Official Statistics in Development

What are Official Statistics in Development?

Official statistics in development are official statistics that are undergoing a development; they may be new or existing statistics, and will be tested with users, in line with the standards of trustworthiness, quality, and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics. Until September 2023, they were called ‘experimental statistics’. Official statistics in development are developed under the guidance of the Head of Profession for Statistics (HoP). The goal is to develop statistics that can, in due course, be produced to the standards of the Code.

The Code has a strong emphasis on innovation and improvement in ensuring the enduring public value of official statistics. The world doesn’t remain static – change is an inevitable part of life. Consequently, it is essential for producers of statistics to remain vigilant:

  • to identify the opportunities to use new sources and methods,
  • to recognise fresh needs for information among users, and
  • to review existing statistics to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of users.

The developments will usually relate to new statistics but may occasionally refer to major developments to existing statistics. Producers need to be open and transparent about their approach to the development of their statistics and enable users to be involved in the testing of the statistics.

Producers should explain the nature of the development and consider what information users need to know about to maintain their confidence and support their understanding – include information such as what the statistics are, the need for them, the data sources and methods used, any coverage or quality concerns, and information about the nature of testing and its outcome

Producers should provide a plan, highlighting the expected time frame, progress, and the points at which users can be involved.

When to use the label ‘official statistics in development’

The label ‘official statistics in development’ should only be used where the producer thinks users need to be aware of the development to support appropriate interpretation.

The label of ‘official statistics in development’ does not apply to methodological research in which an output is published to illustrate the methods.

All official statistics, including those undergoing a development, must be a meaningful representation of the subject they are intended to measure and of sufficient quality to be used, to be suitable to be published.

Replacing the Official Statistics in Development Label

The label of ‘official statistics in development’ can be replaced by the label of ‘official statistics’ once the evaluation has been completed. The producer should have decided that the statistics are suitable and of public value, and explained their strengths and limitations.

Producers will review whether to:

  • change the ‘official statistics in development’ label and to publish under the ‘official statistics’ label
  • stop publishing the statistics as they do not meet the required need or are of insufficient quality
  • continue the development where further refinement is required or there is insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion and continue to publish as ‘official statistics in development’

The producer may wish for the statistics to become accredited official statistics to demonstrate their compliance against the Code of Practice for Statistics. The same process would be followed as for other official statistics, with the Head of Profession contacting OSR and requesting an assessment. OSR will discuss with the HoP the assessment approach, to ensure it is both proportionate and sufficiently enables OSR to verify the statistical practice against the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code.

Further guidance on official statistics in development

We have published regulatory guidance about official statistics in development which sets out our expectations of producing these statistics in relation to the Code of Practice. This guidance is currently being updated and extended.

The GSS has published guidance on the Analysis Function’s guidance hub, to assist producers in developing experimental statistics.