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Peter Mouncey Blog

Demonstrating the value of the Census: a call to action

22-04-2013
‘Making sense of the Census’ was the title for an MRS seminar I planned back in the late 1980s, when I chaired the MRS Technical & Development Committee, designed to generate interest within the market research sector in lobbying for and against changes proposed in the 1981 Census questionnaire. 

At the time, the UK market research sector seemed to have passed the baton on census lobbying to the rapidly growing marketing analytics and geodemographics industry. 

Unfortunately, the seminar didn’t happen as we seemed unable to stimulate sufficient interest at the time. However, and very fortunately, seeds were sown by this initiative, especially amongst those few with feet in both camps, leading to the formation of what is now the MRS Census and Geodemographics Group (CGG) in the early 1990s. 

Over the intervening years, the CCG has been extremely successful in looking after our interests where the UK census is concerned, through dialogue with ONS and users, plus regular conferences and seminars championing the importance of the census, and the applications of the data, to the market research sector. 

Underlining the importance IJMR attributes to this topic, we commissioned a review from members of the CGG of the future options for the UK census which was published in IJMR in 2011 (Vol. 53 Issue 5), and Keith Dugmore presented an update a last November’s IJMR Research Methods Forum.

As part of future planning, ‘Beyond 2011 Programme’, ONS is currently quantifying the benefits delivered via census data beyond the use by government and the public sector. 

The MRS has issued a call for action for members to contribute to this consultation by describing any benefits they derive by completing the commercial users’ survey or contacting the Census Benefits Realisation Team: benefits.realisation@ons.gsi.gov.uk

As I described in my Editorial in 2010 (Vol.52 Issue 4), a debate organised by the RSS with speakers from the three main political parties clearly indicated that a Conservative led government was likely to review the cost and value of the census. 

The subsequent financial crisis and major cuts in public spending by the Coalition government have underlined the need for vigilance in this era of scarce resources, with the future of the census under review, and it is vitally important that the sector demonstrates the value derived from census data, so please respond to this call for action.

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