National Statistics Harmonisation
The United Kingdom has a wide range of Government surveys that provide sources of social and economic information. The Census of Population is the largest and best known, but there are many others covering topics, such as economic activity, income, expenditure, food, health, education, housing and transport. Many of these are continuous household surveys, others are repeated regularly, and there are also one-off surveys.
These surveys are designed at different times, to meet different needs, and are commissioned by a range of departments, mostly in isolation from each other, resulting in a lack of cohesion, which was a source of frustration for many users. In order to improve the service being provided to users of statistics, and the availability and accessibility of those statistics, a cross-governmental programme of work is looking at standardising survey inputs and outputs wherever possible – harmonisation. The aim is to make it easier for users to draw clearer and more robust comparisons between data sources. The stated vision of the programme is that:
“All inputs, processing and outputs for the census and surveys and all data from administrative records will be harmonised, so that users can compare data from different sources with confidence and can merge and match data more easily, taking account of international implications.”
Further background information is available at: www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/harmonisation/about-harmonisation/introduction-to-harmonisation-of-concepts-and-questions.pdf
The National Statistics Harmonisation Group meets approximately three times a year, to co-ordinate work to harmonise concepts and questions across a range of government surveys. Various interests outside of government, including the Market Research Society are also represented.
Harmonised standards have now been established across a number of areas, grouped into Primary and Secondary standards.
Primary standards include questions covering:
For details of each standard, see the PDF documents at www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/harmonisation/primary-set-of-harmonised-concepts-and-questions/index.html.Secondary standards have been established on the following topics:
For details of each standard, see the PDF documents at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/harmonisation/secondary-set-of-harmonised-concepts-and-questions/index.htmlWider use of these standard questions by commercial market researchers has the potential to: