How I caught my council using dodgy stats and why local open data is so important

Written by John Murray on . Posted in Opinion

In the introduction to their 2014 annual report, Cheshire West and Chester Council stated ‘We are delighted that customer satisfaction with the council is up from 70.5% in 2009 to 96% in 2013/14, a remarkable increase during these difficult times.’

As a practitioner with over 30 years' experience of data analysis, particularly customer surveys, the 96% figure appeared remarkably high, particularly for a local council whose decisions about services are often controversial.

Beyond metadata: the brave new world of big data retention

Written by Ashlin Lee on . Posted in Opinion

With the Australian Senate passing the federal government’s data retention bill last week, there has been a great deal of discussion of 'metadata', what it is and whether the government ought to have access to it. However, metadata is just the tip of the data iceberg. The debate about data retention is only just beginning, and the outcome could touch on many aspects of our behaviour and society at large.

Big data and official statistics - the international view

Written by Emily Poskett on . Posted in Opinion

During January’s Royal Statistical Society's debate on 'What is the future of official statistics in the big data era?', John Pullinger described big data as 'a wakeup call for official statisticians'. Despite the huge challenges, there are indeed many who agree. Official statisticians around the world have been thinking about what big data means for them, and innovating in a wide range of fields, in all corners of the globe. An international conference on 'Big Data for Official Statistics' organised by the United Nations Statistics Division and the National Bureau of Statistics of China in late 2014 brought some of the movers and shakers together.

If we want social progress, more data must be shared

Written by Dean Machin on . Posted in Opinion

Administrative data is extremely valuable to improve social mobility and reduce child poverty. Often, it’s the best data: it can be cheaper than ordinary surveys and includes more comprehensive and richer statistics. But while a huge amount of administrative data is collected, most of it is not shared and it is the exception for datasets to be linked. Why? And, what can be done to improve data sharing?