The Society’s National Statistics Advisory Group has contributed ideas on how to improve UK's statistical system going forward, in a consultation response to a government select committee.
The Society contributed to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) inquiry on the governance of statistics, both via a written consultation response (PDF) and in person when our executive director Hetan Shah (pictured) gave evidence to the committee on February 5 2019, along with RSS vice president Guy Nason (in his capacity as professor of statistics at the University of Bristol).
Our written evidence puts forward what the RSS sees as the key challenges for the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), along with ideas for the coming years on behalf of its members, many of whom work in official statistics.
Overall, the RSS considers the UK Statistics Authority to have done a good job in the ten years since it was formed. ‘UK official statistics would almost certainly be a lot weaker if UKSA had not existed over the past 10 years,’ our written response points out. ‘A decade in, our view is that it has established itself and made an important difference in the production and, to a lesser, extent, the use of UK official statistics.’
However, there are challenges that are still to be addressed, including public and user engagement. ‘A key test of the statistical system is whether users find the statistics they need easily and in the format that they want,’ our response states. ‘On this test, we would say that the system is not yet meeting the challenge. In a world that is concerned with misinformation and so called "fake news", the official statistics system needs to cut through and give people and local communities the information they need, in a format they find helpful.’
We also voice concern that policymakers are not using data as much as they should, and suggest that the UKSA produce a strategy for improving user engagement to meet the needs of all users.
Our response notes that UKSA will shortly be developing its forward strategy, and for this we recommend that UKSA considers strengthening systemic capabilities across the statistical system when it comes to leadership, communications, innovation, user engagement and data governance. This will help the statistical system meet the challenges in giving the public and policymakers the information that they need.