Statistics Regulator Siobhan Tuohy-Smith discusses what we mean by intelligent transparency and how you can be an advocate for intelligent transparency across government and official data, statistics and wider analysis.
So what is intelligent transparency?
Everyone, I think, has a fairly clear idea of what transparency means. It means being open or clear – getting the data or statistics out there. But what do we mean when we talk about intelligent transparency?
At its heart intelligent transparency is about proactively taking an open, clear and accessible approach to the release and use of data, statistics and wider analysis. As set out in our regulatory guidance on transparency, intelligent transparency is informed by three core principles: equality of access, enhancing understanding and analytical leadership. It’s about more than just getting the data out there. Intelligent transparency is about thinking about transparency from the outset of policy development, getting data and statistics out at the right time to support thinking and decisions on an issue, supporting the wider public need for information and presenting the data and statistics in a way that aids understanding and prevents misinterpretation. For example, the Welsh Government Chief Statistician posted a blog on understanding COVID-19 infection rates in Wales on 11 January 2022. This post went beyond just getting the data out there, by also aiding user understanding of the data to avoid misinterpretation.
Why is transparency important?
For me, transparency is a key part of what we do at the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). It’s a theme the runs throughout the Code of Practice for Statistics, from practice Q2.3 about transparency about the methods used, to V2.1 about ensuring free and equal access to regular and ad hoc official statistics, to principle T3 about orderly release, to name but a few.
Transparency is also a core part of ensuring data, statistics and wider analysis serve the public good. Only by seeing the numbers, and understanding where they came from, can we really understand what they mean and how to use them to best inform individual decisions and understanding of an issue. Individual decisions about where and when to buy a new house, mortgage decisions, and what school to send your child to. Or public understanding about COVID-19 infection rates or a new policy around climate change.
What can you do to support intelligent transparency?
In OSR, we continue to champion intelligent transparency and equal access to data, statistics and wider analysis. We:
- Intervene on specific cases where we deem it necessary, guided by the UK Statistics Authority’s interventions policy.
- Are building our evidence base, highlighting good examples and understanding more about barriers to transparency to help support those working across government to implement intelligent transparency. Today we have published some FAQs about intelligent transparency to help support this work.
- Engage with analysts, policy-makers and the communications function across government, and interested parties outside of government to advocate intelligent transparency and develop networks committed to intelligent transparency.
But we recognise that this is not something we can do alone. We need your help!
So what can you do:
You can be an advocate for intelligent transparency across government and official data, statistics and wider analysis:
- As a user of this data, you can continue to question what you see and ask yourself does it make sense? Do you know where it comes from? Is it being used appropriately?
- If you are based in a department or a public body, you can champion intelligent transparency in your team, your department and your individual work. Build networks to promote our intelligent transparency guidance across all colleagues and senior leaders in your organisation. You can engage with users to understand what information it is they need to inform their work to inform the case for publishing it; get in touch with your Head of Profession or OSR if you experience issues publishing statistics, data or wider analysis of significant public value or interest
We will continue to champion intelligent transparency and with your help, together, we can help intelligent transparency become the default for all government data, statistics and wider analysis.