Report outlines 'crucial role' played by statisticians in measuring targets

Written by Oz Flanagan on . Posted in News

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has issued a report calling for statisticians to be more intimately involved in the setting of government policy performance measures and official targets. The Authority released the report in response to what it calls the 'mixed success' of using official statistics to measure the impact of policy in the past.

In the report, the UKSA says that policy makers should give statisticians a prominent role in order 'to embed statistical thinking in the development of performance measures and targets.' The familiarity that statisticians have with data sources and the design of statistics gives them a unique insight into the strengths and drawbacks of official measures.

Seven recommendations are made in the report that include calling on policy and statistical teams to collaborate more and for statisticians to implement standards for data and statistical products used in targets. In addition, the UKSA recommends that statisticians need to communicate the implications of target setting using an official statistic or data source.

In this regard, the report says that 'statistical producers should publish a range of contextual information' that communicates the statistical methods used, any possible distortive effects and the uncertainty involved in any statistic.

The new report echoes some of the issues raised by the RSS back in 2003 when a Working Group produced a report titled: 'Performance indicators: good, bad, and ugly'. The authors of that report said the rise of performance monitoring in public services during the 1990s prompted them to look into how these could be better defined. They studied various examples where a detailed protocol on the design of performance measures could have greatly improved the definitions of those targets.

The UKSA sum up their recommendations by stating, 'As a matter of principle, if a performance measure or target is used to drive public sector performance or provide accountability, the statistical information underpinning it should be published as national statistics.'

Official Statistics UK Statistics Authority

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