Annex A: Summary of progress since last year


In last year’s State of the statistical system report, we highlighted eight key areas where improvements could be made across the system. A summary of progress made against each of these areas is set out in this Annex.  

Statistical leadership 

We have seen positive examples of strong statistical leadership from within and outside the statistics profession during the pandemic. As we have highlighted in this report, the profile of statistics and data has never been higher. We are encouraged to see statisticians and data analysts taking an increased role in communicating statistics and data widely, both through their own statistical outputs and through increased engagement with the media. Statistical leadership remains an ongoing area of focus. Our Review of statistical leadership, published in February this year, sets out the findings from our review of statistical leadership and looks at how statistical leadership can be strengthened across government. 

Voluntary application of the Code beyond official statistics 

As highlighted throughout this report, the distinction between official statistics and data has become increasingly blurred over the last year. The section on transparency and trustworthiness notes that we have seen a marked increase in the number of producers publishing administrative data and management information, and applying the principles of the Code to these data. This includes both the coronavirus dashboards and other regular outputs that have been developed in response to the pandemic more broadly. In addition to this we have seen an increase in the number of organisations using Voluntary Application of the Code for releases in areas outside of COVID-19. In October 2020 we announced our first winners for the Voluntary Application of the Code Award, and this award will be presented again in 2021. We also provide details of  organisations voluntarily applying the Code to specific outputs on our Code of Practice for Statistics website. We hope that the progress made in this area will continue as the pressures of the pandemic start to ease. 

Quality assurance of administrative data 

Overall progress here has been mixed. Through our wider regulatory activities, such as assessments and compliance checks, we have identified that an increasing number of producers are using our Quality Assurance for Administrative Data (QAAD) toolkit to assure themselves of the quality of their data. However, a significant proportion still are not, and this remains a priority area that we have continued to ask producers to address in several our assessment reports this year. Throughout the course of the year, statisticians and analysts have continued to improve their communication around the quality of data relating to the pandemic and its wider effects. This is a trend we would like to see continue more broadly across data and statistics in topics outside of the pandemic. 

Communicating uncertainty 

As we have highlighted in this report, the shift by many producers to more timely data and statistics in response to the pandemic has been commendable. However, communicating any uncertainty and limitations associated with more timely data is vital. Overall, statisticians and data analysts have done a good job of explaining key statistical concepts related to uncertainty in ways that are easy for members of the public to digest. More broadly, however, progress here has been somewhat limited and there remains an ongoing need for producers to communicate aspects of uncertainty through their wider publications. This is an area where we are continuing to push for developments through our wider regulatory activities. 

Adopting new tools, methods, and data sources 

This is another area where we have seen real progress, largely in response to the need to provide new data quickly in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Much of the progress here is summarised under the section on responsive, proactive and agile. As noted in this section, it will be important as we emerge from the pandemic for producers to reflect on how things have changed in the past year and identify where outputs should return to how they were and where the new approaches are more suitable. We also hope producers will reflect on the lessons they have learnt during the pandemic to enable them to be more innovative in their approach to new tools, methods and data sources going forwards. 

Telling fuller stories with data 

As highlighted in the section on collaboration, data sharing and data linkage, there has been some progress here but there remains more to be done. Producers have worked hard to share and link data, and to provide as comprehensive a picture as possible, to help us understand the effects of the pandemic. However, to fully exploit the opportunities that are available to producers, this collaboration and data sharing needs to continue and increase. More systems need to be connected to one another, particularly in the health and social care sectors, and access to data needs to continue to improve. This is an area where we will continue to monitor progress and push for improvements as necessary. 

Providing authoritative insight 

Again, this is an area where we have seen some progress. As outlined in the clear and insightful section, we have seen several examples of producers developing their outputs throughout the course of the pandemic so that the data tells a comprehensive story. The profile of statisticians has increased hugely through the pandemic. The increased presence of statisticians on television and in social media is a welcome development in helping to provide insight in a way that is accessible to as broad a range of users as possible. It is important now that producers expand this thinking to outputs that go beyond the pandemic and its wider impacts and ensure that they are providing the necessary insight to as wide a range of data as possible. 

User engagement 

Progress in this area has understandably been challenging. On the one hand producers have told us that they’ve received more communications from users in the form of requests for COVID-related data than they’ve ever received in the past. On the other hand, it is likely that those users who have proactively engaged with producers represent a small and possibly non-representative sub-section of the wider user base, and many producers simply have not had the time to consider how to engage with users more broadly. Despite this, we have seen evidence that producers are considering how best to meet the needs of a wide range of users through their enhanced presentation and communication of data. We encourage producers to continue with this thinking as we emerge from the pandemic and to recommence a broad and proactive approach to user engagement as soon as is practicably possible.  

In February 2021, the UK User Engagement Strategy for statistics was published. We support the strategy’s aim to build a more meaningful and sustained dialogue between producers, users and potential users of statistics and other relevant stakeholders. We look forward to further progress on user engagement as the elements of the strategy’s plan are implemented. 

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