Sharing official statistics and other statistics prior to release

Is it OK for us to share data or statistics with a key stakeholder, for example, for quality assurance of the estimates or to input into a project, and to release to the public later?

When preparing some official statistics for publication, the statistics can be shared for quality assurance purposes, such as sense checking the method or the data. The legislation requires that accurate records are maintained of those who receive the statistics. [Practice T3.3]

The Pre-release Access Orders for each administration allow for information to be shared ahead of publication when it is needed to produce other official statistics that will be published at the same time or shortly afterwards.

Ensure that anyone with access prior to publication is clear about their role and the need to prevent any disclosure – any indication of the statistics or messages they convey. This will typically restrict access to named individuals within teams and may affect the way they work with their colleagues during that access period. [Practice T3.4]

Unpublished data, such as management information from administrative sources or provisional/uncleaned survey data, can be shared on a restricted basis for operational
purposes on a strictly need-to-know basis. Clear guidance should be provided with the data to ensure everyone receiving the information understands how they should handle it. Publishing this kind of information also should be conducted in an orderly way, ensuring equality of access on release; otherwise, confidence in the official statistics will be harmed.

Statistics producers may undertake other analytical activities, producing statistics that are not official statistics but that may be published, such as statistical research projects. When considering sharing this kind of information prior to publication, it is important to think through the nature of the involvement of the stakeholders, such as other departments. Anticipate the role of the stakeholders, being clear about what information you need to share and why. Plan from the outset the points at which information will be shared and how it will be protected. Be transparent in your plans about the role of the stakeholders and the nature of any data sharing. [Practices T6.3 and T6.4]

Be open about the point at which the statistics will be released publicly and in what form. [Practices T3.1 and T3.5]

Publishing ad hoc statistics releases

How should we handle ad hoc statistics?

It is important to provide fair and equal access to both regular and ad hoc official statistics. [Practices V2.1, T2.1 and T3.1]

The National Statistician’s guidance on management information and official statistics sets out the standards for ad hoc statistics releases (see the Annex):

All ad hoc statistical releases should:

  1. be clearly labelled as official statistics;
  2. be accompanied by an explanation as to why the release is being published;
  3. ideally be pre-announced, even if this is literally only a day or two ahead of publication (in exceptional circumstances even a few hours’ pre-announcement can help prepare users);
  4. include commentary that draws out the main messages in the statistics in a way that the non-expert user can reasonably be expected to understand. This should include reference to the policy or operational context relevant to the statistics, and new information or insights provided by the statistics; and
  5. include, or link to, information about methods and quality.

Where your department decides to release ad hoc statistics or other data such as management information as non-official statistics, we strongly recommend that you
voluntarily apply the Code. For example, MHCLG has voluntarily adopted the Code in publishing its monthly data for the building safety programme. It provides a statement of compliance in each bulletin describing its approach to achieving Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.

Revisions and corrections

How should we handle revisions and corrections under Code 2.0?

Confidence in the independence and integrity of statistics producers is encouraged by being open about decision making, so be transparent about your approach to scheduled revisions and unscheduled corrections. Publish your policy. Release revisions and corrections as soon as is practicable, prominently announcing their release. [Practice T3.9]

When considering a correction, you will need to apply appropriate professional judgement to determine whether the impact is sufficient to merit publishing the amendment. This decision needs to be consistent with your organisation’s revisions and corrections policy. It will guide you in deciding the seriousness of the errors in relation to the public interest of the statistics. If necessary, seek the advice and guidance of your Head of Profession. [Practices T2.3 and T5.6]

For corrections, you need to issue the statement and amendment as quickly as you reasonably can with a clear notice about the changes. Alert users and potential users to the corrections. Try to anticipate the impact the changes will make on users’ decisions and try to advise how to mitigate that impact.

Where the revisions are scheduled, treat them as other official statistics and pre-announce their publication date in the release calendar. [Practice T3.1]

Be sure to explain clearly the scale, nature, cause and impact of the changes in the statistics. [Practice Q3.4]

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