Why we did this review

In 2017, the Office for Statistics Regulation launched an investigation of the UK statistical system’s ability to provide greater insights to users via linked data. We also considered our role as supporters and regulators of its use. We were keen to take stock of the landscape before the new data sharing provisions for statistics and research introduced by the Digital Economy Act (DEA) 2017 were implemented.

What we found

The Review’s report Joining Up Data for Better Statistics was published in September 2018. It notes that:

  • Data linkage should be a vital component of the official statistics landscape.
  • Value is being squandered because this is not currently the case.
  • There are some powerful examples of data linkage being used in government to provide insights and drive policy change.
  • However, these success stories remain the exception, and the concern is that the efforts and time required to create these linked data resources can discourage others seeking to do similar work.

We identified six outcomes designed to deliver a safe and effective data linkage system to support statistics production and statistical research (this downloadable poster illustrates the vision). At the core is a system that demonstrates its trustworthiness as a custodian of public data and uses this as a platform to support greater use of data sharing and linking to deliver insights. The six outcomes, and our recommendations for action to achieve them, are set out in this summary booklet. The full report provides more detail about the work that led to these outcomes being identified and why they matter.

The National Statistician’s response

The National Statistician responded to Joining Up Data in January 2019 with:

  • A letter outlining the response;
  • A work plan;
  • Case studies of current practice across government;
  • New GSS web pages on data linking with various resources; and
  • Plans for a cross-government conference to be held in 2019, organised by the ONS Best Practice and Impact team.

What we are doing next

Our letter responding to the National Statistician in March 2019 welcomed this progress and highlighted some areas that still need further attention.

The formal review part of this work is now closed, but we are continuing our work to support the statistics system to add value through greater use of data linkage.

In 2019/20 we will be developing new regulatory guidance on public engagement and on documenting quality and methodology for official statistics based on linked data.

We are also continuing our review of NHS Digital’s data sharing and access processes to identify ways to ensure that the full potential of English health data can be realised (see May 2019 update).

We will be publishing a one-year update to Joining Up Data in September 2019.

If you are interested in supporting any of the work described here, or hearing more about it, please contact us.

Related Links

Ed Humpherson to John Pullinger (March 2019)

John Pullinger to Ed Humpherson (January 2019)

GSS – Data Linking

Ed Humpherson to Richard Heaton (October 2018)

Ed Humpherson to Peter Schofield (October 2018)

Ed Humpherson to Jonathan Slater (October 2018)

Ed Humpherson to Jon Thompson (October 2018)

Data Governance Guidance (October 2018)

Jeni Tennison guest blog (September 2018)

Ed Humpherson blog (September 2018)