Official statistics are an essential public asset. They provide a window on society, the economy and on the work and performance of government. They are fundamental to the judgements and decisions made by the public, by government and by an enormous range of other organisations.
The Code of Practice for Statistics plays an essential role in ensuring that statistics published by government inspire public confidence through demonstrating trustworthiness, and providing high-quality statistics that enhance public value.
Our one-page introduction to the Code (PDF, 0.15MB) explains the framework of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value and why it’s important.
The framework is based on three pillars: Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.
- Trustworthiness is about having confidence in the people and organisations that produce statistics and data
- Quality is about data and methods that produce assured statistics
- Value is about statistics that support society’s needs for information
Producers of official statistics are the main users of the Code. The Code provides them with the detailed practices they must commit to when producing and releasing official statistics.
The Code also applies to everyone working in organisations that produce official statistics. By working in line with the Code, they can protect the reputation of their organisation and allow their organisation to publish and communicate statistics in a way that inspires public confidence.
Users of statistics and citizens are the beneficiaries of the Code. When producers of official statistics comply with the Code, it gives users of statistics and citizens confidence that published statistics are of public value, are high quality and are produced by people and organisations that can be trusted.
Because the pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value are universal goals, they are helpful to anyone in organisations producing data, statistics and analysis, whether inside or outside government. We encourage such organisations to voluntarily adopt and apply the pillars of the Code.
The Code has been updated to reflect the changing environment of statistics and data, and the growing interest in how statistics are used in public discussions.
Government statistics need to be more than just a series of numbers – as statistics they have value when they serve the public good. This requires a shift from thinking of statistics as a statistic output to recognising that they provide a dynamic public service. The new Code is more ambitious about the purpose and value of official statistics.
The new edition of the Code (Code 2.0):
- places greater emphasis on Trustworthiness, Quality and Value
- is more explicit about the role of Chief Statisticians and Heads of Profession for statistics and how this fits within the wider context of the organisation’s responsibilities
- places greater emphasis on innovation and coherence, and emphasises the importance of incorporating new data sources and methods
The summary below provides a more detailed overview of how the Code has changed.
The Excel spreadsheet below contains mapping tools that allows you to compare the Code 1.0 Principles and Practices to the Code 2.0 Pillars, Principles and Practices, and vice versa. It also maps the new Code to the European Statistics Code of Practice, the United Nation’s National Quality Assurance Framework (NQAF), and to cross-cutting themes and professional groups.
“In a world of abundant data people want to sift the useful information from the unreliable. The principles of trustworthiness, quality and value really support this aim – and this is why the Code has been endorsed widely inside and outside Government.” (Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation)
“It’s essential that people can have confidence in the statistics produced by Government. The Code of Practice for Statistics aims to provide the framework to ensure that statistics are trustworthy, good quality, and valuable. Statistics will serve the public good if producers follow the principles and practices set out in the Code.” (Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority)
“Its emphasis on the trustworthiness of statistics gets to the core of what we are about as a community” (Sir David Spiegelhalter, Former Royal Statistical Society President)
“The real power of the Code is as an antidote to the narratives about loss of trust in institutions in general and in the use of data in particular.” (John Pullinger, National Statistician)
Applying the Code and complying with the Code
The Code provides producers of official statistics with the detailed practices they should commit to when producing and releasing official statistics.
The Code provides a framework – Trustworthiness, Quality, and Value – that can be applied in a proportionate and flexible way to improve public confidence in official statistics. Where there is a question about how to implement a particular practice, the producer should judge what action best supports the delivery of the principles. The Code is a tool to guide behaviour and not a prescriptive list of requirements.
The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. It reviews compliance with the detailed principles and practices of the Code through:
- carrying out formal assessments to decide whether or not official statistics should be awarded, or re-awarded, the National Statistics designation
- carrying out informal checks of compliance or reviews of systemic-wide statistical issues, based on how far producers comply with the Code’s principles and practices
- investigating specific issues in the dissemination and use of statistics
Voluntarily applying the Code
If you produce data or statistics, such as through research, management information, performance management, econometric analysis, then the Guide can help you build confidence in your statistics and analysis. It doesn’t matter whether you are within government or outside – thinking about Trustworthiness, Quality and Value can help you improve your data and statistics and increase public confidence in your information.
The critical requirement is to understand the pillars, to review how these are relevant to your context, and to be clear in your published statement about where and why you cannot apply some aspects of the pillars. It is good to also consider whether you will work towards extending your practice to meet these aspects of the pillars.
Yes – it is important to be transparent about your approach, to provide reassurance to others about the trustworthiness, quality and value of your information.