Definition of official statistics
Official statistics are statistics produced by Crown bodies and other organisations included on one of the Official Statistics Orders, on behalf of the UK government and devolved administrations. As described in the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics (FPOS) handbook, official statistics provide a factual basis for assessment and decisions on economic, social and environmental issues at all levels of society.
The FPOS handbook (section 1.3.2) states that all statistics produced by statistics producers are assumed to be official statistics except for those where explicitly stated as not official. The label of ‘official statistics in development’ does not apply to methodological research in which an output is published to illustrate the methods and where statistics are in early stages of development.
Data from management information systems, published for transparency purposes about the delivery of the policies or to support policy statements, are not official statistics – we recommend they follow OSR’s intelligent transparency guidance. For further guidance, see OSR’s guide on the essential characteristics of official statistics and published management information.
Applying the Code of Practice for Statistics
Producers of official statistics follow the professional standards in the Code of Practice for Statistics, to provide official statistics that serve the public good. The Code pillars of trustworthiness, quality and value (TQV) are universal and can be helpful for all data, statistics and analysis for the analysts and provide reassurance to the users of the information. TQV provide a common-sense guide to practice and reassurance about their rigor and integrity.
Official statistics producers must meet the standards of the Pre-release Access Order for their administration, if allowing pre-release access of the statistics in their final form for briefing purposes.
OSR encourages official statistics producers to include the following statement on their official statistics webpages:
“Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).
OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.
You are welcome to contact us directly with any comments about how we meet these standards.
Alternatively, you can contact OSR by emailing email@example.com or via the OSR website.”
You can report concerns about official statistics via our raise a concern form.
Publishing official statistics
It is important that the provenance of statistics is clear. When publishing official statistics, the producer should clearly state that they are official statistics. Producers should demonstrate how they are following the Code in their work, for example, by including a clear, brief statement explaining how they reflect the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value. These statements should highlight any areas within the statistics that producers are working to improve (including links to relevant material as is helpful to users), to reassure users that the Code of Practice has been applied in the preparation of the statistics.
For data not published as official statistics, we strongly encourage producers to voluntarily apply the Code pillars in the preparation and publication of the outputs.
Official statistics are disseminated in a variety of formats, such as: online reports, in PDF formats, infographics and dashboards, statistics topic web pages and online tools for data tabulation and interrogation by users.
The statistics should be accompanied by supporting material that helps to explain the data, methods, and quality issues. Producers should provide guidance on how to use the statistics. Outputs can range from simple collections of data to complex analyses. Related outputs can be published at the same time or separately and be linked through an overarching narrative for the topic. The statistics can be accompanied by source data and coding to support their replication and reuse. Official statistics can be derived from a range of types of data, including transactional data and management information where the source is often an administrative or operational system, from surveys and other sources such as web-scrapped and commercial data.
Statistical tables may be released, such as in open data or CSV formats, or in other forms such as data cubes, or large pre-designed table collections, through online tools such as dashboards, with charting, mapping and analysis functions.
As well as a variety of modes, the outputs may be published over time rather than in one batch. Releases can vary from statistics being published in real time, to being published on an annual basis. It is vital that clear navigation is provided across the range of related statistical material to ensure appropriate guidance and support is provided to users.