The census as an information source in public policy-making

Killick, L., Hall, H., Duff, A., Deakin, M. (2016). The census as an information source in public policy-making. Journal of Information Science, 42, (3), 386-395.



* The PDF of the accepted version of this paper is also available from the Edinburgh Napier repository at
* The published version is available via Sage (subscription access) at
* The slides for the conference paper from which this article is developed are available at

This paper provides an assessment of the value of national population censuses as information sources with specific reference to UK census data and its use in policy-making. Mixed methods were adopted to collect quantitative and qualitative data from two sources: (1) a content analysis of policy documents, and (2) interviews with policy-makers in Scotland. The findings highlight that although the general value of the census is recognised, policy-makers are not necessarily closely engaged with the census as a tool for directing the development and implementation of policy. This is evident, for example in a lack of awareness of proposed changes to the census, and infrequent deployment of available data. The opportunity to change perceptions among policy-makers, and to expand the application of census data in public policy, is identified. With a novel focus on the deployment of censuses as sources of evidence for policy-making that includes the views of policy-makers from both within and beyond government, this work contributes to an established body of global research on international censuses.
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Mark Deakin
Professor (Affiliate to CSI)
+44 131 455 2480
Lynn Killick
Research student
+44 131 455 2303
Hazel Hall
Director of CSI
+44 131 455 2760