To mark Analysis in Government month, OSR Regulator Oliver Fox-Tatum discusses how important analysis has become in our lives, and OSR’s hopes for the future production, use and value of analysis in government.

When I last wrote on this topic back in February, I talked about how the TQV (Trustworthiness, Quality and Value) framework can support us all, analysts and non-analysts alike, to demonstrate analytical leadership when working with statistics, analysis and data.

Shortly afterwards we held an analytical leadership event with a range of presenters, including the National Statistician, Sir Ian Diamond, and the Head of the Policy profession, Tamara Finkelstein. They spoke about the importance of collaboration – interestingly this year’s Analysis in Government month theme – between different groups of people with a stake in the analysis that our governments produce.

Their conversation highlighted just how important good analysis is for ensuring sound decision making – for government and society, to support positive outcomes for citizens. And how, if analysts, policy and their public beneficiaries collaborate to agree the right policy/analysis questions to start with, the value and impact of analysis (for the public good) can be maximised.

We also heard great perspectives on the value of transparency from the Chief Digital Officer for Welsh Government, and from the Head of the Evaluation Task Force, highlighting how, when governments take an open approach to data about themselves, this supports confidence in both the data and in the decisions based on them – as well as truly helping to establish what works!

The future is bright!

The event brought home to me just how important analysis and analytical thinking has become in all our lives. The public don’t recognise the old boundaries between government statistics, analysis, research and data (if they ever really did), and the thirst for more timely information has continued. But how do we bolster the advances made by analysts through the pandemic and safeguard them for the future?

For government analysis to continue to serve the wider public good beyond the pandemic, and answer society’s most important questions, we all have a responsibility to demonstrate analytical leadership when working with analysis and data. But this goes beyond analytical skills and techniques alone. And it also goes beyond analysts.

Analysts do need to show continued leadership by confidently reaching out within and beyond their professions, collaborating to answer important questions. And governments need to show leadership by truly recognising the value of government analysis as an asset for informing public life, as well as for policy and decision making.

And when governments take an open approach to data about themselves, such as demonstrating transparency with data that is in the public interest, they can support public confidence in both the data, and the policy decisions based on them. (We drew similar conclusions in our work on statistical leadership last year).

So to safeguard the substantial advances made by government analysts through the pandemic, to support good outcomes for citizens and serve society’s need for information, we must all demonstrate analytical leadership when working with analysis and data.

That’s a really powerful position to be in, but one we think is hugely important. And, as everyone already knows, with great power, comes great responsibility! That includes responsibility for… 

…how analysis is Produced

By ‘thinking TQV’ when planning and producing analysis we can ensure we:

  • collaborate across professional boundaries to identify key analytical questions
  • take a transparent and accessible approach to the publication of analysis
  • strengthen links between analytical professions around shared standards, values and priorities.

…how analysis is Used

We can stand up for how analysis is used and protect its accurate interpretation by committing to:

  • publish analysis in ways that enhance its appropriate interpretation by all
  • uphold the integrity of analytical evidence, with all officials challenging misuse or misinterpretation and correcting the record where necessary
  • ensure all policy is based on robust evidence and evaluation

… and how analysis is Valued

When analysis is valued, both its production and use is supported. We therefore want to see:

  • senior leaders champion strong analytical insights and cultures and support and resource innovation to answer key public and policy questions
  • government analysis recognised as an essential public asset offering considerable value for society, especially when published
  • greater opportunities for analysts to progress their careers to the highest levels of government

We expand on our thinking against each of these themes here.

We need your help

In OSR, we believe that the principles which we apply to statistics are valuable more widely. By working together around these ideas and the drawing on the TQV framework, OSR would like to see the power of government analysis to improve the lives of citizens more fully recognised, and its future production and use, better supported.

But we’d love to know what you think.

We’re now taking forward our previous work on statistical leadership under a broader ‘analytical leadership’ theme. We’re looking to speak to a range of people that use data and analysis in their work (analysts from different professions, non-analysts in policy, communications, digital and other roles etc) – to explore ways analytical leadership might be strengthened.

So if you’ve been affected by any of the themes raised in this blog, please get in touch via:  

We’ll look forward to speaking with you.