1504.0 - Methodological News, Jun 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/06/2002   
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The Statistical Clearing House (SCH) was established in 1997 to reduce the burden of Commonwealth Government surveys on businesses, by ensuring surveys do not duplicate existing collections and are of sufficient quality to warrant the burden imposed. All surveys that are conducted by or on behalf of any Commonwealth Government agency that involve 50 or more businesses are subject to clearance by the SCH.

The SCH review assesses the number of businesses to be approached for each survey to ensure minimum respondent burden. The review process also helps to ensure the design and conduct of business surveys follow best practices. We find that the SCH process is particularly beneficial to government agencies that are less familiar with running surveys.

In 2001, an increase in marketing activity lead to the SCH dealing with 263 surveys. Of these:

  • 114 reviews were completed with total estimated provider load for these surveys of over 236,000 hours;
  • 36 were ABS surveys;
  • 67 were not reviewed even though they were in scope of the clearance process; and
  • 74 were found to be out of scope of the clearance process.

While completing the reviews, SCH staff identified some common themes across surveys that needed improvement. These included:
  • insufficient amount of time allocated to planning and developing surveys;
  • lack of questionnaire testing;
  • consultants unaware of SCH requirements; and
  • poor justification of sample sizes.

In May, the SCH sent a report to each Commonwealth agency, summarising the impact of the SCH process and identifying any specific areas for improvement.

After five years of operation, the SCH review continues to make progress on it's objectives. Last year, SCH reviews resulted in 13% of surveys reducing their sample sizes, which represented a reduction in respondent load estimated at around 1,380 hours. Quality improvements were made to 38% of surveys reviewed.

The SCH also maintains the Commonwealth Business Surveys Register on the SCH web site at www.sch.abs.gov.au. The Business Surveys Register contains information about all business surveys that are covered by the SCH process. It includes a description of the survey design and provides contact details for the survey manager, for each survey. The Business Surveys Register aims to: increase the awareness, quality, and use of the statistical data generated by Commonwealth government surveys, thus reducing the likelihood of survey duplication; and to facilitate the design of future surveys, by making existing designs accessible.

For additional information, please contact Sybille McKeown (6252 7311) or Marietta Urh (6252 5565).

Email: sybille.mckeown@abs.gov.au, marietta.urh@abs.gov.au