Accredited Official Statistics Policy

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The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. Under the Statistics and Regulation Service Act 2007, OSR independently reviews whether official statistics comply with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics.

We do this through a tailored assessment process where we evaluate the extent to which official statistics meet the standards set out in the Code. If, following our independent review, we judge that the official statistics comply with the Code, they become accredited. Accredited official statistics are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. They display the National Statistics badge.

The Code sets the standards for producing all official statistics at every stage of development. Chief Statisticians and Heads of Profession for Statistics ensure that their analysts apply the Code to all official statistics and promote the sharing of good practice.

We maintain the  List of Accredited Official Statistics (previously known as the List of National Statistics) on our website. It is a comprehensive list of all statistical outputs that OSR has independently reviewed and accredited. Under the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, producers must maintain their compliance with the Code when producing and publishing their accredited official statistics.

Producers are encouraged to include the following information on their published statistics when compliance has been confirmed by OSR:

“These accredited official statistics were independently reviewed by the Office for Statistics Regulation in [month/year]. They comply with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics and should be labelled ‘accredited official statistics’.”

For accredited official statistics, the National Statistics badge must be displayed alongside the statistics. The badge should be shown at the top of the first page of a report. Online, the badge is generally displayed in the top right of the web page. The badge would not be shown in the other supporting documentation, but these should make clear their relevance to the accredited official statistics.

Accredited official statistics can be presented alongside official statistics or with other data. In these situations, it is essential that the provenance of the different types of data is explained. Clear information about the relative strengths and limitations of the data is vital.

Our regulatory guidance note Publishing Official and National Statistics illustrates how some producers make clear the provenance of their data and statistics, including a National Statistics web publication, an official statistics release, and the publication of (non-OS) management information.

How does accreditation apply to other types of statistical outputs?

Sometimes, additional secondary analyses (not just simply re-presentations of existing statistics) are published separately from the main statistical release but using the same methods and sources. These can be accredited subject to us conducting a compliance review. Our primary focus would be to determine the extent to which users’ needs relating to the secondary analysis have been established, and whether the statistics are presented, explained and caveated in ways that meet those needs.

Similarly, the accreditation can extend to series of reports or articles published relating to a single broad theme using a common data source, but on different detailed topics (for example, the Health and Safety Executive’s topic-specific reports: causes of ill health and occupational disease). We consider these as a single series, put together to common standards, even though the detailed topic of a particular report might vary from time to time. The accreditation would apply across the suite of related outputs without a separate assessment being necessary.

As with other official statistics, accredited official statistics are not limited to being presented solely in a statistical bulletin. Instead, they can be released in more-flexible and varied ways and can be part of a package of information.

The Code encourages the presentation of clear and detailed narrative for statistical topics. This type of commentary can also accompany related releases of statistics. It can be particularly helpful for users when statistics producers work together to provide greater insight into a topic.

Compendium publications draw together already-published sets of accredited official statistics (often including unaccredited official statistics and possibly other data as well) into a single compilation:

  • National Records of Scotland’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends, is an example of a wide ranging collection of accredited official statistics with detailed analyses presented in a PDF report, supported by Excel data tables and charts, as well as an infographic summary
  • the Defra compendium, UK Biodiversity Indicators, produced on behalf of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, a cross-government group, presents a wide range of accredited official statistics and official statistics. It has been accredited in its own right
  • NHS Digital’s Statistics on Smoking, England compendium presents an online collection of related statistics drawn from a wide range of sources, with descriptions of the main statistics supported by charts, data tables, infographics and a summary PDF report

Assessments of these types of publications relate to the processes involved in bringing together the sets of statistics into a single collection with an overarching narrative. The assessment would review the way that users have been engaged in relation to the producer body deciding which statistics are to be drawn together, the adequacy of summary commentary about the various sets of statistics, and links to where the reader can find more information about the individual sets of statistics.

Accreditation of a compendium publication means that the producer body has, for example: identified and met user needs in terms of the content of the publication; considered the quality of each series for inclusion; and written appropriate commentary.

The assessment of a compendium does not mean therefore that any or all the individual sets of statistics within it are accredited in their own right. Such accreditation would require that users’ needs have been established and considered in publishing the individual sets of statistics – the user need might be quite different (in terms of timeliness, presentation and so on) for statistics presented on their own, compared with that for a compendium.

This means that:

  • any sets of statistics being released for the first time as part of a compendium publication, would need to be assessed formally and specifically as part of the assessment of the compendium if they were to be granted accreditation in their own right;
  • official statistics included within an accredited compendium would similarly not be accredited in their own right without specific, formal assessment against the Code; and
  • other data within the compendium would not be classified as either official statistics or accredited official statistics simply by virtue of having been included within an accredited compendium

Scenarios relating to the transfer of statistical production from one body to another

Where accredited official statistics transfer to a producer that has demonstrated to OSR that its organisational practices comply with the Code, the accreditation will generally be retained upon the assurance from the receiving Head of Profession for Statistics (HoP) (or Lead Official for arms-length bodies) that the new producer will continue to produce the statistics in compliance with the Code.

We would likely conduct a compliance review to verify the appropriate transfer of the statistics. Depending on their importance and an evaluation of risk, the statistics may be prioritised for early re-assessment once processes have been bedded down in the new producer.

Where accredited official statistics transfer to an official statistics producer that has not been subject to an assessment of its statistics, the accreditation will generally be retained upon the assurance from the receiving HoP that the new producer will continue to produce the statistics in compliance with the Code.

We would conduct a compliance review to confirm that the appropriate arrangements are in place. Depending on their importance and an evaluation of risk, we would prioritise the statistics for early re-assessment once processes have been bedded down in the new producer.

The producer should include a statement alongside the published statistics along the following lines:

“These statistics have not been formally assessed for compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics since their transfer from [sending organisation]. The Office for Statistics Regulation is planning to assess the statistics for compliance with the Code of Practice in the near future. We commit to producing and publishing the statistics in line with the Code pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.”

We encourage the producer to also publish its own brief statement of compliance with the Code, setting out its approach to the three pillars.

Where a set of statistics has recently been assessed and is addressing areas for improvement, the relevant HoP should discuss the arrangements for meeting the relevant assessment requirements with the Office for Statistics Regulation.

Where the organisation is new to publishing official statistics, for example, is being placed on the Official Statistics Order, it can be helpful to initially voluntarily adopt the Code pillars as the producer becomes familiar with the standards of the Code – see the online Code for more information about voluntary adoption.

  • For example, Qualification Wales initially adopted the Code pillars voluntarily when first publishing Vocational and Other Qualifications Quarterly. It has since released the statistics as official statistics, applying the Code of Practice.

Cancelling or Suspending accreditation

Accreditation – the confirmation of Code compliance for accredited official statistics (which are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007) – can be suspended or cancelled should substantial non-compliance be identified. In these situations, OSR would issue an improvement notice to the producer of the statistics, flagging the areas of practice to be addressed.

The improvement notice will include the statement:

“The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) cancelled/suspended the accreditation of the [name of statistics] on [month/year], having concluded that they no longer comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics. The main areas to be addressed are…. OSR will review the statistics once these areas have been addressed to reassess compliance with the Code.”

OSR will tailor the improvement notice to reflect the individual circumstance, for example, to highlight where the producer has raised their concern with OSR about Code compliance and requested cancellation – OSR welcomes producers raising such matters.

Where a producer informs OSR that it is unable to comply with a key aspect of the Code, OSR will review the situation and consider whether to suspend or cancel the accreditation. OSR will share its view about non-compliance with the producer, and, depending on the severity of the concerns, allow a period of time for the producer to respond.

Where the producer has plans to address the improvement areas within one year, OSR will suspend the accreditation while those actions are taken, and subject to a light touch review will re-accredit once complete.

For cancelled accreditations, once all remedial actions have been completed to the satisfaction of the Head of Profession for Statistics, OSR will undertake an assessment to confirm compliance with the Code.

OSR will update the List of Accredited Official Statistics and List of Cancelled or Suspended Accreditations (formerly called the register of de-designations).

The statistics should be labelled as ‘official statistics’ and the producer should highlight the suspension/cancellation of the accreditation by OSR and its date. They should make clear the steps being taken to address the areas for improvement and the limitations of the statistics. They should also provide clear information to support appropriate use. The producer should explain the timescale to address the improvements required and keep users informed of progress.

The producer should provide a link to OSR’s improvement notice alongside the statistics and, where the statistics continue to be published, should give clear advice to users on the areas of strengths and limitations to guide their use.

Producers should publish an action plan to address the requirements alongside the statistics and provide a link to the plan with the published statistics, and keep users updated on progress.

The statistics must not be published if they will materially mislead users. If the statistics do not bear the weight of the decisions made using them, producers should immediately review whether they should continue to publish them or give clearer guidance to protect against inappropriate use.

The development of official statistics is encouraged within the Code of Practice – it is important for all statistics to remain relevant and valuable. Where a producer undertakes substantial re-development of some accredited official statistics, it should seek permission from OSR to suspend the accreditation. The List of Accredited Official Statistics will be updated to reflect the suspension and indicating that they have been re-classified as official statistics in development.