Discussing Official Statistics and Open Data in UK

Committees discussing official statistics

In UK te committees of the House of Commons and the House of Lords  examine various issues in detail. Select committees operate largely by an investigative process and launch inquiries on many topics, among them official statistics.

Especially  ‘the Public Administration Select Committee is scrutinising the issue of statistics and their use in Government by means of ten short studies. They are:

1. The operation of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007
2. The work of the Office for National Statistics
3. Statistics and the regions and nations of the UK
4. Communicating and publishing statistics
5. Migration statistics
6. Transparency, open data and statistics
7. The Census
8. Budgeting for statistics across Government
9. Statistics for the economy and public finances
10. The comprehensiveness of official statistics. ‘

Communicating and publishing statistics

The report about Communicating and publishing statistics published in May 2013 gives interesting insights in  questions and topics  like
– Finding official statistics
– Presenting and explaining statistics
– Statistics on demand and
– Misuse of official statistics.

Screenshot-1For those who follow the discussions about disseminating official statistics there’s nothing really new in this paper. We read well known analysis and demands. Till now nobody has found the definitive and unique answer and solution to all the questions because official statistics embraces so many topics and serves so many different users with a multitude of different needs.

But for a lot of use cases there aready exist excellent solutions and offers: visualisations, interactive statistics, user friendly database access etc. This blog gives many examples.

Moreover, official statistics are in front of the open data initiatives. Most of the data sets in the open data portals of governments come from the natonal statistical institutes and developments in new semantic data formats are also on the agenda of these institutes.

Inquiry into statistics and open data in Government

And now till September 2013 ‘the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) is conducting an inquiry into statistics and open data in Government, with a focus on the progress of the Government in implementing its Open Data strategy.’

Screenshot-2Questions are (among others):
4. How can those engaged in open data, and those engaged in producing
government statistics work together effectively to produce new data?
6. Is open data presented well and of adequate quality?
a. Are the formats of the data being published accessible, useable and
understandable to the public?
b. What metadata is needed to make releases useful?
c. Who will use the data released?
8. Which datasets are the most important?
a. What are the best examples of data being made open and resultant benefits to business or society?

The above mentioned issues and Questions paper provides a good introduction into the work done in this field.


StatsUserNet  launched in February 2012 by the Royal Statistical Society is part of a more or less institutionalised discussion about official statistics in UK.

statsusernet‘Launched in February 2012 with support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK Statistics Authority, it now has over 1,700 members signed up to around 25 communities of interest. Members come from a wide range of sectors, including central and local government, academia, business, the voluntary sector and the general public.

‘StatsUserNet has a number of aims which include:

  • To enable users to exchange information and experience freely on all statistical topics
  • To enable communication between users and producers of official statistics (producers are increasingly announcing their outputs on StatsUserNet and actively seeking feedback)
  • To involve users in the planning process and strategy for official statistics, with the “Consultations” community being used for gathering views on plans for changes to statistical outputs
  • To provide support to wider user activities, including User Groups
  • Increasing awareness of official statistics and their use more widely.

A variety of topic-based communities is already up and running and has hosted discussions on high-profile areas such as inflation measures,national well-being, the Census and health.’


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