Year Book Australia and Measures of Australia’s Progress.
Table 12.5: Number of ABS media releases issued, 2001–02 to 2007–08