1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2006-07  
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Contents >> Section V - Performance Information >> Chapter 13 - Dissemination of statistics

Section V - Performance Information
Chapter 13 - Dissemination of statistics

INTRODUCTION

During 2006–07, the ABS continued to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion by increasing accessibility to the outputs of statistical activities. Results of collections are usually released through publications, spreadsheets and datacubes. Outputs can be accessed via the ABS website, and hard copy publications are still available for some releases.

In addition, confidentialised unit record files are created 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:

    • ensuring that all potential users have equal opportunity to access ABS statistics
    • assigning products release dates and times which are publicised in the ABS Release Advice, and
    • placing all releases, and the information they contain, under an embargo until the scheduled release time.
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, 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 2006–07 is included in the online appendices). ABS data are increasingly being presented with attendant metadata that helps clients 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 2006–07, and uses of ABS statistics.


ACCESSING ABS STATISTICS

ABS website

The ABS website remains the primary access point for the majority of users of ABS information, with site users accessing ABS web pages 101 million times in 2006–07. This was an increase of 30.2 per cent from 2005–06, and it is substantially due to the change in ABS’ pricing policy, which now provides free access to all statistics on the website, an increase in the number of pages available and the first release of the 2006 Census results.

During 2006–07 a number of improvements were made to the ABS website. These include:

    • The topics hierarchies that are currently visible on the ABS website were expanded from a two-level hierarchy to a three-level hierarchy, as part of a redesign of the ‘Statistics by topic’ views of the website. This redesign was undertaken in response to client feedback.
    • The latest national statistical headlines were upgraded to assist users in navigating the website.
    • A ‘breadcrumb’ feature was added to the statistics area of the website. This new feature will make navigating the ABS website easier, as it displays the hierarchy of pages from the home page to the current screen, and allows the user to return to any point along the path by simply clicking on the link.
    • The print friendly functionality has been added to content pages in the statistics area of the website.
    • The first visit page was added. This is designed to assist first-time users of the ABS website to get a quick overview of what they can find on the website.
In addition, over 4000 historical publications were released to the website.

The ABS has established an electronic publication and metadata vision (evision), with an aim of increasing the use of statistics and improving understanding of the content. This will assist users in how to best utilise our statistics. For further information on ABS’ evision directions see Data Communication - Emerging International Trends and Practices of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 (cat. no. 1211.0).

The first product to apply the evision principles was SA Stats, September 2006 issue (cat. no. 1345.4). This product is released on a monthly basis, and provides an overview of the South Australian economy. The product adopted a layered approach to display its information and added images to enhance the look and feel of the publication. The new design was released on 29 September 2006 and was well received by users.

The ABS has now applied the evision principles to over twenty products. The vision is continually expanding to accommodate new technology and systems, and to incorporate the needs of our clients.


PROMOTION OF RELEASES

The ABS seeks to encourage informed and increased use of statistics by promoting key releases such as the Year Book Australia, Measures of Australia’s Progress and Australian Social Trends, as well as generally promoting the wider range of ABS products and services.

The 2006 Census was launched by the Treasurer, the Hon Peter Costello, MP. The Treasurer also launched the release of the results from the census in June 2007. At these launches, the Treasurer spoke about how the census provides a foundation picture of Australia, and how the census results are the basis of data used by governments at all levels to make planning decisions about policy and the provision of services.



The annual Year Book, released this year on 24 January 2007, is the flagship publication of the ABS and provides a comprehensive and detailed annual statistical review of Australia
The annual Year Book, released this year on 24 January 2007, is the flagship publication of the ABS and provides a comprehensive and detailed annual statistical review of Australia


The Year Book Australia 2007 (cat. no. 1301.0) was launched at Bondi Beach in Sydney by the Governor-General as patron of Surf Life Saving Australia. The Year Book paid special tribute to surf lifesavers, who have been saving lives on Australian beaches for 100 years. The International Council for Science, in conjunction with the World Meteorological Organization, established an International Polar Year (IPY) in 2007–08, the 125th anniversary of the first polar year, and the fiftieth anniversary of the International Geophysical Year in 1957–58. To mark the IPY, the Year Book also reflected on the prominent role that Australia and Australians have played in Antarctica over the history of its exploration.


The Governor-General at Bondi Beach, launching Year Book Australia 2007
The Governor-General at Bondi Beach, launching Year Book Australia 2007


Another way the ABS promotes available statistics and assists users in accessing them is through seminars and training courses for government and other users. During 2006–07, sessions focused on the capability of the ABS website; raising the level of awareness of, and responsible use of, ABS microdata; increasing awareness and interest in information consultancies; and promoting census products and services.

STATISTICS FOR SCHOOLS

There have been a number of initiatives aimed at improving the statistical literacy of teachers and students, and increasing the use of ABS data in schools. The CensusAtSchool project is a voluntary internet-based education project that continues to be popular. Students respond to questions about themselves by completing an online questionnaire. Over 2700 schools registered to take part in CensusAtSchool, with more than 110 000 students completing the questionnaire.




Over 2700 schools registered for the CensusAtSchool project
Over 2700 schools registered for the CensusAtSchool project

Building on the success of CensusAtSchool, the ABS hosted an international workshop during the year with representatives from Canada, France, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. Delegates discussed ways of expanding this project internationally, enabling which students to access data about themselves and their fellow students from around the world. The main outcome of the workshop was the establishment of an international committee to oversee international growth of the CensusAtSchool project, with some initial work on developing common questions and a single entry point for the project.

A further ABS initiative is the StatSmart project, which involves a major collaboration between the ABS, University of Tasmania, University of New England, Noel Baker Centre for Mathematics and Key Curriculum Press. It is a longitudinal research project looking at effective statistical teaching and learning in the school sector. The project will run over three years and involve over forty primary and secondary teachers from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The project aims to collect empirical data that will support strategies for improving statistical education in schools, and the statistical literacy of teachers and students.

The ABS has also released a new suite of innovative web pages for teachers and students, to promote the understanding and use of statistics in schools. Divided into separate sections for teachers and students, the pages offer a range of learning resources, including classroom activities, learning tools, professional development materials, games and specially selected ABS publications and datasets.

INFORMATION CONSULTANCY

The ABS provides an information consultancy service for more complex requests for data, where these cannot be satisfied by information on the ABS website. This charged service provides data tailored to clients’ needs. An example of this service is international trade data which are provided via a subscription service where data are delivered on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis according to the client’s specifications.


ACCESS TO CONFIDENTIALISED UNIT RECORD FILES: SPECIALIST DATA FOR SPECIALIST RESEARCHERS

Microdata, which are 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 departments, universities and other organisations.

CURFs are produced at different levels of detail:

    • Basic CURFs are offered on CD-ROM and in the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL™).
    • Expanded CURFs provide more detailed data than Basic CURFs and are available in the RADL™ and the ABS Data Laboratory (ABSDL).
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 thirty-four ABS surveys and, as of 1 July 2006, are standard ABS statistical products. During 2006–07, the ABS released twelve new CURFs, including eight Expanded CURFs. A further eight historical CURFs were released on RADL™ for the first time in 2006–07. There are now 100 CURFs available on RADL™.

The price reduction on 1 July 2006, from $8000 to $1320 per CURF, has been welcomed by the research community and has led to a greater number of users accessing CURF microdata during 2006–07.

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. There are now 909 researchers from eighty organisations registered to use RADL™.

RADL™ has continued to develop, with feedback from clients, an important driver for its future enhancement. RADL™ now supports the SAS, SPSS and Stata statistical languages and has an ongoing development program to improve usability and functionality. Analysis undertaken during 2006 showed that RADL™ response times have improved since earlier years, with the results of RADL™ tasks now taking an average of two minutes to be returned to clients.

A further means of accessing microdata is the ABSDL. This is a secure room or area, which is available on all ABS premises. ABSDL enables access to more sensitive data and analysis than RADL™. Any output removed by clients of ABSDL is vetted to ensure respondents cannot be identified.

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.

In 2006, the auditing of jobs in RADL™ identified irregularities in a very small number of jobs submitted. Further investigation showed that researchers at a particular research school had used unit record files in ways that were not permitted. The investigation also showed that there had been no breach of confidentiality of respondents, with the use being solely for analytical purposes. Regardless of this, the ABS considered the actions of the researchers to be of great concern, and suspended access for those involved. The incident was subsequently the subject of an article in the Australian newspaper in February 2007. The ABS takes great care to ensure that the unit record data accessed by researchers is strongly protected. While the actions of the researchers were of concern, the incident showed that the system of checks was effective in identifying any irregularities. As a result of the incident, changes were made to RADL™.


CLIENT SERVICES CHARTER

The client services charter, which describes the relationship between the ABS and users of its products and services, offers guidance to clients wishing to provide compliments or register complaints, on any aspect of client relationships or services. The charter, together with other relevant corporate information, is available on the ABS website and from ABS offices.

The ABS also has charters for respondents in business and household surveys. For more information see Chapter 11 Provider/respondent relationships.

RELEASES IN 2006-07

The ABS releases a wide range of information from its collections through publications (in electronic, and in some cases, paper format), 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 2006–07 the ABS continued to expand the range of data available through spreadsheets and datacubes.

The number of datacubes and spreadsheets increased from 5373 in 2005–06 to 7546 in 2006–07 (40 per cent increase). The increase in datacubes and spreadsheets on the ABS website since 2003–04 is shown in Table 13.1.



Table 13.1: ABS datacube and spreadsheet releases by year and frequency
Year
Datacubes
Time series spreadsheets
Total

2003–04
403
41
444
2004–05
447
258
705
2005–06
1492
3881
5373
2006–07
2280
5266
7546

The number of publications released in 2006–07 was 711, which is a decrease from 781 in 2005–06 (8.9 per cent). This decrease in publication numbers is due to the increase in the amount of data that is released as datacubes and spreadsheets. Table 13.2 shows the number of ABS releases by year.

Table 13.2: ABS publication releases(a) classified by subject matter, year and frequency
Subject matter and year
Annual
Quarterly
Monthly
Other
Total

Economic and finance releases

2003–04
9
40
61
11
121
2004–05
11
33
47
5
96
2005–06
12
33
73
13
131
2006–07
14
32
60
12
118

Industry releases

2003–04
15
91
70
27
203
2004–05
26
78
63
28
195
2005–06
19
84
48
24
175
2006–07
18
83
56
24
181

Population and migration releases

2003–04
35
4
18
56
113
2004–05
36
3
24
14
77
2005–06
38
4
24
8
74
2006–07
17
4
24
6
51

Labour releases

2003–04
6
41
52
12
111
2004–05
6
50
36
33
125
2005–06
9
57
36
40
142
2006–07
11
49
37
25
122

Social analysis releases

2003–04
13
4
0
64
81
2004–05
14
3
0
44
61
2005–06
16
4
0
43
63
2006–07
16
5
0
72
93

Other general releases
2003–04
34
19
36
9
98
2004–05
30
16
118(b)
15
179
2005–06
39
34
116
7
196
2006–07
26
33
51
36
146

Total
2003–04
112
199
237
179
727
2004–05
123
183
288
139
733
2005–06
133
298
215
135
781
2006–07
102
206
228
175
711

(a) Includes catalogued publications and other products, but excludes reprints and corrigenda
(b) Catalogue numbers assigned to the Reserve Bank of Australia spreadsheets

A major release during 2006–07 was the data from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

2006 Census of Population and Housing Releases

For the first results of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing, released on 27 June 2007, the ABS offered a new and improved online product range, including QuickStats, MapStats and Census Tables.


Other examples of new releases in 2006–07 include:

The Health and Wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women: A Snapshot, 2004–05 (cat. no. 4722.0.55.001)

This snapshot provides an overview of the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Topics covered include health status, long-term health conditions, mortality, health risk factors, exposure to violence, social and emotional wellbeing, health-related actions, health screening, and contraception.

Experimental Estimates of Regional Water Use, Australia, 2004–05 (cat. no. 4610.0.55.002)

In recent times, there has been an increase in demand for water use data at geographic levels lower than state and territory. This publication presents estimates of total water use for 200 Australian water management areas, for 2004–05.

Personal Safety, Australia, 2005 (cat. no. 4906.0)

This publication presents information about men’s and women’s experience of physical or sexual assault, or threat by male and female perpetrators.

Principal Agricultural Commodities, Australia, Preliminary, 2005–06 (cat. no. 7111.0)

This publication contains preliminary estimates of principal agricultural commodities and livestock numbers for 2005–06.

Domestic Use of Water and Energy, Western Australia (cat. no. 4652.5)

This publication includes the results of a survey that provided a snapshot of Western Australia’s household water and energy use, and identified consumption behaviour and perceptions.

Tasmanian Key Indicators (cat. no. 1304.6)

This is a web-based product containing the latest social and economic summary data on Tasmania, including labour force, wages and prices, tourism, finance, consumption and investment, state accounts, population, living arrangements, mortality, education and health. The data are also presented in spreadsheet format.

Did you know?

Rice production almost trebled to 973 000 tonnes, reflecting increased plantings due to water availability and favourable growing conditions.

Source: Principal Agricultural Commodities, Australia, Preliminary, 2005–06 (cat. no. 7111.0)


USE OF ABS STATISTICS

Statistics produced by the ABS are widely used to support decision making and research. Some examples include:

    • information from the National Accounts, providing information about the level of economic activity, which 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 were used to support policy development, program delivery and evaluation of key government and non-government agencies involved in health, community and family services
    • population estimates, which are used extensively for electoral distribution, and distribution of GST to the states and territories, and
    • the CPI, which is used in developing monetary policy.
During 2006–07, ABS statistics were used in the following ways:
    • informing government policies to assist and support individuals, families and businesses, during and after the bush fires in Victoria and Tasmania, cyclones in Western Australia and floods in New South Wales and Victoria
    • preparing a publication by the Office for Women on women in Australia, covering labour force, childcare, employment, women’s health, disability and census data, which provided an overview of women’s lives
    • providing background information for media stories on topics such as families, religion, birthplace and labour force
    • determining the implications of potential policy decisions, geographically and across households, by developing microsimulation models to be used by government and researchers using data from the Household Expenditure Survey and the Survey of Income and Housing
    • assisting the Department of Health and Ageing monitor the health of Indigenous Australians through the Indigenous Health Performance Framework
    • using international trade in goods and services data in negotiating new free trade agreements and monitoring existing agreements, by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
    • using statistics on international trade in services and managed funds, in developing Australia as a financial services hub, by the Investment and Financial Services Association Ltd
    • monitoring broadband-related policies and analysis of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry, by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, using ABS ICT statistics for development
    • developing a strategic understanding of the provision of and demand for internet-based services, by the Australian Communications and Media Authority
    • using data from the ABS’ Innovation Surveys to assess government expenditure of $8.5 billion as part of the Backing Australia’s Ability program, by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, and
    • using ABS counts of Australian businesses by industry and small geographic area to gauge the impact of the drought on non-farm businesses, which are dependent on farms for their livelihood, by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
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 13.3).

NATIONAL INFORMATION AND REFERRAL SERVICE

The National Information and Referral Service (NIRS) is the main entry point to the ABS for basic information and statistical inquiries from external customers. As shown in Table 13.3, the number of telephone calls and emails to NIRS increased in 2006–07. This is partially due to increased inquiries following the 2006 Census enumeration and output activities.

Table 13.3 provides additional information on the ways that people access ABS dissemination services.


Table 13.3: Number of accesses, by type of access, 2003–04 to 2006–07
Type of Access
2003–04
2004–05
2005–06
2006–07

Website
Pages viewed(a)
48 383 816
60 573 254
78 054 933
101 693 436
Pages published
13 861
16 668
23 015
148 144
Products downloaded
948 956
962 872
1 868 280
4 501 530

National Information and Referral Service
Emails
21 136
12 862
12 588
14 294
Calls completed
85 556
60 820
56 257
58 040

Library Extension Program
Libraries
519
518
518
515

Secondary providers
Number
140
132
172
126(b)

Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL™) c)
Organisations active on RADL™ (d)
25
28
32
41
Individuals active on RADL™ (e)
64
84
98
131
Statistical programs executed
6 274
7 535
8 998
15 955

(a) Pages viewed accounts only for views of static web pages. Much of the content of the ABS website is generated dynamically and is difficult to report on, using existing tools
(b) Includes twenty-seven secondary distributors who incur a licence fee for on-selling purchased data
(c) Recalculation 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

MEDIA REPORTING

The ABS received widespread media coverage throughout the year, with the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and the Agricultural Census being undertaken in 2006–07, and the results of both released in the same financial year. Metropolitan television and radio coverage alone accounted for just over 16 000 mentions of ABS statistics during 2006–07. First results of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing were released on 27 June 2007. In the week that followed, the ABS received close to 4000 metropolitan television and radio mentions.

In 2006–07, the ABS issued approximately 160 media releases, promoting ABS flagship releases such as Australian Social Trends, Year Book Australia and Measures of Australia’s Progress, as well as approximately 303 media releases promoting the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

Table 13.4 Number of ABS media releases issued, 2001–02 to 2006–07
Year
Media releases issued(a)

2001–02
156
2002–03
168
2003–04
193
2004–05
133
2005–06
169
2006–07
160

(a) Does not include media releases promoting the Census of Population and Housing

The launch of the 2006 Census results received significantly more media coverage than the 2001 Census results. In the nine days following the launch of the 2006 Census results the ABS achieved 4,234 mentions in metropolitan print, radio and television coverage. It would cost $6.9 million to purchase the equivalent amount of advertising space.

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