The GSS Respondent Burden Task Force was established in 2010 to develop and draft proposals for statistical policies, standards and good practice associated with:
costs to statistical producers
new data requirements
This document sets out guidance developed by the Task Force to help producers of official statistics achieve the requirements of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics as assessed by the UK Statistics Authority in relation to Principle 6 (Proportionate Burden). It will be particularly useful to people new to this area or wanting to further consider and develop their work taking these considerations into account.
1. What is proportionate burden?
The collection of data causes burden on providers and it is important to keep these to a minimum. As set out in the Code of Practice:
'The cost burden on data suppliers should not be excessive and should be assessed relative to the benefits arising from the use of the statistics.'
2. Good Practice
Principle 6 of the Code of Practice states that the GSS should:
report the estimated costs of responding to statistical surveys
promote the statistical potential of administrative records
analyse the costs of proposed new data requirements against the potential benefits
evaluate existing data sources and estimation techniques before undertaking new surveys
This document recommends good practice in terms of meeting these requirements.
2.1 Measuring respondent burden
Principle 6, Practice 1'Report annually the estimated costs (for example, on businesses, service providers,
or the public) of responding to statistical surveys and strive to develop methods that
will reduce the costs to individual organisations or people.'
To be able to report the estimated costs across government, a consistent method of calculation is required. Guidance for this calculation for surveys of businesses and local authorities and of individuals and households has been developed and is included in the 'Guidance on Calculating Compliance Cost' document (see Related Links). Extra support in relation to this guidance is available from the Survey Control Unit (Survey.Control.Unit@ONS.gov.uk).
2.2 Reducing costs to respondents and statistical producers
Principle 6, Practice 3'Promote statistical purposes actively in the design of administrative systems in order
to enhance the statistical potential of administrative records.'
Principle 6, Practice 5'Evaluate existing data sources and estimation techniques before undertaking new surveys.'
Reducing respondent burden and internal costs to statistical producers is becoming increasingly important in the current economic climate. The 'Methods for Reducing Costs' document (see Related Links) has been produced that covers several methods that can be used for these purposes. The methods are explained and discussed briefly and links to methodological guidance are provided along with at least one case study for each method. The document aims to provoke further thinking, to facilitate communication across government, and to be a point of reference for those looking for ideas to reduce costs or burden.
2.3 Cost versus benefit analysis
Principle 6, Practice 4'Analyse the costs of proposed new data requirements (to data suppliers) against the
Cost versus Benefit Analysis (CBA) assesses the costs against the benefits to determine the best course of action. The full CBA process is rarely used when deciding whether or not to run a survey, due to the difficult task of measuring benefits. However, parts of the process are often used, in some form or other, in the decision-making process. A 'Guidance on Cost-Benefit Analysis for Surveys' document has been produced to give statisticians, social researchers, survey managers and other professionals some advice and guidance on CBA for surveys (see Related Links). The document does not provide a definitive methodology, but rather points to guidance and methods already available.
Please note that full CBA is not a requirement of an assessment by the UK Statistics Authority.
Heads of Profession have responsibility for ensuring that the Code of Practice is observed within their departments. This document and its annexes are effective tools to help producers of statistics across government to achieve the requirements of the Code of Practice in relation to Principle 6.