Being a placement student at OSR in 2020

Effie Roberts and Isabel Ralphs joined our team as placement students in September this year. Difficult as this year has been, both of them have used the challenges to their advantage and have made great strides to develop their skills. From conquering imposter syndrome to ‘peeking behind the scenes’ of statistics, Effie and Isabel tell all about their first three months on the job.


Being a student in 2020 is difficult – even when taking a year out. My name is Effie and I am a placement student at OSR this year, otherwise reading Geography at the University of Cambridge. I decided to do a placement with OSR to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of statistics – it has been especially interesting as a regulator to see how the statistics I use in my course are managed.

Obviously, my experience as a placement student this year is very different having started from home, but I still feel very supported by my team! OSR is very friendly and welcoming, and I have been involved in a great deal of regulatory work. I have, for example, been involved in systemic reviews on loneliness and on mental health statistics. In my domain I have been answering public queries about statistics – though this has mainly been around Covid-19 statistics at the minute given the current pandemic. We also have virtual social events for the team which I enjoy as I get the chance to get to know my colleagues in a less formal capacity.

Although, that isn’t to say I’m not excited to go back to the office as it has been strange to start a new job without meeting those I work with face-to-face. Living with the other OSR placement student, Izzy, has been great as we are in the same boat and can chat about our work experiences together and support each other more than if we were living separately. We can even join the work socials together! I have found it especially interesting to hear about other female placement students’ experiences as women in STEM. I have joined a women’s group at work to learn more about how I can be supported, and how I can support others in a traditionally male dominated field.


It was through a series of happy accidents that I found myself sitting at my kitchen table in September, ready for my first day of work at the Office for Statistics Regulation. A strange induction to a job at any other time perhaps, but this was the ‘new normal’, and I was about to become accustomed to an organisation who have done a terrific job of navigating it.

I must admit to having been unfamiliar with OSR’s work until I was contributing to it myself. However, it would not surprise me if, a year further down the line, this might not have been the case. I am privileged to have joined the organisation as it is really gaining the publicity that it deserves. The 50% increase in OSR’s twitter followers in the three short months since I joined speaks for itself. A silver-lining of this year is undoubtedly the light it has shone on the vital work of both those who produce official statistics, and those who regulate them.

Since starting, I have had the chance to appreciate the breadth of the work that OSR conducts – not just headline-grabbing interventions, but also regulatory work taking place behind-the-scenes too. Compliance checks, assessments and OSR’s ‘functions’ all bring about less obvious but equally important changes to the way that official statistics are produced and presented. My working week can consist of anything from discussing the use of productivity statistics with the Bank of England, to liaising with ONS producers on the public value of COVID-19 statistics, and monitoring incoming queries from members of the public on our Twitter page.

Initially, I felt an element of imposter syndrome as a placement student in this job. Who was I, I wondered, to be reviewing the work of lead statisticians and Heads of Professions, with years of experience to their names? I have since learnt however, that this missed the point of what the OSR is set up to do. Our job is to be an advocate for users, an ambassador for the Code and a caller-to-action where the needs of either are not being met. We are not critics, but consultants.

The OSR are a small team delivering a disproportionately large impact. I look forward to spending the rest of my slightly strange year here and continuing to be humbled by all that I am learning.


Keep up to date with all of the team’s work on our Twitter channel, or sign up to our monthly newsletter.