Regulation of official statistics
The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the UK’s statistics regulator. Its principal roles are to set the Code of Practice for Statistics (the Code), assess compliance against it, accredit those that are assessed to have complied and report on concerns
OSR’s main regulatory tools are assessing compliance against the Code, reviewing wider topic areas, and investigating reported misuses of statistics
Office for Statistics Regulation
Official statistics are regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). OSR is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority (the Authority), and ensures that statistics are produced and disseminated in the public good.
OSR maintains the Code of Practice for Statistics (the Code) and accredits official statistics that it assesses to meet its requirements for trustworthiness, quality and value. It also reports publicly on system wide issues and on the way statistics are being used, and challenges publicly when standards are not upheld. OSR’s 5-year Strategic Business Plan sets out its priorities for 2020-2025. These are delivered through the annual business plan.
OSR’s main regulatory tools are:
- Compliance reviews of official statistics against the Code Systemic reviews of statistics on a topic area to understand how well or poorly society’s information need for that area is being served
- Investigating cases where reported misuse of statistics takes place.
The Code of Practice for Statistics
The Code sets the standards that producers of official statistics should commit to. It is based on three pillars, which together support public confidence in statistics:
- Trustworthiness: Confidence in the people and organisations that produce statistics and data
- Quality: Data and methods that produce assured statistics
- Value: Statistics that support society’s needs for information
Under each of these pillars, there are principles which provide greater detail, and under each principle there are detailed practices that producers of official statistics should commit to when producing and releasing official statistics. Official statistics that are assessed by OSR as meeting the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value are referred to as accredited official statistics. Accredited official statistics are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act (2007).
There are other regulatory bodies whose remits may overlap with that of OSR. Bodies that regulate across multiple topic areas include:
- Advertising Standards Agency (ASA): ASA regulates advertising across UK media, therefore if an advert includes official statistics, it may be relevant to both ASA and OSR
- Information Commissioners Office (ICO): ICO is the UK’s independent body set up to uphold information rights, therefore the data that official statistics are based on fall under their remit, and the distinction between this data and the statistics is sometimes unclear
- Office of Communications (Ofcom): Ofcom is the UK regulator for communications services, therefore statistics being used on television or the radio (including parliamentary television) would fall under both their remit and that of OSR
In addition, there are also regulators for specific topic areas that may overlap with OSR. An example of topic-specific regulators may be for education in England, where there is Ofsted, Ofqual and Office for Students which all have regulatory roles and produce official statistics. Some of these regulators may be governed by their own legislation, which (when conflicting) takes precedence over the Code. This is because although the 2007 Act requires the Code to be prepared, adopted and published, the specific wording and provisions set out in the Code is not specified in law.Back to top