The aim of this document is to set out what we do and why, and our broad ambitions for future development.

It is intended to provide a light touch guide for people who have not previously been aware of the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), and to clarify our ambitions for those producers and users of statistics who are more familiar with what we do.

In 2016, the Bean Review of Economic Statistics recommended that the Authority’s monitoring and assessment function should be transferred into a more separate regulatory office. OSR was established in November 2016. In July 2019, the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee made a series of recommendations to further strengthen the role of OSR and enhance our effectiveness. We welcome the reinforcement of our value and are implementing the Committee’s recommendations.

Since our creation we have established a clear philosophy based around the importance of trustworthiness, quality and value.

This philosophy is embedded in the updated Code of Practice for Statistics, which we launched in February 2018. It has infused the work of all public sector bodies that produce official statistics, and enthused organisations that have adopted the principles of the Code on a voluntary basis. The fact that organisations have adopted these principles even though they do not have to is one of the strongest testaments to their power.

This document sets out OSR’s vision and mission.

Our vision is simple. Statistics should serve the public good.

What does the public good mean? It means far more than the traditional notion that statistics provide the evidence base for policy decisions by Ministers and Parliaments, important though this is. Statistics should meet the needs of a much wider range of users and this is the essence of how they serve the public good.

Statistics should help inform decisions made by a wider group of organisations, including charities, researchers, trade unions, businesses and community groups. And they help those civil society organisations hold governments to account. Statistics can also influence choices made by citizens: how they vote, where they live and a wide range of other decisions. And statistics inform many public and political debates, sitting at the centre of discussions of health, education, the economy, crime, the environment and many other topics. This pervasive use means that statistics are a key part of the construction of a sense of place, society and democracy.

Statistics serve the public good when they meet all these uses. But sometimes they fail to do so. They can fail to be relevant or accurate; producers can fail to innovate or make their data widely available; the statistics can fail to give a sufficiently fine-grained picture of what is going on in society; there can be gaps, whereby key areas of policy and society are not described by statistical outputs; and data can be used in ways that jar with public attitudes and public consent. And statistics can be used in ways that also do not serve the public good: precise numbers can be used to give a misleading picture of what the statistics actually say; too much weight can be put on statistics; or they can be described incorrectly.

It is the role of OSR to support confidence in statistics by addressing these harms and ensuring that statistics fulfil the vision that they serve the public good.

This vision document sets out how we go about doing this.

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation