The three-month consultation, which is part of the ONS's ‘Beyond 2011’ programme, invites views on two possible ways of producing population data:
A census once a decade, like that conducted in 2011, but primarily online.
A census using existing government data and compulsory annual surveys.
More details about the two approaches, as well as the consultation document, are available on the ONS website.
The Royal Statistical Society welcomes the census consultation and urges all interested parties to contribute: ‘The decision on the future of the census will affect the nature and quality of information available to everyone in the country when making choices about schools, hospitals, transport, shops and many other services for decades to come,’ it says in a statement responding to the consultation announcement.
The RSS statement also identified three criteria that should be met to establish the way forward: ‘First, the robustness of the evidence base gathered by ONS – what information does the nation need? Second, the statistical basis for analysing the alternatives – what quality of information can be collected to meet user needs? Third, the validity of the assumptions being made about the legal, attitudinal and technological context – what are the risks involved in taking each course of action?’
Once this information is available, the RSS continues, all those with a stake in the decision will be able to see which alternative provides the optimum combination of benefit, cost and risk.
The RSS will respond to the Census consultation and welcomes views from members via its 'Beyond 2011' group on StatsUserNet.