In this review, we focus on the current state of the UK’s statistical system.
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested all aspects of our society and our lives within it, and the statistical system has been no exception.
Our review focuses on the five thematic areas which we have found to be central to the statistical system’s response. Areas where we would like to see the positive momentum of the past year harnessed and improvements made to ensure that statistics and data serve the public good now and in the future.
Building on the momentum of the past year: five thematic areas
Statistical producers (producers) across the UK governments have been responsive and proactive in producing data and statistics to support policy and to provide wider information to the public which really adds value. The UK statistical system should:
- Continue to be responsive and proactive in its delivery of statistics.
- Horizon-scan to identify existing and future data gaps and consider how these gaps should be addressed.
- Consider how best to use better infrastructure, processes and systems to improve the efficiency and sustainability of its processes.
Producers have responded impressively to the need for very timely data to ensure that decisions around responses to the pandemic are based on the most up-to-date evidence. The UK statistical system should:
- Continue to identify ways to be timely in its delivery of data and statistics, balancing the need for timeliness with accuracy and reliability, coherence and comparability.
- Consider users’ needs when deciding how best to address this balance and be clear with users about the limitations of specific approaches.
Collaboration and data sharing and linkage have been a key strength of both the UK statistical system and the wider analytical community over the past year. This more joined-up approach has improved our understanding of the impact of the pandemic both on public health and on wider areas such as employment and the economy. The UK statistical system should:
- Build on the progress made in the past year and be more collaborative.
- Share and link data in a secure way to really add value and deliver the public good. With data sharing and data linkage becoming the norm.
We have seen some good examples of clearly presented and insightful statistics which serve the public good. The UK statistical system should:
- Continue to improve its communication and presentation of statistics and data, with a focus on adding insight.
- Support statisticians to have greater freedom to engage openly about data and statistics and their limitations, both within and outside government.
For statistics to serve the public good they must be trustworthy, and this includes statistics being used and published in an open and transparent way. We have seen efforts to put information in the public domain and producers voluntarily applying the Code of Practice for Statistics (‘the Code’) to their outputs. However, inevitably the increased volume of and demand for data has placed a greater burden on producers and led to selected figures being quoted publicly when the underlying data are not in the public domain. The UK statistical system should:
- Make transparency the default across all statistics and data.
- Promote voluntary application of the Code pillars for sources of analysis and data that are not official statistics to ensure that the pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value are embedded across all statistics and data.