There are three large Scottish Government household surveys; the Scottish Health Survey (SHeS), the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) (encompassing the Scottish Household Condition Survey (SHCS)), and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS). These surveys are an essential source of data and provide detailed information on a number of topic areas including equality characteristics, housing, fuel poverty, energy efficiency, transport, culture, volunteering, childcare, health, satisfaction with public services, and perceptions of crime. Data from these surveys feed into four national statistics publications and multiple National Performance Indicators.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the household surveys held face-to-face interviews with around 20,500 households per year. Combined data from these surveys also feeds into the Scottish Surveys Core Questions which allows more detailed analysis for local authorities and small population groups than each of the surveys alone. This is particularly important for providing data on equality characteristics.
In response to COVID-19, all Scottish Government face-to-face interviewing was paused in March 2020. Individual surveys have taken different approaches to data collection during the suspension of face-to-face interviewing with the majority of work being focussed on telephone interviews. This mode of surveying has lower response rates than face-to-face meaning a much larger number of households need to be contacted to achieve a satisfactory sample size. The switch to telephone has also increased the potential for bias in the estimates made from the data, with proportionally fewer people from deprived areas, younger age groups and from rented accommodation responding. This means the data may provide a less accurate and representative picture of Scotland’s population as a whole.
As restrictions ease and a return to in-person interviews becomes possible it is essential to evaluate alternative collection methods and the use of other data sources. There is flexibility to shape the project depending your skills and interests but broadly you will examine best practice across the global survey landscape in order to inform the Scottish Governments Survey Strategy. This could include evaluating multi-mode approaches, how we use admin data in place of survey questions, time series comparability, and international best practice. This project will help ensure that the Scottish Government’s population surveys continue to meet key information needs while maximising the analytical potential of the data they generate, the precision of estimates and value for public money. Findings from the research you undertake will inform the future of Scotland’s surveys.