This year I’ve written 9 blogs, ranging from an exploration of data gaps to a celebration of the armchair epidemiologists. I was thinking of making it to double figures, setting out my reflections across a tumultuous year. And describing my pride in what the Office for Statistics Regulation team has delivered. But, as so often in OSR, the team is way ahead of me. They’ve pulled together their own year-end reflections into a short summary. Their pride in their work, and their commitment to the public good of statistics, really say far more than anything I could write; it’s just a much better summary.
So here it is (merry Christmas)
Donna Livesey – Business Manager
2020 has been a hard year for everyone, with many very personally affected by the pandemic. Moving from a bustling office environment to living and working home alone had the potential to make for a pretty lonely existence, but I’ve been very lucky.
This year has only confirmed what a special group of people I work with in OSR. Everyone has been working very hard but we have taken time to support each other, to continue to work collaboratively to find creative solutions to new challenges, and to generously share our lives, be it our families or our menagerie of pets, all be it virtually.
I am so proud to work with a team that have such a passion for ensuring the public get the statistics and data they need to make sense of the world around them, while showing empathy for the pressures producers of statistics are under at this time.
We all know that the public will continue to look to us beyond the pandemic, as the independent regulator, to ensure statistics honestly and transparently answer the important questions about the longer term impacts on all aspects of our lives, and our childrens’ lives. I know we are all ready for that challenge, as we are all ready for that day when we can all get together in person.
Caroline Jones – Statistics Regulator, Health and Social Care Lead
2020 started off under lockdown, with the nation gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic and avidly perusing the daily number of deaths, number of tests, volume of hospitalisations and number of vaccines. This level of anxiety has pushed more people into contacting OSR to ask for better statistics, and it has been a privilege to work at the vanguard of the improvement to the statistics.
To manage the workload, the Health domain met daily with Mary (Deputy Director for Regulation) and Katy, who manages our casework, so we could coordinate the volume of health related casework we were getting in. We felt it important to deal sympathetically with statistic producers, who have been under immense pressure this year, to ensure they changed their outputs to ensure they were producing the best statistics possible. It’s been rewarding to be part of that improvement and change, but we still have a lot of work to do in 2021 to continue to advocate for better social and community care statistics.
Leah Skinner – Digital Communications Officer
As a communications professional who loves words, I very often stop and wonder how I ended up working in an environment with so many numbers. But if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that the communication of those numbers, in a way that the public can understand, is crucial to make sure that the public have trust in statistics.
This has made me reflect on my own work, and I am more determined than ever to make our work, complex as it can be, as accessible and as understandable to our audiences as possible. For me, the highlight of this year has been watching our audience grow as we have improved our Twitter outputs and launched our own website. I really enjoy seeing people who have never reached out to us before contacting us to work with us, whether it be to do with Voluntary Application of the Code, or to highlight casework.
As truly awful as 2020 has been, it is clear now that the public are far more aware of how statistics affect our everyday lives, and this empowers us to ask more questions about the quality and trustworthiness of data and hold organisations to account when the data isn’t good enough.
Mark Pont – Assessment Programme Lead
For me, through the challenges of 2020, it’s been great to see the OSR team show itself as a supportive regulator. Of course we’ve made some strong interventions where these have been needed to champion the public good of statistics and data. But much of our influence comes through the support and challenge we offer to statistics producers.
We published some of our findings in the form of rapid regulatory review letters. However, much of our support and challenge was behind the scenes, which is just as valuable.
During the early days of the pandemic we had uncountable chats with teams across the statistical system as they wrestled with how to generate the important insights that many of us needed. All this in the absence of the usual long-standing data sources and while protecting often restricted and vulnerable workforces who were adapting to new ways of working. It was fantastic to walk through those exciting developments with statistical producers, seeing first-hand the rapid exploitation of new data sources.
2021 will still be challenging for many of us. Hopefully many aspects of life will start to return to something closer to what we were used to. But I think the statistical system, including us as regulators, will start 2021 from a much higher base than 2020 and I look forward to seeing many more exciting developments in the world of official statistics.
Emily Carless – Statistics Regulator, Children, Education and Skills Lead
2020 has been a challenging year for producers and users of children, education and skills statistics which has had a life changing impact on the people who the statistics are about. We started the year polishing the report of our review of post-16 education and skills statistics and are finishing it polishing the report of our review of the approach to developing the statistical models designed for awarding grades. These statistical models had a profound impact on young people’s lives and on public confidence in statistics and statistical models.
As in other domains, statistics have needed to be developed quickly to meet the need for data on the impact of the pandemic on children and the education system, and to inform decisions such as those around re-opening schools. The demand for statistics in this area continues to grow to ensure that the impact of the pandemic on this generation can be fully understood.