Organisations should commit to releasing their statistics in an open and transparent manner that promotes public confidence.
T3.1 The release of both regular and ad hoc official statistics should be pre-announced through a 12-month release calendar, giving a specific release date at least four weeks in advance where practicable.
T3.2 Changes to pre-announced release dates or times should be agreed by the Chief Statistician/Head of Profession for Statistics. Any changes should be announced promptly, explaining the reasons for the change.
T3.3 Access to statistics before their public release should be limited to those involved in the production of the statistics and the preparation of the release, and for quality assurance and operational purposes. Accurate records of those who have access before they are finalised should be maintained.
T3.4 The circulation of statistics in their final form ahead of their publication should be restricted to eligible recipients, in line with the rules and principles on pre-release access set out in legislation for the UK and devolved administrations. The details of those granted access should be recorded, together with clear justifications for access. No indication of the statistics should be made public and the statistics should not be given to any other party without prior permission for access. The list of recipients should be reviewed regularly and kept to a minimum.
T3.5 Statistics and data should be released on a timely basis and at intervals that meet the needs of users as far as practicable. The statistics should be released as soon as they are considered ready, under the guidance of the Chief Statistician/Head of Profession for Statistics.
T3.6 Statistics should be released to all users at 9.30am on a weekday.
T3.7 The name and contact information of the lead statistician or analyst responsible for production should be included in the published statistics.
T3.8 Policy, press or ministerial statements referring to regular or ad hoc official statistics should be issued separately from, and contain a prominent link to, the source statistics. The statements should meet basic professional standards of statistical presentation, including accuracy, clarity and impartiality. The lead statistician or analyst should advise on the appropriate use of the statistics within these statements.
Welsh Government make excellent use of their corporate electronic records management software (Objective ECM) to manage pre-release access across the organisation. The system allows secure groups to be set up which means documents can be shared with only specific individuals.
For each output, a group is set up that is bespoke to the specific pre-release access list. Links to those documents are then sent around under pre-release access rules which means that final versions of releases are never attached to emails as unsecure documents. This is done with clear guidance that no indication of the substance of the statistical release are included in the email text.
This has a number of benefits:
- If a name is accidentally included on an email distribution list, or it is forwarded to someone else, they cannot actually open the document
- Pre-release access arrangements can be managed centrally
- The Objective ECM system has full audit functionality, which allows statisticians to identify who has opened the release (and when). This ensures that they know who has accessed the statistics pre-release, but also allows them to assess whether pre-release access is actually needed in future
- It provides a safe space for press notices and lines to take to be developed under the same secure conditions as the statistical release
- It provides a facility for secure external sharing of official-sensitive material through a linked product Connect, in the event that there are pre-release access recipients in outside organisations
- It ensures that outputs and associated correspondence are automatically part of corporate record
- Functionality can provide built-in sign-off of documents to support quality assurance and internal clearance processes
Since the introduction of this approach Welsh Government report that the number of accidental or near-miss pre-release sharing occurrences has reduced to virtually zero.
This example shows how Welsh Government has developed an effective system to manage the circulation of statistics in their final form, in line with its obligations under pre-release access legislation. The system also securely supports Welsh Government’s quality assurance and press-notice development processes, and supports statisticians in reviewing whether listed individuals should require continued access in future, which helps to keep the number of individuals granted pre-release access to a minimum.
Guidance and resources
|Answers to questions OSR has received about publishing official statistics in line with the Code. Topics covered include: pre-announcing the release of statistics, labeling the status of the statistics and publishing ad-hoc statistics releases.||Regulatory guidance on publishing official statistics and National Statistics||OSR|
|Examples of published breach reports.||Breach reports||UKSA|
|A list of pre-release access orders. These orders set out the principles and rules that govern pre-release access to official statistics in their final form before publication.||Pre-Release Access Orders, including devolved administrations||UKSA|
|How to report a breach against the Code of Practice for Statistics for when an organisation fails to meet the standards set out in the Code. Breaches should be reported to the Government Statistical Service’s (GSS) Good Practice Team.||Reporting a breach of the Code||GSS|
|Guidance on what you need to know, the process to report a breach and the template to complete and submit to the Good Practice Team.||Guidance on reporting a breach of the Code||GSS|
|A list of the common breaches of the Code with considerations and corrective actions to take.||How to avoid common breaches of the Code||GSS|
|Guidance that sets out best practice advice as to how departments should treat management information (MI) in order to get maximum value from it, while protecting public trust in official statistics.||National Statistician’s Guidance: Management Information and Official Statistics||GSS|
|Guidance about devolution and its impact on the work of the Government Statistical Service (GSS). It includes a checklist to help you consider how to involve other administrations.||Devolution good practice||GSS|
|Published and upcoming official statistics from across UK government, including statistical releases and data tables.||gov.uk statistics release calendar||UK Government|