Ed Humpherson to Eugene Mooney: Publication of open and accessible COVID-19 data in Northern Ireland  

Dear Eugene 

 Publication of open and accessible COVID-19 data in Northern Ireland 

The Department of Health (NI) dashboard provides a wealth of data on COVID-19. Over the past months we have seen improvements to the dashboard, for example the inclusion of time series data for care home outbreaks. We appreciate the work you and your team are doing to respond to user needs.  

 In previous communications with my team, we have asked you to consider how the data underpinning the dashboard can be published in a more accessible way. This week you have started to release these data daily in excel, as well as pdf format. We welcome this development to improve user access to these data and are pleased to see you have clearly signposted the dataset from the dashboard. It will allow easier navigation and encourage re-use of the data by users. We also recognise revisions to the data may be likely: The Department of Health (NI) should clearly explain any revisions or corrections made to the data, in line with the expectations set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics. 

 My team will continue to liaise with you on the important data and statistics you provide on the COVID-19 pandemic and how you continue to respond to user needs.  

 Yours sincerely 

 

Ed Humpherson 

Director General for Regulation 

 

Response from Ed Humpherson OSR, to Dr Eugene Mooney, DoH NI: regarding statistical information relating to COVID-19 in Northern Ireland

Dear Eugene,

Thank you for your letter dated 30 April 2020. Given the importance of these statistics, I am encouraged to hear that the daily COVID-19 related statistics for Northern Ireland will be published today through a public facing dashboard.

I am happy to confirm the exemption from the Code of Practice for Statistics’ standard publication time of 9.30am, to permit a later release time of 2.00pm each day, starting on Friday 1 May 2020. I also welcome your intention to provide more comprehensive information, through reviewing the content, in line with user feedback.

Thank you for considering these issues carefully, and for all you are doing to ensure the provision of trustworthy, high quality and high value statistics during this very difficult time.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

 

 

Related links:

Letter from Dr Eugene Mooney regarding statistical information relating to COVID-19 in Northern Ireland

Letter from Ed Humpherson to Richard Pengelly regarding statistical information relating to COVID-19 in Northern Ireland

Letter regarding statistical information relating to COVID-19 in Northern Ireland

Dear Mr Pengelly

I am writing to you following our useful conversation earlier today about the provision of trustworthy and complete statistical information relating to COVID-19 in Northern Ireland.

The background is that over the past two weeks there have been a number of changes to the reporting of these figures for Northern Ireland. Responsibility for the daily reporting of surveillance data moved from the Public Health Authority (PHA) to Department of Health (DoH) on Sunday 19th April (at 5pm) with the release of a COVID-19 Statistics dashboard. This dashboard was suspended two days later on the grounds that a figure in it was incorrect, with limited explanation of the nature of the error.

In place of the dashboard, less complete daily statistics are now being released by the DoH through daily news releases on the departmental website and through Twitter announcements.

It is clear that the Department wants to address these issues and resume publication of a comprehensive set of data on COVID-19, once you are assured of the quality of the data. The figures for COVID-19 are of huge public interest. As you work with your statisticians to fulfil this ambition, in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics, you should be guided by the following general principles:

  • Daily surveillance statistics should be released in a transparent, easily accessible and orderly way. A news release on the departmental website and Twitter are not sufficient.
  • There are gaps in the data and daily time series have been lost since the statistics began to be issued through DoH news releases. These gaps and losses need to be addressed.
  • Data and statistics should be accompanied with clear information on data sources, definitions and explanations. Users should be provided with appropriate context and explanation, particularly now, where different statistics from different data sources are being produced and used in relation to COVID-19.
  • Communication to users of the statistics should be improved so they know in advance about any changes and where and when they can find the changed statistics.

The advice of the Senior Statistician within the Department should always be sought in matters relating to statistics and data, and they should have sole authority for deciding the methods, standards and procedures and the content and timing of the release of official statistics.

I know there is serious public concern about the changes that have been made to the COVID-19 statistics and I look forward to your reply. I would be happy to discuss.

I am copying this letter to Siobhan Carey, Chief Statistician for Northern Ireland.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

Related links:

Letter from Eugene Mooney, NISRA