The UK Statistics Authority’s vision is simple: Statistics should serve the public good. By championing high standards, we seek to uphold public confidence in statistics that serve the public good.
As part of governments’ communications on the pandemic there have been high profile public briefings, media interviews and statements from each of the four governments of the UK. These have rightly drawn on data and analysis to support decisions being announced.
However, the use of data has not consistently been supported by transparent information being provided in a timely manner. As a result, there is potential to confuse the public and undermine confidence in the statistics.
It is important that data are shared in a way that promotes transparency and clarity. It should be published in a clear and accessible form with appropriate explanations of context and sources. It should be made available to all at the time the information is referenced publicly.
In the context of the pandemic there are three things which governments should consistently do to support transparency:
- where data are used publicly, the sources of these data or the data themselves should be published alongside any press briefing and associated slides to allow people to understand their strengths and limitations
- where models are referred to publicly, particularly to inform significant policy decisions, the model outputs, methodologies and key assumptions should be published at the same time
- where key decisions are justified by reference to statistics or management information, the underlying data should be made available
When data and associated information are made available it should be done in an orderly way, and in a way that is equally accessible to all.
It is clear that those working on the pandemic face significant pressures. But full transparency is vital to public understanding and public confidence in statistics and those who use them.