Clarifying National Statistics – responses to our invitation for comment
Following on from the Office for Statistics Regulation’s (OSR’s) review of National Statistics and the subsequent designation refresh project, we published our final paper Clarifying National Statistics: findings from the designation refresh project in June 2023. This paper brought together findings from our review period, across which we spoke to an extensive list of statistics producers, users of statistics and other stakeholders. It set out five proposed changes on how OSR and producers of official statistics will explain the National Statistics label and the designation process, as well as OSR’s role going forward. OSR invited comments on the proposed changes by 8 September 2023.
We received five responses to our invitation to comment on the paper. Two were personal responses and three were collated responses: one from users and two from producers.
Overall, the responses supported the changes described in the paper. There were three main areas covered:
It was suggested that it will be useful for users of statistics to strongly emphasise that accreditation of official statistics only occurs after verification by the regulator (OSR) of the producer’s practice with respect to the Code. This is in line with our plans: in the guidance we have developed for producers on responding to the paper, Clarifying National Statistics, we have included a new statement that OSR will require producers to display on statistical publications, which makes clear which of their statistics have been independently verified by the regulator.
Several responses highlighted the importance of emphasising that producers apply the Code when producing all official statistics (not just statistics currently known as National Statistics, which are accredited official statistics). We agree with this point and our guidance to producers recommends that producers provide an explanation to users on each statistical publication about how they follow the Code, and about the strengths and limitations of their statistics. In these ways, producers can help users understand why the producer is confident in the official statistics and is releasing them in the public interest.
There was a query as to whether OSR can accredit statistics producers – accreditation in this situation, however, is of statistics rather than the organisations producing them. OSR can accredit statistics against our Code of Practice for Statistics in line with the statutory duty assigned to the UK Statistics Authority in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Furthermore, official statistics are not products or services sold by a business but are a public asset freely available to all.
Next steps: OSR will introduce the clarifications to our terminology and processes, set out in our findings paper, from 25 September 2023 and is encouraging producers of official statistics to begin to implement changes from that date.
We will update our policies and guidance for official statistics, National Statistics and experimental statistics to reflect the changes.
Users will begin to see the use of the labels ‘accredited official statistics’ (called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007) and ‘official statistics in development’ (previously called experimental statistics).
If you have any questions about the changes, please email email@example.com.
Outline of the designation refresh project
Following on from our designation review, we have moved into a new phase of developing and testing ideas. The project will run through autumn 2022 and is split into three work streams:
This work stream focuses on how to explain the designation so that producers of statistics and stakeholders clearly understand it. As part of this, we will consider key terms and concepts, such as ‘experimental statistics’ and ways to highlight that statistical producers are accountable to the statistics regulator, OSR. The development will involve user testing of all the solutions identified, carried out with the assistance of communications experts and producers, including the cross-government network of statistical presentation and dissemination champions. We will involve different types of statistics users, as well as other stakeholders, to participate in the testing, as it is essential that the messaging is clear to a wide range of audiences.
This work stream focuses on supporting producer culture and processes. We have developed three tools, to assist statistical leaders and analysts with applying the Code. These are the Code ‘ABC’ approach, the Statistical Practice Capability Framework (formerly Code Maturity Model) and the Quality Grade tool. These developments are being run in partnership with statistical producers, including the cross-government network of statistical quality champions: all three tools will be extensively tested by producers before they are finalised. Alongside producers, users of statistics will also be involved in testing our tool for communicating quality: this will help ensure that the tool allows producers to deliver clear messages for users about the quality of statistics.
This work stream focuses on refreshing the assessment process and will be conducted by the regulatory team in OSR. It will consider how to confirm compliance in both short-form and in-depth reviews, to ensure that assessment is proportionate and flexible. The longer reviews could focus on specific aspects of practice, such as statistical methods, and user engagement approaches. This workstream will also establish the means for ongoing engagement by OSR with statistics users, to ensure their experiences of using the official statistics and their information needs inform our judgement.
Please do let us know if you are interested in being involved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are very happy to deliver presentations/lead discussion groups on all or some of the above.