RSS fellows are helping to launch a new initiative with fact checking organisation, Full Fact, which aims to bring together researchers and experts to improve the information available to the public on often-complex issues such as healthcare, immigration and public finances.
The initiative involves Full Fact teaming up with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK Statistics Authority and the House of Commons Library. The organisers want the initiative to make it easier for the public to understand issues like NHS funding and whether enough houses are being built.
National Statistician John Pullinger and ESRC chief executive Jane Elliott - former RSS president and RSS fellow respectively - are both leading the initiative, along with House of Commons Librarian Penny Young and Full Fact director Will Moy. 'If the EU referendum taught us anything, it's that expertise and experts should be set out as part of the furniture of public debate early on if they're going to have an impact,’ said Moy. ‘We're starting now so we've got the data and analysis we need to answer the public's and other decision makers' questions before the heat of the next election.’
Two RSS Council members are also directly involved - Mike Hughes, who acts as statistics adviser to Full Fact, and Simon Briscoe, a Full Fact trustee.
At the initiative’s launch last week, around 100 attendees from government departments, the media, researchers and other organisations took part in a workshop in eight topic areas, such as healthcare, housing and education. In each topic area, the key issues and communication gaps around those issues were discussed. The workshop will feed into an action plan agreed by the four partners.
Hetan Shah, RSS executive director, explained why the RSS welcomes the initiative. ‘It’s good to see this project that will help producers of statistics think about the issues that the public care about and want data gathered on,' he said. 'This will help ensure public debates can be informed by good evidence.’