I recently attended the Scottish Official Statistics Conference, where I spoke about the value of official statistics and the deep commitment which lies at the heart of the Authority’s regulatory work. We seek to enhance the public value of statistics by increasing the appropriate use of statistics and the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics themselves. This has become increasingly important in a changing world that creates and uses data at far faster rates than in the past.

My speech focused on whether official statistics can continue to be relevant in this changing world.  With threats to the value of statistics – coming from the misuse of statistics, obsolescence, and poor quality – can official statistics thrive, or are we victims of the art of the lie?

My simple answer is yes, official statistics can thrive… if we focus on the core principles of trustworthiness, quality and value.  If we produce statistics that are free from any vested interest, are the best available estimate of what they purport to measure, and are not just ‘collect and count’ but statistics that inform public debate, then official statistics will thrive.

As the Authority’s regulatory arm, our role is to act as a champion of official statistics. We already do a lot – we assess National Statistics, we oversee the Code, we speak publicly on misuse.

But that’s not enough. The recent Bean Review highlighted two weaknesses:

  • The role of regulation is lost within a confusing Authority identity.
  • The way we’ve done the work is too process-y, insufficiently focused on value of statistics in the broadest sense.

So we are going to address these weaknesses through creation of a new Office in the coming months, with a clearer identity and a much stronger purpose of public value.

We welcome your views on these developments. You can contact us via email at assessment@statistics.gsi.gov.uk.

The full speech from the Scottish Official Statistics Conference can be found here.