Background

The Office for Statistics Regulation is keen to ensure that statistics are able to answer important questions for society. We see statistics as a public asset and want to maximise their value to users. Systemic reviews help us explore issues of public value and identify improvements that the statistics system may need to make. Other recent systemic work has included reviewing statistics on Health in England, Crime and Justice, and Income and Earnings and working with producers of these statistics to try and generate improvements.

What we plan to do and why

We now want to investigate the UK statistical system’s ability to provide greater insight to users via linked data (that is, data from more than one source which can be brought together securely to help answer questions). Stakeholders have already told us about various barriers to using linked data effectively, for example problems negotiating access and, if approved, long delays before data are actually available. The 2017 Digital Economy Act contains a number of provisions designed to significantly improve this situation. This review will look at whether we have the right structures in place to ensure that the benefits of the DEA are fully realised, this will include looking at how departments identify the most important and relevant questions to ask using linked data. We will also be exploring what this new landscape of linked data means for the Code of Practice for Statistics and how we might incorporate questions about using linked data into our assessments.

How we will do it

Stage 1: priority setting – we will review the evidence we have already collected from stakeholders and use that to prioritise a set of specific areas on which to focus our attention. Stakeholders will be consulted about our review aims at this stage. If you would like to help us shape this work, please get in touch.

Stage 2: stakeholder engagement and system mapping – we will consult with a range of statistics producers and users who have experience of working with linked data, or who have an interest in using linked data to answer policy questions, to explore what kinds of changes would be needed to help government and other users identify important questions and use linked data effectively. We will also map out the current data linkage landscape, and what it is likely to look like after the Digital Economy Act, to help us focus the work around the perspective of users. This mapping will cover data linkage systems in government departments across the UK, the health services, universities and the private sector (where they have an involvement in linkage projects that support public policy making).

Stage 3: collate findings and explore options for improvements – we will review the evidence gathered and present it to key stakeholders. For areas where we feel improvements are needed, we will work collectively with relevant parties to identify solutions.

Stage 4: follow-up reviews – we anticipate that we will continue our monitoring of data linkage issues beyond the timeframe for this initial phase of the work in order to assess the impact of the DEA – and where necessary to continue adapting our regulatory approach – in real time. This initial phase of the work might also identify new areas requiring attention.

What we want to happen as a result

Data linkage is widely used to answer society’s important questions in a timely manner.

Timing

Stage 1: priority setting – September 2017

Stage 2: stakeholder engagement and system mapping – September-November 2017

Stage 3: collate findings and explore options for improvements – December 2017- March 2018 (publish report April 2018)

Stage 4: follow-up reviews – April 2018 onwards

 

If you want to speak to us about this work please get in touch: regulation@statistics.gov.uk