Innovation and involving users

The Code of Practice for Statistics encourages innovation and improvement and highlights the need for accredited official statistics (called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007) and other official statistics to remain relevant for use, to provide a dynamic public service. This can mean changing some existing statistics or designing new ones to meet information needs or take advantage of emerging opportunities.

This is not a call for change for change’s sake. Instead, producers should keep alert to the developments and opportunities in evolving technologies and methods, to improve estimates, to better meet the public good, as well as to fill information gaps.

It requires a growing understanding of emerging user needs, to support producers in recognising when existing statistics are no longer relevant and can be replaced by new or improved statistics.

Official statistics in development status provides a clear statement of the nature of the official statistics going through development and testing, with a potentially wider degree of uncertainty in the resulting estimates as the methods and processes are established and verified.

Testing of the official statistics allows producers to gain a good understanding of their quality, including their accuracy and reliability, and their value. It is a helpful approach for introducing and testing new statistics.

Users are central to this process – without their involvement, producers will have an incomplete understanding of the suitability of the statistics. Producers should plan from the outset of the development how users can be involved and the most effective stages to gain their input.

User input can take different forms, depending on the nature of the situation. Check out OSR’s guidance on user engagement which has a simple framework for getting the most from working with users. It highlights some considerations for innovation and improvement.

Take a proportionate approach that is targeted on gathering the required information: obtain views about the suitability of the statistical method; check how clear are the explanations about quality and appropriate use. Producers can decide about the scale of engagement needed by first thinking about the public interest profile of the statistics, for example, by asking:

  • What use is/will be made of the statistics?
  • Who uses/will use the statistics?
  • How broad is the user base?
  • What decisions do the statistics impact?

The use context can help producers decide how to tailor their approach, to hear a range of experiences that inform their understanding. A lower public interest profile of the statistics can mean that engagement and testing with a narrower set of users is sufficient. In contrast, the development of statistics with a high public interest profile could mean using a range of ways to involve users in testing and sharing their views will be best to gain confidence about the suitability of the method and statistics.

Summary of key issues to consider:

  • What is the purpose and so what statistics and development are required?
  • What will the development mean for the official statistics being published – what is the impact on their quality and use and do the statistics need to be labelled as ‘official statistics in development’?
  • How can you involve users and how can you keep them informed about the development and its progress?
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