Latest release

Interpretability

Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods
Reference period
2020-21 financial year

24.83    Users need to understand the properties of the information in order to make appropriate use of statistical information. That requires the provision of descriptions of the underlying concepts, variables and classifications used; the methods of collection processing and estimation used in producing the information; and an assessment of the accuracy of the information.

24.84    Statistical information that users cannot understand, or can easily misunderstand, has no value and may have negative value. Providing sufficient information to allow users to properly interpret statistical information is therefore essential. Information about information is technically known as metadata. Managing interpretability is primarily concerned with the provision of metadata.

24.85    The information needed to understand statistical data falls under three broad headings:

  • the concepts, definitions and classifications underlying the data
  • the methodology used to collect and compile the data
  • indicators of accuracy of the data.

24.86    The description of methodology also serves as a surrogate indicator of quality – helping users to assess suitability for purpose.

24.87    There are close relationships between these three headings and other dimensions of quality. The underlying concepts and classifications are also a prime determinant of coherence (see next section), and the degree to which they conform to national and international standards should be apparent from the metadata.

24.88    This publication defines and discusses the major concepts, definitions and classifications which underlie national accounts estimates. It also describes the methodology used to transform input data into statistical outputs and discusses the accuracy and reliability of those estimates. The concepts, classifications and terminology follow closely those of the SNA, and, therefore, users can be confident that valid comparisons can be drawn with national accounts data produced by other countries.

24.89    This publication is supplemented by an assortment of information papers, spotlight articles, working papers and technical notes. Articles and papers draw attention to issues impacting on the data, such as changes to the classifications, systems, concepts or standards, major data revisions, and changes in data dissemination practices. Spotlight articles and technical notes are written on a regular basis to inform users of emerging issues and methodological changes, including their impact on the national accounts. They are commonly released in the national accounts’ publications. Information papers and research papers report on various aspects of research undertaken on topics relevant to the national accounts. A list of articles is maintained in the national accounts theme page on the ABS website.