ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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ISO 20252: the development, current status and potential of a formal process standard

Bill Blyth

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 1 - Law Building, Room 024
Date: 2012-07-12 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-16


The advent of models of survey quality such as ‘Total Survey Error’ or ‘Fitness for Purpose’ has resulted in much greater focus on the management of quality across the whole of survey design and process. The measurement of survey quality and the reduction of associated sources of error and bias, which this enables, is particularly applicable to the process component of survey quality. This is particularly relevant as surveys become of greater import in their application, of greater complexity, with ever increasing use of technology and with greater multi-cultural or multi-country administration.
Whilst much work has been undertaken and described in the area of bespoke process quality within survey providing organisations less attention has been paid to the growing interest in formal process quality standards that apply across surveys, organisations and national boundaries.
2012 sees publication of the first revision of ISO 20252, the international standard for survey research process quality. First published in 2006 the standard has a history that traces its national routes back to the 1970’s. It sets out requirements, many prescriptive, for every aspect of the survey process from commissioning to reporting and supports those requirements by the establishment of an audit trail that can be verified by third party auditing in addition to self-auditing. The international committee (ISO TC225) that sets the requirements consists of representatives from over twenty countries together with observers from organisations such as WAPOR.
Major survey organisations around the world are now using this standard to demonstrate the quality of their survey processes and increasingly it is being requested by national and international users of research as a prerequisite of tender. Whilst most widely used in the private sector it has, or is, also being taken up by organisations such as National Centre for Social Research in the UK and Statistics Sweden.
This paper will describe the development and content of the standard and its potential to be used internationally to drive process quality improvement in any country or environment. The practical deployment of the standard internationally will be illustrated by a case study of improvement in data collection processes in a large survey organisation.
The paper will conclude by discussing the implications of such an independent standard for users and providers of survey research and the opportunities it presents.

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