In this report we set out the Office for Statistics Regulation’s (OSR’s) view on the current state of government statistics, with the future of the statistical system in mind. We highlight examples of statistical producers (producers) doing things well which we would like to see continue in the future, and the improvements we would like to see to ensure statistics and data better serve society’s needs.
Statistics and data produced by public bodies play a crucial role in answering people’s questions: providing accountability, helping people make choices and informing policy. Many of the key questions of the past year have been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as how many cases of COVID-19 have there been in my local area? How many people have been vaccinated? Statistics and data have helped to answer these questions, in turn helping people to make choices, such as where and when to go on holiday, and inform government policy, such as whether to relax lockdown restrictions. Statistics and data also continue to inform wider individual, local and government level decision-making, including what school to send your child to, where and when to buy a house, local planning decisions around education and housing and understanding how the labour market and economy are performing.
We also reflect on progress on the areas raised in last year’s report (see Annex A).
To most, the distinction between “official statistics” and other statistics and data published by government is arbitrary. Therefore, when we consider the UK statistical system, we think of it in the wider sense of all data and statistics produced by public bodies which publish “official statistics”. In response to the increased appetite for data and statistics to inform decisions around the pandemic we have increasingly commented on wider statistics and data produced by public sector bodies.
We have drawn from across our regulatory activity during the financial year April 2020 to March 2021 to inform our thinking and reflect on the performance of the UK’s statistical system. This includes assessments, casework, compliance checks and systemic reviews. We have also held meetings with Heads of Profession for Statistics across government, the National Statistician, statistical leaders in the devolved administrations and external statistical commentators.
The audience for this report is primarily the UK statistical system. But over the past year we have increasingly observed the relevance of our trustworthiness, quality and value approach to statistics regulation to wider data and evidence. We therefore also believe that there are lessons to share with the wider analytical professionals across government. External statistical commentators may also be interested in the findings contained within this report and in our vision for how this report’s findings can help improve the future statistical system.
Who we are
The OSR is the UK Statistics Authority’s independent regulatory function, established by the Statistics and Registration Service Act (2007).
With offices in England, Scotland and Wales, we provide independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK, and aim to enhance public confidence in the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics produced by government.
We do this by setting the standards official statistics must meet in the Code of Practice for Statistics. We ensure that producers of official statistics uphold these standards by conducting assessments against the Code. Those which we assess as meeting the standards are given National Statistics status, indicating that they meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value. We also report publicly on system-wide issues and on the way that statistics are being used, celebrating when the standards are upheld and challenging publicly when they are not.
Our vision is simple: statistics should serve the public good.
What do we mean by serving the public good? Statistics published by public sector bodies should be produced in a trustworthy way, be of high quality, and provide value by answering people’s questions. Statistics are part of the lifeblood of democratic debate. This means statistics should meet the needs of a much wider range of users than Ministers and Parliaments. The public should also have access to information that is trustworthy, high quality and valuable in that it answers the questions they have. This has never been as important as it has been during the COVID-19 pandemic when the public has had an increased appetite for facts and insight.
Our 5-year strategic business plan sets out what we are trying to achieve and the kind of regulator we want to be. It is complemented by our business plan, which explains our specific aims for 2021/22, which will guide our priorities and judgements through the year, and explains in detail how we work as an organisation to achieve our aims.Back to top