A day in the life of a Regulator

In our latest blog, Job de Roij, our lead regulator in the Crime and Security team, based in our Edinburgh office, demystifies the job of a statistics regulator.

Find out how to apply for our current Statistics Regulator vacancies below

Statistics regulator. It’s quite a strange-sounding job. If you asked a random person on the street what they think a statistics regulator does, they would probably say that it’s someone who regulates statistics. But if you asked them what this means, they would probably draw a blank. Fair enough – most people aren’t familiar with the idea of regulating statistics. 

So, what does a statistics regulator do? A wide range of things! There is no such thing as a typical week – what we do can vary from week to week – but there are some common activities. The journal below gives you a flavour of the kinds of things we do. I lead the Crime and Security team, which covers all statistics published by official bodies on crime, policing, justice and defence, so all the projects I mention are related to that area.   


In the morning, I checked our information dashboard, an internal tool developed by our Data and Methods team. It scrapes data from government statistics release calendars, news websites, Twitter, and Hansard, which helps us monitor the release and use of official statistics. I came across several interesting media articles and Twitter threads about hate crime data. I reviewed what they say and decided that there’s nothing I need to investigate further. 

In the afternoon, I spoke to a couple of users – an academic and a think tank – of Home Office’s police officer uplift statistics, which report on progress with the recruitment of an additional 20,000 police officers in England and Wales. We recently assessed these statistics against our Code of Practice for Statistics (the Code). Assessment is one the main tools we use to review whether statistics are meeting the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value set out in the Code. Speaking to users is a really important part of assessments. It helps us understand what the statistics are used for and what users think of their trustworthiness, quality and value, to identify where improvements can be made. 


In the morning, Kirsty, our Head of Private Office and Casework Manager, emailed me about a piece of casework I’ve been working on. Casework is what we call our work investigating issues raised with OSR. We have an interventions policy that sets out when and how we intervene in the use of statistics. We can raise casework ourselves internally or members of the of the public can raise casework with us, which could be anything from something which was identified as misleading in a government report, to something a Member of Parliament (MP) said on Twitter. For the case I worked on today, I investigated the concerns raised, prepared a briefing with a summary of the issues, analysis of the statements and statistics, and recommendations for what we should do next.  


My morning started with two back-to-back team meetings: an Edinburgh site catch-up and an organisation-wide “Cascade” with colleagues in the Edinburgh, London and Newport sites (and those based elsewhere). It’s a chance to hear about what’s happening across OSR and to share any important updates. In today’s meeting I gave an update about the Crime and Security team’s work, heard about work in our eight other domains, and heard about next year’s business planning from our Senior Leadership Team.  

Every other Wednesday afternoon we have team learning sessions. These are mostly used to share knowledge across the team, but we also use them to discuss ways of improving how we work. Today is a ‘Code Case Learning’ session, where two colleagues presented some regulatory work that they’ve been involved in covering a specific principle of the Code of Practice for Statistics. The idea is to help regulators develop their understanding of aspects of the Code and hone their judgement in applying the Code.      


In the morning I met with the Deputy Head of Profession for Statistics and Head of Publications at the Ministry of Defence (MOD). We discussed new developments to their statistics and an idea I have for a short review of a set of MOD statistics. As regulators, we meet regularly with statisticians in different departments to find out what is happening with their statistics and how we can best support them to meet the standards of the Code. 

I spent the afternoon drafting a letter to the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland setting out the results of our compliance check of their prosecution and conviction statistics. Compliance checks are another tool we use to review statistics against the Code. They’re shorter and less detailed than assessments, which allows us to review a wide range of statistics every year.       


Friday is my non-working day. OSR and the Civil Service offer flexible working arrangements, which is great for maintaining a work-life balance. 

On Fridays, our Director General, Ed Humpherson, sends a weekly update to the whole team reflecting on the activities and events of the week. It’s great to hear about Ed’s external meetings and the impact of our work is having. It’s a good reminder of the difference that regulators can make!  

Would you like to work with us?

We currently have a vacancy for two Statistics Regulators (Grade 7) to join our team (apply before Tuesday 27th June 2023).


What we’ve learned from the Defra Group about user engagement

Note: this blog post was updated on 27 August 2020.

Today we published the findings of our review of user engagement in the statistics producers that make up the Defra Group. The Defra Group produces a large and broad collection of statistics covering many topic areas, including food, farming and the environment, and the statistics have a wide range of users and uses.

When we review compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics, we often look at how individual teams engage with their users. With this review we have looked much wider. This approach, the first time we’ve looked at user engagement in this way, has allowed us to understand how individual teams and the Defra Group as a whole engage with their users and to identify the key factors that can make user engagement effective and impactful. We focused our review on a set of 10 statistics which reflects the diversity of Defra Group statistics.

Although the target audience for the report is the Defra Group, we hope that other statistics producers will find it helpful, including our framework of Telling users about the statistics, Understanding use and Listening to users, and use it to inform their thinking about user engagement. We will be adding case studies from the report to the online Code of Practice as examples of best practice in user engagement.

The world has changed dramatically in recent months due to COVID-19. This means that statistics teams may have to become more creative in engaging with users and move more discussions with users online. We recognise the challenges of COVID-19 for the Defra Group and have recommended that teams take a flexible and proportionate approach to user engagement.

We’re not the only ones with an interest in user engagement. The Government Statistical Service (GSS) Best Practice and Impact Division is currently developing a new strategy for user engagement which will be published later this year. Have a look at Tegwen Green’s blog, also published today, which gives an update on this important work. Our review of Defra Group user engagement complements the work on the new GSS strategy, and we will continue to work closely with the Best Practice and Impact team to support its development.