We recently hosted a lively public event where we engaged with a varied audience answering questions about our work during the pandemic. We are delighted that the public is taking such a keen interest in statistics, data and evidence.
We work hard to ensure that numbers needed and consumed by the public uphold the scrutiny and standards of the Code of Practice for Statistics, offering ‘trustworthiness, quality and value’ to anyone using them.
Before the pandemic, our relationship with the general public (endearingly referred to here as ‘armchair epidimiologists’) was predominantly through third-party intermediaries like the media, government statistical producers, specialist user groups, academia, think-tanks and the third-sector to name but a few.
Understanding of the importance of statistics and public interest in them has changed, with people embracing statistics and realising how others can use or potentially misuse them.
This is shown in the number of cases we have considered; In the period from April 2020 to March 2021, we considered nearly three times the number of cases than in the previous year. 76% of the cases we looked into were related to the pandemic, and 48% of cases related to quality, reliability and trustworthiness of statistics – the first time this has been the most common category. This makes what we do much simpler to explain, as we continue to challenge the use of any official statistics that raise issues or cause concern.
We see statistics as an asset that frame our understanding of the world, help inform our choices and as a starting point for debate. This could be on the size of the economy, the number of people in the country, the rate of crime, the health and well-being of the population, and on more specific topics such as the levelling up agenda, or statistics on climate change.
But this isn’t just for institutional decision makers – like the Bank of England, or a Secretary of State. Statistics also support the choices made every day by a very wide range of people; individuals, businesses, community groups and so on.
We are considering how we should go beyond intermediaries and engage more directly than we do already with the general public on issues we care about. As part of our ongoing work and commitment as statistics regulator, we encourage you follow our twitter, read our newsletter, visit our website and contact us with any thoughts or questions you might have.