Chapter 13 - Dissemination of statistics
Over the last twelve months, the ABS has continued to make the outputs of statistical activities available through numerous channels to encourage informed decision making, research and discussion. Results of surveys are available through publications, spreadsheets, confidentialised unit record files and in other forms. Outputs can be accessed through the ABS website, and hard copy publications are available for some releases.
In disseminating statistics, the ABS aims to ensure that the methods used underpin the ABS value of independence and impartiality by ensuring that all potential users have equal opportunity in access to ABS statistics. To achieve this, products are assigned release dates and times which are publicised in the ABS Release Advice (and elsewhere as appropriate). Products and the information they contain are embargoed until release.
The ABS also seeks to ensure that the processes used to compile statistics are open and transparent, and the users of statistics have access to all the information that 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 (often referred to as the manual of concepts, sources and methods) and information papers. Ongoing ABS research is often published in professional papers (a full list of those presented in 2005–06 is included in an online appendix). More and more, ABS data is being presented with its attendant metadata that helps clients interpret and assess its 'fitness for use'.
The following sections cover some methods of accessing ABS statistics, new releases in 2005–06, and uses of ABS statistics. Further information on ABS dissemination can be found in chapter 6.
ACCESSING ABS STATISTICS
ABS WEB SITE
The ABS web site remains the primary access point for the majority of users of ABS information, with site users accessing ABS web pages 78 million times in 2005–06. This was an increase of 29% on 2004–05 and it is substantially due to the change in ABS pricing policy, which now provides free access to all statistics on this web site.
In 2005–06 there has been a continued increase in content on the ABS web site, bringing the site to approximately 365,000 pages. At the same time the site has had improvements, including:
This now allows users of the ABS web site to enjoy much improved access to ABS data.
- restructuring those parts of the site delivering statistical products to help clients to find the information they seek, and
- upgrading the web site search facility through implementation of Google to improve reliability and relevance of search results.
PROMOTION OF RELEASES
There were promotions of ABS products and capability in 2005–06. Promotion focused on increasing the use of key releases, such as the publications Year Book Australia, Measures of Australia's Progress and Australian Social Trends, as well as continued promotion of the wider range of ABS products and services.
The 2006 edition of Year Book Australia was launched by the Hon Mr Chris Pearce, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, on 20 January 2006 at ABS House. The 2006 edition had a major theme of Australia's deserts, marking the declaration by the General Assembly of the United Nations of 2006 as the International Year of Deserts and Desertification. The ABS invited four authors who are experts in their area of interest to contribute to the feature article, Australia's deserts, in this edition. The article addresses three related aspects of Australia's deserts – climate; archaeology and environmental history; and flora and fauna. The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research also contributed an article, outlining the role the Australian Government is playing in assisting countries combat desertification.
STATISTICS FOR SCHOOLS
Deputy Australian Statisticians Peter Harper, Jonathan Palmer and Susan Linacre
with Ross Bennett from the Australian Reptile Centre at the desert themed launch of 2006 Year Book Australia.
There has been continuing work with schools to increase the use of ABS data and to improve the statistical literacy of students. To coincide with the 2006 Census of Population and Housing, the ABS is running CensusAtSchool – a voluntary Internet based education project where students respond to questions of interest about themselves by completing the CensusAtSchool online questionnaire. There has been a good response to the initiative with 2,746 schools registered to participate and 112,173 students responding to the questionnaire.
Teachers and students can access the aggregate results for use with the supporting activities across the curriculum.
IMPROVING ACCESS TO CONFIDENTIALISED UNIT RECORD FILES
The ABS produces publications of results from its surveys but a lot of value from the data comes from research using the microdata. This research is generally conducted by non-ABS researchers and research organisations using microdata released as Confidentialised Unit Records (CURFs).
During 2005–06, the ABS has continued to release CURFs. This includes both basic files on CD-ROM and expanded files available through the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL™). The ABS now has 73 CURFs available for a range of surveys, including 17 expanded CURFs.
Clients are increasingly migrating to RADL™ to access the expanded CURFs. Clients have responded positively to the ABS CURF Annual Renewal Program that provides valuable feedback to the ABS on the use of CURF data and enables the ABS to centralise management of CURFs for clients. There are now 994 registered clients from 80 organisations.
The RADL™ has continued to develop. This year there have been significant improvements in software access with the introduction of Stata, plus enhanced system usability. Feedback from clients is mostly positive and most analyses are returned to clients from RADL™ within a few minutes. Their preference, however, would be to operate in interactive mode.
The ABS has also implemented an ABS Site Data Laboratory (ABSDL) system: a secure room or area on ABS premises, available on a national basis, which enables access to more sensitive data and analysis of expanded CURFs in an interactive environment using SAS, Stata or SPSS. Any output removed by clients of ABSDL is vetted to ensure respondents cannot be identified.
The ABS publishes a list of research undertaken using CURFs on the ABS web site.
CLIENT SERVICES CHARTER
The ABS has a Client Services Charter, which describes the relationship between the ABS and users of its products and service. The Charter also offers guidance to clients wishing to provide compliments or register complaints on any aspect of client relationship or services. Copies of the Charter are available on the ABS web site and from the offices of the ABS.
The ABS also has charters for respondents in Business Surveys and the Household Surveys. Information on these can be found in the chapter on provider/respondent relationships.
All of these charters include performance standards for the relationships between the ABS and its clients, and its service delivery. Performance against these standards is the subject of ongoing review, as are the Charters themselves.
NEW RELEASES IN 2005–06
The ABS is always seeking to expand and improve the range of statistics released from its collections. The ABS has continued to expand the range of data available through spreadsheets and datacubes, and to convert spreadsheet releases to the more common format, which is Excel.
As noted earlier, there are now about 365,000 pages on the ABS website, compared to 285,000 in 2004–05, indicating a substantial increase in the amount of information available (at no cost). The number of releases also increased, from 733 in 2004–05 to 781 in 2005–06, with 126 of these releases being new releases.
TABLE 13.1: ABS RELEASES(a) CLASSIFIED BY SUBJECT MATTER, YEAR AND FREQUENCY (NUMBER)
(a) Includes catalogued publications and other products, but excludes reprints and corrigenda.
(b) Catalogue numbers assigned to the Reserve Bank of Australia spreadsheets.
|Economic and finance releases|
|Population and migration releases|
|Social analysis releases|
|Other general releases|
Some examples of new releases in 2005–06 include:
There were also a range of new releases produced by the ABS regional offices including:
- annual statistics from the Labour Force Survey on the labour force characteristics of Indigenous Australians – these are intended to meet a user identified need for more regular information than provided by the three-yearly Indigenous surveys (cat. no. 6287.0)
- biotechnology statistics, included as part of Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia, 2003–04 (cat. no. 8104.0) – this publication provides new information on an area of growing interest
- experimental statistics on cases finalised in Children's Criminal Courts, included in Criminal Courts, Australia, 2004–05 (cat. No. 4513.0) – these provide useful information on this part of the Criminal Court system
- new products as part of the range of Trade in Services data, to cover trade in services data by country, state and in extended detail (cat. no. 5368.0)
- extended information on labour force participation, an issue of current interest, in the new survey of Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation (cat. no. 6239.0)
- extended information from the Survey of Tourist Accommodation, with the scope of the survey expanded to include hotels, motels and serviced apartments with 5–14 rooms, visitor hostels, caravan parks and holiday flats and units (cat. no 8635.0)
- the first official satellite account on information and communication technology (ICT) for Australia measuring the contribution of ICT to the Australian economy in 2002–03 including the contribution of ICT to key macro-economic variables such as gross domestic product (cat. no. 8126.0)
- Norfolk Island Business Statistics 2004–05 (cat no. 8139.0), which include assessment of the size of the business sector on Norfolk Island and will contribute to any decisions made about the future governance arrangements on Norfolk Island.
USE OF ABS STATISTICS
- Additional datasets included in State and Regional Indicators (cat. no. 1367.2), Victoria , which is a quarterly compendium publication containing a range of ABS and non-ABS data. The new datasets added during the last year were – engineering construction activity, satisfaction with quality of mains/town water, and life expectancy at birth by local government area
- Baby Boomers in Queensland (cat. no. 4149.3), which is a compendium electronic publication presenting a wide range of social and economic ABS and non-ABS data. It was a collaborative effort between the ABS and the Queensland Office of Economic and Statistical Research (OESR).
- Statistics – Tasmania (cat. no. 1384.6) and Regional Statistics – Tasmania (cat. no. 1362.6) – these releases increased the profile, timeliness and use of administrative data collected from more than 230 administrative dataset in Tasmania.
|NATIONAL REGIONAL PROFILE|
The National Regional Profile (NRP) is a web-based product containing a range of data from the ABS and other organisations at regional level and is produced as a time-series. Users are able to search for data by either location name or map.
The 2006 release of the National Regional Profile (NRP) expands the functionality of the NRP for users. For those wishing to quickly view broad data for a region, there are summary pages available. More detailed data is available in an Excel spreadsheet (as in the previous version), as well as in a Supertable data cube, allowing users to customize the format of the data.
There has also been an expansion in the number of data items and the level of disaggregation of the data available. For example, the Estimated Resident Population figures published have been expanded from 4 broad age categories to include 5 year age groups broken down by sex. This expands the potential range of users and allows them to use the data for a finer level of analysis.
In addition, a range of state specific data items have been included in each profile. For example, in addition to the nationally comparable data items, profiles in New South Wales will include data on road traffic accidents from the Road Traffic Authority of NSW. This also expands the potential range of users, provides easily accessible web-based state data that was previously available only through non-web sources, and provides a richer picture of regions.
Statistics produced by the ABS are widely used to support decision making and research. A few general examples of how ABS statistics are used include:
Some, more specific, examples of the uses of ABS statistics in 2005–06 are:
- information from the National Accounts, providing information about the level of economic activity, is used to formulate and assess government macro-economic policies, assist in allocating Australian Government funds to state and territory governments and formulate industry development policies
- statistics on the health status of the population support the policy development, program delivery and evaluation of key government and non-government agencies involved in health, community and family services
- population estimates are used extensively for electoral and funding purposes
- the CPI is used in monetary policy.
The extent of the use of ABS statistics is evidenced by the number of accesses through ABS dissemination services (shown in Graph 13.1 and Table 13.2) and the extensive references to ABS statistics in the media (shown in Table 13.3).
- the Backing Australia's Ability policy initiative by the Australian Government used, for the first time, ABS innovation data from the 2003 survey to supplement the ABS research and development data
- the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been using ABS services data to monitor the free trade agreement with the United States of America
- governments, for relief planning purposes, used ABS statistics from the 2000–01 Agricultural Census in the days following Cyclone Larry to provide detail on the number of farming businesses in the region as well as the value of agricultural production
- the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics use Survey of Motor Vehicle Usage (SMVU) outputs data and other ABS data as the basis of their Modelling of Road Freight Measurement for Australia (note that SMVU is the principal source for understanding the growth in the freight task over time)
- data from the Survey of Income and Housing are widely used in micro simulation modelling to understand the distributional impacts of policy across different types of families or different geographical regions, while also allowing estimates of aggregate outcomes to be derived.
The ABS provides a National Information and Referral Service (NIRS) to answer queries from the public about ABS statistics. As shown in Graph 13.1, the number of calls and emails to NIRS decreased in 2005–06 compared to previous years. However, the number of pages viewed on the ABS web site increased, indicating that people are finding information on the web site and are less likely to need the assistance of NIRS. As mentioned earlier, the increase in the number of web pages viewed is also likely to be related to the change to make all statistics on the web site free.
GRAPH 13.1: EMAILS AND PHONE CALLS TO NIRS AND PAGES VIEWED ON THE ABS WEB SITETable 13.2 below provides additional information on the ways that people access ABS dissemination services.
TABLE 13.2: NUMBER OF ACCESSES, BY TYPE OF ACCESS, 2002–03 TO 2005–06
(a) Includes 38 secondary distributors who include ABS data on their non-charging web sites.
(b) Includes 54 secondary distributors who include ABS data on their non-charging web sites.
(c) Service commenced in 2002–03.
|Type of Access|
|National Information and Referral Service|
|Library Extension Program|
|Secondary providers Number|
|Remote Access Data Laboratory (c)|
|Organisations active on RADL|
|Individuals active on RADL|
|Statistical programs executed|
The level of media reporting over recent years, by medium, is shown in Table 13.3. Reporting on the ABS and its statistics in the media has increased throughout the year. The significant rise on the previous year reflects ongoing reporting of economic and social data releases, and work on public awareness campaigns relating to both the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and the 2005–06 Agricultural Census. The increased reporting may also be an effect of the increased availability of statistics to all media with the advent of free statistics on the ABS web site.
TABLE 13.3: MEDIA REPORTING, BY PLACEMENT
(a) The ABS engaged a new media monitoring service for newspaper and magazine placements in 2003–04. As a result, the information for 2003–04 is not directly comparable with earlier years.
Radio, television and Internet news placements
Newspaper and magazine placements
News releases issued