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Southampton launches debate on the future of the census beyond 2011

Published: 17 October 2011
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A debate on the future of the census beyond 2011 will be launched at a special conference run by the University of Southampton this week.

The event, Looking Beyond 2011, will bring together central and local government, academia and business, to talk for the first time about whether there should be another census in ten years’ time.

The census has been running in the UK for more than 200 years and is carried out by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in England and Wales. It gathers statistical information about population and households that enables informed decisions to be made in areas such as the funding and planning of key local services in areas like health and crime.

David Martin, Professor of Geography at the University of Southampton, is Director of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Census Programme and has had significant involvement in establishing the areas on which census data is published.

He has organised the Looking Beyond 2011 meeting at the Royal Statistical Society, in London, on October 21, to take forward the debate about the possible alternatives to a traditional census.

“To date the decennial census has been at the heart of the population statistics system and is used for a wide variety of purposes including the allocation of public resources of more than £100bn each year,” says David.

“However, the task of census enumeration is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive.

“The Beyond 2011 project has been set up by the ONS to look at models for collating census data that meets the needs of future users,” he adds.

The Looking Beyond 2011 conference will outline to delegates the work the ONS are doing looking into the alternatives to the current census collection.

The future of the Census will be debated
Census beyond 2011

These include a short form census, a rolling programme of census data collection, an enhanced programme of government surveys, a system based on linking existing administrative registers, or continuing the conventional census with increased emphasis on internet-based data collection.

Alistair Calder, from the ONS Beyond 2011 team, says: “This conference offers a valuable chance for statistical users to find out more about Beyond 2011 and the issues that will be tackled by the programme. The outcome of Beyond 2011 will have implications for all population-based statistics in England and Wales and potentially, in the longer term, for the statistical system as a whole.

“This will be a key event - marking the start to the open public discussion that will continue over the next two years, and providing an opportunity for specialists and data expert users to contribute early to the debate."

Delegates will get to find out more about the Beyond 2011 programme, from Peter Benton, Head of the Beyond 2011 programme at the ONS, and hear from representatives of the key users about their initial views on the potential proposals.

This is just one of the census-related projects being undertaken at the University of Southampton. To find out more go to:

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/geography/research/collaborations.page?

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/geography/research/projects/census.page?

http://www.cpc.ac.uk/

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