National Statistics designation review

National Statistics Badge in green and blue

Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is exploring how National Statistics designation is understood, particularly outside the official statistics system.

‘National Statistics’ are the most important official statistics that have been demonstrated to meet the very highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value, set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics. Only they carry the unique logo of the National Statistics tick mark, having been designated by OSR, as the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority.

 

As part of our phase 3 research, we would like to hear the views of official statistics producers in relation to four strands of research:

  • Provenance: How can statistics producers show the public that they are applying high professional standards, that the public’s trust is merited?
  • Fitness for purpose: How can statistics producers provide users with clear current information about the quality of the data/statistics to aid users’ choice and interpretation?
  • Value: How can we tell the national life story using National Statistics?
  • Accountability: How can statistics producers show they are held to account?

We are inviting producer bodies to complete a consultation paper by 26 February 2021.

We are also holding focus group sessions with Heads of Profession for Statistics and Chief Statisticians, running webinars in producer organisations, and workshops on specific aspects such as communication of uncertainty and accountability. Comments are welcome from all stakeholders by emailing regulation@statistics.gov.uk

The project aims are to:

  • to clarify what the NS designation means, and
  • consider the case for making appropriate reforms

We want to re-imagine the designation, if necessary; not just find a different way to do the same thing.

The overarching research questions are:

  • how should the designation be designed to reflect fitness for purpose in a data abundant world?
  • what do customers need from the designation?

The review is divided into three phases. Phase 1 was the exploratory review, with Phases 2 and 3 entailing in-depth research and engagement.

In Phase 2 we are examining more fully the nature and usefulness of the National Statistics designation for producers and other stakeholders, to determine whether the designation meets the needs of official statistics in serving the public good in a data abundant world. It focuses on understanding the designation better, including the designation’s historical context, an international comparison and how we can learn from other regulators such as their use of rating schemes.

We are commissioning academic research about wider regulatory approaches as part of this stage, as well as examining the usefulness of score cards and how they may help capture and share key information. We are also looking more deeply into explaining uncertainty and how clearer explanations about limitations may better help users make decisions on whether to use some official statistics. We will speak with experts and stakeholders as part of these research strands.

Our steering group comprises experts from a wide range of backgrounds, mostly outside of official statistics to give us insight and challenge as we develop our research. As well as contributing to steering group meetings, individual interviews have been held with each member to help better inform the focus of the designation research.

We are keen to publicly share our emerging thinking and are looking to arrange follow up conversations to hear others’ thoughts. We will tweet the release of our blogs – do contact the project team if you would like to share your comments.

Phase 3 builds on what we learn in phase 2 and focuses on users and their understanding and needs, to find effective ways of communicating the designation. We will work with communication experts and psychologists to understand effective ways of summarising our judgements and giving information that helps users make informed choices. We plan to run focus groups and open discussions, to capture the stakeholders’ views. We will also involve users and producers in any testing of new ways of explaining key messages about statistics and their suitability for use.

Review Roadmap

March to May:​ published exploratory report, desk research about context of NS,​ its history,​ international comparisons, ​learning from other regulators. June to August:​ First steering group meeting​, follow-up conversations​, theory of change​, communicating regulatory views​, uncertainty​, share emerging ideas. September to November:​ second steering group meeting​, stakeholder engagement​, focus groups​, communication to support user choice. December to February: December - February:​ third steering group meeting​, developing and testing involving stakeholders​, recommendations to Authority Board. March 2021: March 2021:​ Publish thinking​, promote​, act on decisions of the Board.

 

The Steering Group will:

  • Advise on the coherence of OSR’s review activity, including the extent to which planned work will meet the aim of clarifying the meaning of the designation and determining the case for appropriate reforms, and how the impact of clarifying the designation might be evaluated
  • Suggest ideas for further analysis and external contacts who OSR might usefully approach
  • Challenge OSR’s approach to managing the risks associated with the review
  • Comment on research of review activity – both discussion papers and the final report to the Regulation Committee.
  • Advise on the communication of the review, particularly in relation to the implementation of any proposed changes to the designation

Membership

  • Helen Boaden (Chair, Non-executive Director, UKSA)
  • Ed Humpherson (DG for Regulation, OSR)
  • Ian Diamond (National Statistician)
  • Richard Laux (Cabinet Office)
  • Guy Parker (Advertising Standards Authority)
  • Allan Leonard (FactCheck NI)
  • Emma White (University of London)
  • Peter Matejic (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
  • Kate Barker (Economist)
  • Julian McCrae (Institute for Government)

Please get in touch

We would like to hear from users, producers and other stakeholders with a keen interest in sharing their ideas.

Feel free to contact the project team – Penny Babb and Catherine Bremner – at any time by emailing regulation@statistics.gov.uk.