Government statisticians hold the key to unlocking information about society and the world around us, and official statistics enable users to process that information to make informed choices. Politicians draw from official statistics when formulating policy, businesses use them to decide when and where to open or expand their business, local authorities use them to plan the need for services, while ordinary citizens use them when making decisions about which school they can send their children to.
The Royal Statistical Society’s Statistical Excellence in Official Statistics awards, which started in 2010, are run by the RSS and supported by the UK Statistics Authority. They are intended to reward outstanding work by government statisticians; in particular, work that focuses on meeting the needs of the wider user community. Judges look for examples of excellent presentation of official statistics, good user engagement or examples of innovative statistical practices which have improved statistical information for users.
As chair of the organising committee, I have been constantly amazed at the range and extent of initiatives and innovations that competition entries cover. Past winners have included entries as diverse as the work of ONS’s Data Visualisation Centre on 2011 census results, the rapid and comprehensive work done by Ministry of Justice statisticians to respond to the need for information on charges and convictions following the 2011 riots, briefing material from the House of Commons Library for MPs following the 2010 elections, HMRC’s trade statistics website, the Welsh Assembly Government’s website “My local school”, the work done by Statisticians in the Department of Energy and Climate Change to support the Hills review into fuel poverty, and ONS’s groundbreaking work on surveying life opportunities for disabled people.
We will shortly be calling for entries for the 2014 awards which cover work done or completed during 2013. Central government departments, agencies and other bodies and government bodies in devolved administrations are all eligible. However, anyone can nominate a team for an award and while we expect, as in the past, to find that most entries come from the relevant departments or agencies it would be good to see more nominations from users of official statistics. As a special feature this year there will also be an award for the most improved statistical release.
Further details of the awards can be found on our main website.
(Pictured: John Pullinger presenting the runner-up award for 2013, to the Census Data Visualisation team at the Office for National Statistics).