1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2004-05  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/10/2005   
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The Statistical Collection Process

The ABS is the key contributor to the National Statistical Service. Its statistical programs are expected to be of a high quality. While the economic and population statistics programs are generally run separately, they are characterised by common statistical principles and many similar procedures. The statistical process involves a range of statistical operations, from developing specifications for statistics based on user information needs through to the delivery of data and support to clients.

Diagram 1 presents the broad stages of a typical survey cycle. It highlights a core set of tasks and activities which form the three broad stages of the statistical collection process: setting up the collection; collection and processing; and informing and explaining. Two overarching functions exist that together ensure ABS products, processes and services are of a high quality and contribute to achieving corporate objectives and delivering on the ABS mission.

DIAGRAM 1: THE STATISTICAL COLLECTION PROCESS

Diagram 1: The Statistical Collection Process

FUNCTIONAL AREAS UNDERTAKING STATISTICAL OPERATIONS

The first stage of the statistical process involves consultation and planning with users. Statistics users are consulted to determine their statistical needs. This information is then used to define the scope, content and frequency of statistical collections. Consultation takes place through: ABS-organised statistics user groups; direct discussion with interested Australian government, state or local agencies, academics, industry bodies, etc.; and through the release of information or discussion papers inviting comment. Consultations cover both needs for data on new or emerging topics, and modifications to existing data collections. Continual consultation should continue throughout the survey cycle with stakeholders to keep them informed on progress and to ensure statistical outputs remain consistent with survey objectives.

The next stage of the statistical cycle encompasses activities associated with data collection, processing and analysis. Data collection activities include survey despatch, data receipt and follow-up of outstanding survey forms. Data may be collected directly from providers through surveys or censuses, or indirectly by accessing data collected by other organisations, particularly Australian government, state and territory administrative agencies. The processing stages of the cycle cover: data entry; checking individual records for completeness; consistency and accuracy; producing aggregate survey results; checking the consistency and validity of aggregated data; and preparing data for public release.

Dissemination and decision support is the final stage of the statistical cycle. These activities include client liaison and marketing. Several areas support these activities. A key objective for the ABS is to maximise the use of ABS and non-ABS statistics by: increasing the visibility and access to statistics; optimising the mix of dissemination channels; and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of information service delivery.

In releasing statistics, the ABS adheres to long established principles that results of statistical collections should be made available as soon as practicable and should be available to all users at the same time. Most Australians are informed of official statistics through the media. The ABS provides publications to media organisations at no cost, and the principal results from ABS publications are highlighted daily in the print and electronic media. The main features of ABS publications are also made available on the ABS web site. A large core set of statistics are made available through public, technical and tertiary libraries across Australia, while members of parliament are provided complimentary access to all ABS publications. The ABS@ and AusStats subscription services provide users with ready access to ABS material in electronic format, including all ABS publications and a range of multidimensional datasets.

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