Attention please!

They all use statistics …  in the media, in politics, in sports. But they mostly forget that statistics, especially official statistics, are made by professionals in a quite demanding, time- and resource-consuming process. The WO/MAN-IN-THE-MIDDLE, the professionals, providing information and knowledge from facts remain hidden (despite Googles’ statement that statistician will be ‘the sexy job in the next ten years)


Source: 'Statistics – A universal language', Swiss Statistics, Neuchâtel

How to promote the statisticians’ work?

This question is a perennial topic in the statistics community.  And the answers are manifold. Some examples:

Show the results!

Dissemination of statistics is widely developed and of high quality. Websites of statistical institutions present rich information – from simple facts to interactive presentations and visualisations.

New media play its role, too.  And they are important. Feeds and tweets are omnipresent (-> Some examples of official statistical tweets).

See Statistics Netherlands’ experience: ‘In addition to the normal distribution of news reports, Twitter has become a standard way for Statistics Netherlands to distribute day-to-day information. The number of followers of @statistiekcbs grew from 14,000 in early 2014 to almost 56,000 by the end of the year. In December, Statistics Netherlands’ tweets were viewed a total of 3.6 million times which represents an average of almost 120,000 per day. In the final months of 2014, news reports were being retweeted on an average of 100 times a day. `(Statistics Netherlands Annual Report for 2014, p.9)

Yes, ok … but the professionals behind these presentations are not visible. Even as brilliant presenters as Hans Rosling let us forget how the facts for his beautiful visualisations were prepared.

About us

Selfies of statistical institutions are standard on their websites. These presentations are short and normally without a marketing touch.

There are some examples, where a self-portrait gets an own website and presents more than static information about the institution. The European Statistical System (ESS)  publishes a website serving as a ‘single entry point to relevant information on the organization and activities of the ESS’ and its partner organizations. An RSS feed provides updates and readers can follow the work of more than 30 statistical institutions … so long as they provide their news to the website.



Launching a campaign is another way to attract attention. This is mostly chosen for periodical Census. So for instance in the US, Germany or the UK. There are also mini-campaigns. ‘Statistics counts for you’ is such an example.

snip_20151126131832Clicking on the animated teaser in the homepage opens a new website with the message and a summary of available statistics. There’s no offer to communicate with the reader via news-tweets or newsletters.

And finally there are also examples of more interactive and user-oriented approaches.

CBS Corporate News

is a specific website ( ) and a beautiful presentation of Statistics Netherlands,  showing activities and achievements in six fields by choosing the relevant filters (like projects, events&congresses, new services, innovative developments, user relations and international affairs). It’s attractive, personal, interactive and provides updates via a newsletter.




is an interactive, multimedia presentation of Statistics Switzerland’s activities and products.


Five filters for topics (Personalities, Publications, Swiss History and Statistics, Achievements and Methods) and filters for years back to the beginnings of Statistics Switzerland in 1860 let readers follow multiple aspects of Statistics. With this timeline it provides an archive.


Update it!

The be-all and end-all of statistical self-portraying are updating. Updated information presents an active institution and maintains the contact with users and interested groups. It fosters understanding for the work behind the statistical information and prevents from cutting necessary resources.



Today – Statsday

October 20th is the day of Official Statistics. It’s the day to highlight the importance of reliable, independent and high-quality numbers. Numbers that help to make good, evidence-based decisions.

This year “Better data, better lives” is the theme of the World Statistics Day selected by the United Nations General Assembly.

Many countries also celebrate this day and are planning special events. The new  UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be the focus of most of these events.

Look at the Elections

18 October 2015

On October 18, 2015, Swiss voters elect a new Parliament for the next four years.


More about Swiss elections here

For the National Council (200 members), 3,802 candidates and more than 22 political parties take part.

And the winners are …

The polling stations closed at 12 AM. The results arrive canton by canton and are presented in an interactive visualisation – minute by minute.


Results as of 5 PM

By clicking one of the symbols, the details for a canton appear.


The results are updated in a database, and a script generates a visualisation on the spot. An easy way to follow the elections!

It’s the Statistical Atlas of the Federal Statistical Office that enables this presentation. And it’s no longer Adobe Flash needed to do it ;-).

For a fact-based Worldview


Hans Rosling, co-founder and promoter of the Gapminder Foundation and of fights with statistics against myths (‘Our goal is to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview.’) and tries to counterbalance media focussing on war, conflicts and chaos.

Here one more example (and this in a media interview…): ‘You can’t use media if you want to understand the world’ (sic!)

And this statement on; ‘Statistical facts don’t come to people naturally. Quite the opposite. Most people understand the world by generalizing personal experiences which are very biased. In the media the “news-worthy” events exaggerate the unusual and put the focus on swift changes. Slow and steady changes in major trends don’t get much attention. Unintentionally, people end-up carrying around a sack of outdated facts that you got in school (including knowledge that often was outdated when acquired in school).’



Elections, visual


On October 18, 2015 Swiss voters will elect a new Parliament for the next four years. There are some very useful and also beautiful visual tools that help voters to get informed about developments in the political landscape and about candidates.


Background: The Swiss Political System

2015-10-02_parliamentThe full picture of Switzerland’s political institutions and executive authorities can be found in a yearly updated official brochure (the page above is part of it)

2015-10-02_parliamentcoverSee also the Official Website (Federal elections of 18 October 2015) and:

The website of the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), FSO topic: elections (German and French only)




Let’s have a look at some of these visual and interactive tools.


Find Your Candidates

With interactive tools, one answers questions to define one’s position on the political spectrum and to generate suggestions for candidates to vote for.

Tools from smartvote or vimentis exist for the National Council (200 members and 3,802 candidates) and the Council of States (46 members and 161 candidates).

For smartvote about 80 to 90 percent of the candidates have filled in a questionnaire.

2015-10-02_smartvoteThis questionnaire helps defining their political profile, a smartspider.

‘The smartspider presents a political profile based on the agreement about eight topics/aims. A value of 100 represents a strong agreement, a value of 0 a strong disagreement.’

2015-10-02_candidateIn answering the same questionnaire a voter defines his one profile that is matched with the candidates’. In the end, he gets his own smartspider and suggestions for candidates in his constituency. The more questions a voter answers, the more precise his voting advice will be.


Political Shift in Communes 1981 to 2014 – year by year

Lean Swiss communes more towards the left or the right, are they more conservative or progressive?

‘Based on the result of every single popular vote since 1983. The Somoto Research Institute together with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC,’s parent company) has used the data to find this out.’ A quite complex interactive visualisation depicts this for types of communes and every single commune.




Party Preferences in the Communes

11 elections (1971 to 2011) for the Swiss National Council show how 2345 communes changed their political preferences during these 40 years. The  SRF Data Team (@srfdata) created a visualisation out of tons of data (in German only)

2015-10-02_GEMEINDENAfter selecting a political party and a commune the map of Switzerland shows how this commune changed its attitude towards the chosen party. Hovering over the map gives the facts of all other communes for the chosen party.

2015-10-02_GEMEINDEN-POSCHIAVO timeline Great!


Interactive Political Atlas

And not to forget the very rich interactive Political Atlas presented by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

Elections to the National Council can be found from 1919 (!) to today. And also votations about innumerable topics are shown starting 1866 (!!). Have a look (with flash enabled).



And not enough yet

How did national counselors vote in parliament? (in German, by SRF Data)


Do you like a Quiz … and learn about Swiss political parties?

How well do you know Swiss politics? (by SRF Data)


Forgotten something? Sure! There is so much activity in the visualisation scene in Switzerland …




From Quantity to Quality

Open Data is a much-debated topic and – since the Obama administration launched on May 21, 2009 – an international competition, too. Nearly 400 Open-Data Portals emerged meanwhile. But very often there is more concern about the number of published data than about the content of these data.


This issue has been addressed by Open Knowledge (okfn) with its Global Open Data Index (Global Open Data Index). 2015-08-24_OpenDataIndex‘ …simply putting a few spreadsheets online under an open license is obviously not enough. Doing open government data well depends on releasing key datasets in the right way.
Moreover, with the proliferation of sites it has become increasingly hard to track what is happening: which countries, or municipalities, are actually releasing open data and which aren’t? Which countries are releasing data that matters? Which countries are releasing data in the right way and in a timely way?
The Global Open Data Index was created to answer these sorts of questions, providing an up-to-date and reliable guide to the state of global open data for policy-makers, researchers, journalists, activists and citizens.’


The Challenge: Be more than a simple measurement tool

The Open Knowledge Community just started ‘a discussion with the open data community and our partners in civil society to help us determine which datasets are of high social and democratic value and should be assessed in the 2015 Index. We believe that by making the choice of datasets a collaborative decision, we will be able to raise awareness of and start a conversation around the datasets required for the Index to truly become a civil society audit of the open data revolution. – See more at

The result is a list of datasets that can be found on Google docs.


For National Statistics (in okfn’s definition), these are the (few) chosen sets:

‘Key national statistics such as demographic and economic indicators (GDP, unemployment, population, etc).
To satisfy this category, the following minimum criteria must be met:
– GDP for the whole country updated at least quarterly
– Unemployment statistics updated at least monthly
– Population updated at least once a year’