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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

INCENSE - Influencing Policy and Practice

A research project of the School of Education.


The project is a collaboration between the SMART Centre at Durham University and the Data Visualisation Centre at the Office for National Statistics. We proposed:

  • To produce a variety of interactive data displays of Census data
  • To engage with various stakeholder groups about uses of Census data
  • To investigate, and provide some analysis on, the reporting of Census data in various media in terms of scale, relevance and accuracy in conveying what the data say.

Interactive data displays
The website hosts the data visualisations. Drop down menus allow easy navigation to visualisations of all the detailed characteristic (DC) tables released on May16th 2013, and a number of other Census tables. The top level menu shows: Population; Ethnicity; Religion; Health; Country of Birth; Age of Arrival in the UK; Language; Socio-Economic Classification; Economic Activity; Provision of Unpaid Care; and National Identity. Choosing any one of those main headings will show all the DC tables available, whether or not that heading is the first variable being used.


The project is funded by the following grant.

  • Incense - Influencing Policy And Practice By Stimulating Public Debate About The 2011 Census (£153865.00 from ESRC)


User engagement

The project had a particular emphasis on Census data in relation to ethnicity, religion and health, and we have been engaged with groups working specifically in those areas, as well as some groups whose remit covers the whole spectrum of policy areas covered by census data. Project team members have given presentations to groups of MPs researchers, practitioners and academic researchers in health, and social scientists across a number of disciplines from which a number of collaborations are evolving.


Reporting of census data
The first observation is that there is actually very little newspaper reporting of any of the census data releases – the day after the first release came out (July 17th 2012) the Times had a 1/3 page leading article on it on page 2 – Census and Sensibility and page 4 had a near full page about it – headline Population rises 4 million in decade as immigration drives boom. The Independent’s coverage on the same day provides some insight into what could be considered typical of the way the census data release was covered by the printed media, where a choice of a few topics were illustrated by simple infographics and an accompanying text narrative providing a necessarily simplistic overview of what the full data release contained.

Ridgway, J., and Smith, A. (2013). Incense: Insights into Inciting Debates about Census Data. Keynote Talk: Proceedings of the first Joint International Association for Statistics Education and the International Association for Official Statistics, Macau.

Nicholson, J., Ridgway, J., and McCusker, S. (2013). Integrating the use of Official Statistics into Mainstream Curricula via Data Visualisation. Invited paper presented at the joint IASE / IAOS Satellite conference, Statistics Education for Progress Macau.


From the School of Education

From other departments