The changing face of our regulation
The Office for Statistics Regulation provides independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK. We aim to enhance public confidence in the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics produced by government. We do this by setting the standards they must meet in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. Statistics which meet these standards are considered:
- Trustworthy – they have been prepared by professionally-independent statisticians, free from political pressure
- High quality – they are produced using sound methods and based on reliable sources
- Valuable – they provide insight, support decision-making and inform debate.
When the Authority began regulating government statistics in 2008, the primary concern was with the trustworthiness of statistics – their independence from vested interest. But the world is changing, and the challenges facing statistics are changing in turn:
- an increasing focus on the availability of data from multiple sources, including administrative data and non-official sources
- administrative datasets are increasingly seen as the heart of statistical and analytical work, and there is ever-growing interest in open data and data linkage, focusing on the potential of greater use of this administrative data.
- concerns about the value of statistics, reflecting weaknesses in data quality and availability, but also in a world that is changing. This has been particularly acute in economic statistics.
- political discourse that is heavily fact-driven, using and sometimes abusing statistics to support political messages
Ways regulation is changing
The Office for Statistics Regulation will provide four core services:
Code and policy:
The Code of Practice is a guide to the behaviour of statistical professionals, helping them to manage the complex interfaces they encounter with their organisations, with data and with the public. As a behavioural tool, it is constantly in flux as external drivers change. We therefore cannot allow the Code to stand still.
We will publish a stock take of the Code of Practice in December 2016 and plan to publish detailed proposals for change in 2017.
There are two existing tools for testing compliance with the Code: Assessment reports, and quicker, more focussed compliance checks. We do not propose to create new tools, but we will alter how we deploy the existing ones. Assessment will shift its focus to be more about quality and value, and less about trustworthiness.
We will redesign the Assessment report to remove any lingering sense of a check-list. These reports will be clearer on the public value of National Statistics.
Use of statistics:
We will continue to report any concerns about the dissemination and use of public statistics.
We will consider the health of the whole statistical system, and of the topic areas (e.g. health, economic statistics, population) that make it up. We will focus on:
- the way in which statistics draw on a range of underlying, often administrative, datasets and what producers do to nurture and improve those data sets; and
- the extent to which statistics answer the enduring policy and societal questions – how relevant the statistics are.
We will bring together these reviews at a topic level in an annual report, which will represent a health check across the whole statistical system. We see this as an important new lever to achieve the ambitious goals we have set for the independent regulator.
All effective regulators operate in the context experienced by their users and stakeholders. We will want to learn about the most effective ways to achieve our aims. And we want to develop our innovative model further, deploying our public voice, the National Statistics brand, the Code itself, and our power to convene.
We therefore welcome input from users and stakeholders about how we can best achieve our ambitions. If you have any thoughts we would be happy to hear them as part of a public testing of our ideas, particularly if you have any views about how the outputs of the new Office for Statistics Regulation might better meet your needs in the future. You can contact us via email at email@example.com.