Producers of official statistics

Key facts



The Statistics and Registration Service Act (2007) states that any person acting on behalf of the crown can produce official statistics



The largest producer of official statistics in the UK is the Office for National Statistics



There are many other government departments, organisations and arm’s length bodies across the UK who also produce official statistics as crown bodies



Statistics are produced by the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as by UK government



Non-crown bodies named in secondary legislation can also produce official statistics



Around 2700 Great Britain and Northern Ireland civil servants are statisticians



The statistical system also includes professions other than statisticians, for example researchers, methodologists and communication specialists

Bodies that produce official statistics

As set out in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (the 2007 Act) any person acting on behalf of the crown can produce official statistics. Examples of crown bodies are the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Scottish Government and Welsh Government.

The ONS is the largest producer of official statistics in the UK as well as the UK’s recognised National Statistics Institute. The ONS is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels. It also conducts the census in England and Wales every 10 years.

In addition to statistical production, ONS provides services across the statistical system and beyond, for example the Methodology Advisory Service, and the Approved Researcher Scheme. Much of the support for the Government Statistical Service (GSS) is also based in ONS, for example training courses and central recruitment. ONS is also home to the Data Science Campus, whose purpose is to apply data science and build skills for public good across the UK and internationally.

In Northern Ireland, official statistics are largely produced by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), which operates across multiple Northern Ireland government departments and also conducts the census in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, official statistics are mainly produced by Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland and National Records of Scotland. National Records of Scotland conduct the census in Scotland. In Wales, official statistics are most commonly produced by Welsh Government.

There are also numerous other central government and devolved government organisations that produce official statistics on behalf of the crown. In addition, non-crown bodies can produce official statistics if they are acting on behalf of another producer, for example when producers contract out statistical production to a third party. The 2007 Act states that non-crown bodies can be producers of official statistics if they are listed in secondary legislation. This secondary legislation names bodies that can produce official statistics (set out in the annex).

Size of the statistical system

There is no definitive measure of the size of the statistical system, however understanding the number of statisticians working in the statistical system gives an indication of its size.

As of 31st March 2022 (the most recent data), there were 2400 people recorded as statisticians in the UK civil service in published civil service statistics. Northern Ireland has a separate civil service, and as of 1st April 2022 (the most recent published data) had 315 members of staff recorded as statisticians in their published personnel statistics. To be recorded as a statistician often means being ‘badged’ as a member of the Government Statistician Group (GSG) – the ‘badge’ reflects a specific recruitment or certification process, but it does not mean that badged statistician are the only people working on statistics in government.

Roles in statistical production

Statistical production is not limited to the statistical analysis that statisticians specialise in, for example the responsibility of collecting data may fall to operational delivery professionals such as survey interviewers, questionnaire design often lies with social researchers, and methodologists can provide specialist technical perspectives such as on sampling.

While the Government Statistician Group (GSG) is made up of badged statisticians, the Government Statistical Service (GSS) is far wider, and includes all civil servants working in the collection, production and communication of official statistics in the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments. The GSS may include members of the GSG, alongside data scientists, researchers, economists, policy professionals, business support teams, data journalists, data visualisation experts, methodologists, communications specialists and more.

Whilst there are data on members of the GSG, there are no data on the number of individuals that make up the GSS.

In Northern Ireland, NISRA includes all government statisticians and some other staff working in the collection, production and communication of statistics. However in departments other than the Department of Finance (Northern Ireland) and arm’s length bodies, non-statistician staff working in these roles are employed directly by the host organisation and are not NISRA staff.

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