Frequently asked questions/
When should an SCH review be initiated?
Please initiate an SCH review when your survey development begins, as we aim to work alongside your schedule. Approximate details about the survey design are enough to initiate the SCH review. You can provide updated and detailed survey information and survey materials as they become available during your survey development process.
You can initiate an SCH review by submitting the Basic Survey Information form online, and preview the questions to help you prepare responses.
What happens if a survey begins data collection without SCH approval?
When a survey that should have been reviewed by the SCH has started data collection without gaining SCH approval, the following actions will be taken:
- the Survey Manager will be contacted and asked for a written explanation as to why the survey was conducted without SCH approval.
- following receipt of the written explanation, a letter will be sent to a representative of senior management in the Commonwealth Government agency in breach of SCH requirements. This letter discusses the severity of the breach and any sanctions that will be applied.
- sanctions depend on the range and severity of the breach. These can range from a written warning for a minor first time breach, through to tabling the name of the Commonwealth Government agency and the survey in Parliament for more significant and repeated breaches.
How long does an SCH review take?
We are mandated to provide the outcome of the review within 20 business days of receiving all of the requested survey related documentation in its final state.
In practice, we aim to work alongside your schedule to ensure that we are not delaying your survey unnecessarily. To help us achieve this, we request that you initiate the SCH review process as soon as possible.
What are 'administrative collections'?
'Administrative collections' collect data for compliance purposes or administration of a Government program, and the identity of each business is important.
In addition, administrative collections:
- often have legislation enabling or requiring the Government agency to conduct the collection
- are generally used to regulate, monitor, ensure compliance, or otherwise focus on specific activities of individual businesses
- are not primarily used to draw aggregated results, or for statistical inference
- usually have penalties for businesses that do not respond
- select and survey all businesses that are required to comply by a regulation.
Examples of administrative collections:
- Tax returns due to the Australian Tax Office are legislated to ensure all businesses are meeting their tax obligations
- Funding application forms to determine whether a childcare centre has met criteria making them eligible for a Government grant
- A Commonwealth aviation survey which is legislated to collect information to ensure all operators are meeting air safety regulations.
Example of a collection that is not an administrative collection:
- An evaluation survey of a Government policy or program where the agency has legislated authority to compel businesses to provide a response, but only the aggregated data will be used.
What is a 'solicited approach'?
A 'solicited approach' is where the respondent has a prior agreement for contact by the Commonwealth agency, or the respondent is approached passively and must make an active effort to participate in the survey.
Surveys using a solicited approach do not require an SCH review.
Examples of solicited approach methods:
- customer feedback survey that is placed on a Commonwealth agency's website and is advertised on other websites and in newsletters, but no businesses are approached to complete the survey. That is, no links or letters are sent to businesses requesting their particular participation
- surveys that are placed on a stand at a venue frequented by business people, such as a Government shop-front
- surveys that only approach a survey panel, comprised of businesses who have signed up to receive surveys from the agency.
The results from a survey that uses a solicited approach may be influenced by a certain amount of bias due to respondents selecting themselves to participate.
What is an 'unsolicited approach'?
An 'unsolicited approach' is where the researcher contacts the respondent for their particular participation without their prior consent to be contacted.
Surveys using an unsolicited approach require an SCH review.
Examples of unsolicited approach methods:
- cold phone calls, where Interviewers call the business from a purchased mailing list without their initial agreement to be contacted for that particular survey
- compulsory surveys which businesses are obligated to complete (some, not all, compulsory surveys can be 'administrative collections')
- customer feedback surveys, where the data collected will be used to assess a Government program or policy.
How should the SCH approval number be displayed?
The SCH approval number should be displayed on all survey materials including paper and online questionnaires, interviewing scripts, pre-approach and invitation letters to respondents etc.
It should be placed on the front page of the survey material, and is typically within the introductory information, or in the footer of the front page. In interviews, the Interviewer can verbally provide the SCH approval number if the respondent requests.
The standard format for displaying the SCH approval number in text is: Australian Government Statistical Clearing House Approval number: XXXXX-XX
What is a provisional approval number?
We can provide the Survey Manager with the approval number before formal approval is attained for that survey. This assists with the preparation of the survey form and associated collection materials. The provisional approval number can be supplied once the Survey Manager has supplied us with the broad level design specifications of the survey. It should not be regarded as SCH approval, and data collection cannot commence until formal SCH approval has been granted.
Is your survey undergoing a change?
Contact us to discuss the changes, and to determine whether the changes are significant.
If the changes are significant then this will initiate the SCH approval process.
If the changes are not significant then we will note the minor changes for our records, and your survey can continue collecting data until the next SCH re-approval process.
What are 'significant changes'?
For repeating surveys, the SCH needs to ensure that the survey's approval remains up-to-date and the level of provider load remains justifiable.
Examples of changes that require SCH re-approval include:
- as a rule-of-thumb, an increase or decrease of 10% in the actual provider load that are resulting from changes in sample size, questionnaire content, or collection mode
- as a rule-of-thumb, an increase in the number of businesses approached to participate by 1,000 or more
- significant changes to the data collection methodology. Example: changing the mode of collection from a paper form to an online form
- a change in the principal data outputs which indicates a change in the survey purpose.
What is the Australian Statistician's involvement?
The Australian Statistician oversees the operation of the SCH, and reviews significant queries related to SCH approval decisions. They provide Parliament with a report of the SCH in the ABS Annual Report, including a summary of the Commonwealth Government's business surveys that have come through the SCH within the financial year.
What is the Commonwealth Government Agency Head's involvement?
Commonwealth Government Agency Heads authorise new or repeating business surveys, and ensure that their Survey Managers are fully aware of their SCH responsibilities and the provider load caused by the survey. They ensure that the provider load is minimised, and that the survey purpose and outcomes justify their costs to businesses and Government. Agency Heads also nominate Statistical Liaison Officers to support working relationships between their agency and the SCH. Agency Heads also support their Survey Managers in situations where the SCH approval decision for their survey is queried.