The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has been exploring how National Statistics designation is understood. We currently describe ‘National Statistics’ as the most important official statistics, which have been demonstrated, through OSR assessment, to meet the very highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value, set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics. Only they carry the unique logo of the National Statistics tick mark.
Through our exploratory review and subsequent research, we have identified issues with the current National Statistics designation and the use and wider understanding among users of statistics of the National Statistics label and badge. In January 2022, the UK Statistics Authority Board approved an exploration of ways to adapt and clarify the label of ‘National Statistics’. Our overarching goal in undertaking this exploration was to ensure that the meaning of the label ‘National Statistics’ – which is that the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value have been met – is clear to users and that producers are motivated to provide this reassurance.
We went into our exploratory work with the proposal to rely less on the label ‘National Statistics’ to provide assurance to users and, instead, to refer to designation as ‘accreditation’ and to emphasise its role as an independent review of official statistics. We hypothesised that these changes could reassure users, helping them to understand how OSR as the regulator has ensured that professional standards are being applied.
In our subsequent designation refresh project over the past year, we have been building from these ideas, developing and testing ways to reframe the designation to enable clearer messaging and the greater accountability in the production of official statistics (workstream 1). We have been working in collaboration with ONS Digital Communications – content designers, graphic designers and user testers – to conduct wide-ranging testing of proposed messaging associated with National Statistics, official statistics, experimental statistics and OSR’s role. Our designation refresh project has also been investigating how we can support producers in developing a Code culture (workstream 2) and ensuring our assessment process is able to match potential new demands (workstream 3).
Together, this work aims to inspire statistics producer bodies to embed a Code culture, to actively seek independent review to show they comply with the Code (showing the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value), and to enable producers to communicate the quality of their statistics more clearly. It also aims to reassure users and stakeholders, enabling them to make appropriate choices in their use of statistics, and decisions based on statistics, informed by prominent descriptions about the statistics.
This paper presents the findings from workstream 1 on the designation messaging, which has led us to decide to retain the label ‘National Statistics’, but to do more to clarify its meaning. We summarise the testing we have undertaken, which has explored how to effectively explain the process and meaning of designation, in a way that enhances user confidence.
Our testing has led us to propose several changes to the way that we communicate National Statistics and the designation process, as well as OSR’s role. We set out these proposals below and invite comments. Subject to any feedback received, we plan to implement changes in September 2023.
What changes are we proposing?
1) Clarifying the meaning of ‘National Statistics’
We propose to clarify the meaning of the designation by referring to ‘accreditation’ and saying ‘National Statistics are accredited official statistics’ on the OSR and UKSA websites and in all designated statistics, rather than using the label National Statistics alone.
2) Independent review
We propose to use the term ‘independent review’ to simplify our explanation of OSR’s regulatory role, including when we confirm Code compliance after assessment, and in compliance statements on statistical publications.
3) Improvement notice
We propose to further clarify our findings when removing or suspending an accreditation of compliance with the Code by publishing a notice that details improvements required, and we will require producers to publish an action plan to address these.
4) Accountability statement
We propose to recommend all producers display a new accountability statement to show users that they are accountable to a regulator.
5) Experimental statistics
We propose changing the label ‘experimental statistics’ to ‘official statistics in development’. This change will be incorporated in the Code of Practice for Statistics.
We invite anyone with any comments on the changes proposed in this document to get in touch with us at OSR by 08 September 2023.
Any comments on these changes can be sent to OSR:
Office for Statistics Regulation
UK Statistics Authority
1st Floor, 2 Marsham Street