StatsWales is relaunched

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StatsWales, the website which publishes a range of statistics pertaining to Wales, has been relaunched.
 
The website, which is published in both English and Welsh, retains many of the features of the previous site, with access to a range of official statistics, including population, economy, health, education, housing and transport. However, the new site has been designed to be easier to navigate. In order to facilitate a graduate transition, the old site will be available to users until 31 December (however, it will cease to be updated from now on). The new site has a help guide with an online training video to talk users through its main features.
 
Chief Statistician Kate Chamberlain explained that StatsWales has improved the ways in which users can view and download the data for their own use. ‘Furthermore, it provides us with a sound platform on which to build future developments,’ she added.
 
Feedback on the functionality of the new site is welcomed, and users are encouraged to register so that StatsWales can better understand how people use the site and tailor its developments accordingly. The Welsh government is seeking feedback on the content and timing of its official statistics on health, as well as its statistical outputs on the Welsh economic and labour market. Details on how to contribute are on the statistics section of the Welsh Government website.
 
 

New data protection code of practice published

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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published its data protection code of practice on managing the risks related to anonymisation.
 
The code explains how to protect the privacy rights of individuals while providing rich sources of data, and is published as the UK government releases more and more anonymised data into the public domain.
 
The ICO launched a consultation prior to the publication of the code of practice, to which the RSS contributed back in August this year. Christopher Graham, UK Information Commissioner, said the new code of practice would ‘bring a greater consistency of approach’ and ‘provide a framework for practitioners to use when considering whether to produce anonymised information.’
 
Anyone who processes personal information must comply with the Data Protection Act, and failure to anonymise personal data correctly can result in enforcement action from the ICO. However, Christopher Graham was keen to highlight the benefits that increased transparency of government data can bring. ‘We hope today’s guidance helps practitioners to protect privacy and enable the use of data in exciting and innovative ways,’ he said at the launch.
 
The ICO has also announced funding for a consortium led by the University of Manchester, with the University of Southampton, Office for National Statistics and the government’s new Open Data Institute (ODI), to run a new UK Anonymisation Network, to be known as UKAN. Over the next two years, UKAN will help organisations across the public and private sector to enable good practice regarding anonymisation, with clinics, seminars and case studies on a new website which is due to launch in early 2013.
 

RSS Council meeting, 5 December 2012

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Council, the trustees of the Society, met for the last time in 2012 on Wednesday 5 December.  The budget for 2013 was approved as well as the activity plan for the year (opens as pdf).
 
National statistics has been an important focus of activity for the Society and to recognise the importance of this area of work, Council agreed that it should be a theme in 2013.  David Hand, who had been appointed chair of the National Statistics Working Party will now been the theme director for this area and chair of what is now known as the National Statistics Advisory Group.
 
Council approved Stephen Pyke as the vice president for Professional Affairs.   Trevor Lewis will continue as the theme director.  Jenny Freeman  was approved as the new theme director for External Affairs.
 
John Disney was co-opted onto Council to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Frank Nolan.
 
Trevor Lewis, the honorary secretary gave the vote of thanks to Valerie Isham, who was chairing her last Council meeting as President.  A look back on her term of office will be posted on this site in due course.
 
The first meeting of the new Council will be on 30 January 2013.
 

RSS Business and Industrial Section: meeting report

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On Wednesday 28 November, 2012, there was a half-day meeting at RSS headquarters under the title ‘Quantitative Methods in Hedge Funds: Statistical Contributions and Challenges’.
 
The event, which was organised by the Business and Industrial Section of RSS, included two presentations and it was attended by about 60 delegates from academia and industry.
 
Yoav Git (AHL, Man Investments) talked about statistical aspects of systematic trading. In the core of the talk there was an overview of mathematical finance related to hedge funds and a discussion of observation-based decisions including volatility and risk management.
 
The talk went on to discuss technical statistical aspects such as time series analysis and portfolio optimisation. The presentation concluded by discussing good practices in determining predictive power of candidate predictors.
 
Kostas Triantafyllopoulos (University of Sheffield) talked about pairs trading. The talk focused on mean-reversion prediction for selected pairs. There was an overview of the literature, followed by discussion of time series methods for the detection of mean-reversion in real-time. There was also some discussion about how a practitioner may select pairs. The talk concluded with future lines of research.
 

Open Data Institute officially launches

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The Open Data Institute (ODI) was opened by cabinet ministers Francis Maude and David Willetts yesterday (4 December 2012), in a week when the Institute also announced two major affiliations.
 
On Monday it announced that the Omidyar Network will be the Institute’s first investor, bringing with it $750k over two years. The ODI also announced that it will be working with the World Bank to help collect evidence globally on the benefits of open data and to deliver open data programmes in developing countries.
 
The ODI is also receiving £2m a year from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) over the next five years. David Willetts, the minister in charge of the TSB, said the ODI’s mission was to train a new cohort of open data developers through its post-graduate diploma and other courses. ‘We need cutting-edge scientists to write systems for the very large data sets that we have, making them more usable and adding to the flow of data,’ he said. ‘We need to generate skills to analyse data, this isn’t something you can’t do without education and training.’
 
At the launch, co-founder Nigel Shadbolt spoke of his ambitions for the Institute. ‘Together we are building a new infrastructure that is no longer about fibres and servers but what is at the end of these things: the value in all information.’
 

Statistics Authority contests government’s NHS spending claims

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The UK Statistics Authority chair Andrew Dilnot has asked health secretary Jeremy Hunt to clarify prior statements that NHS spending has increased over the last two years.
 
According to a number of statements made by the prime minister, the health secretary and the Conservative Party website, the NHS budget has increased in real terms.
 
These statements were drawn to the attention of the Statistics Authority in a letter from shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who disputed them, saying that the government’s NHS spending claims were ‘potentially misleading’.
 
Dilnot responded to Burnham, copying in a letter sent to Jeremy Hunt, which cited figures from the Treasury publication Public Spending Statistics. Dilnot said that ‘On the basis of these figures, we would conclude that expenditure on the NHS in real terms was lower in 2011-12 than it was in 2009-10.’
 
Dilnot acknowledged that there were indeed uncertainties associated with the current statistics. ‘It might also be fair to say that real terms expenditure had changed little over this period,’ he said, adding that he would ‘be grateful if the Department of Health could clarify the statements made.’
 
Independent website Full Fact also joined the debate and scrutinised the figures. It concluded: ‘While it’s clear that the claim of a rise in NHS spending can’t be sustained, there is some scope for interpretation over precisely how the NHS budget has changed over the past two years.’
 
However, a Department of Health spokesman responded, saying: ‘The 2010-11 year budget and spending plans were set in place by the previous government. For the first year of this Government’s spending review, as Andrew Dilnot acknowledges, NHS spending increased in real terms compared to the previous year by 0.1%. The NHS budget will continue to increase in real terms during every year of the current spending review settlement.’
 

NHS Patient Register scoped as part of the ONS Beyond 2011 Programme

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The Office for National Statistics has carried out an initial review of the scope and quality of statistics from the NHS Patient Register as a potential source of data regarding population and demographic statistics for England and Wales.
 
The review was carried out as part of the ONS’s Beyond 2011 Programme, an ongoing project looking at how existing administrative data on the public can be re-used for other purposes. It is the first of a series of potential administrative data sources being examined by the ONS, which will be reported on over the coming months.
 
This particular report found that at a national level, the Patient Register exceeds the Census 2011 estimate by 4.3%. However, it was found to have a very high level of population coverage and good quality data. Another advantage noted was that everyone on the Patient Register has a unique identifier (an NHS number) which allows for anonymised matching with itself over time. Overall, the report summarised that the NHS Patient Register ‘should prove to be an important source of data for the Beyond 2011 Programme’.
 
The results of the Beyond 2011 Programme will have implications for all population-based statistics in England and Wales and, potentially, for the statistical system as a whole. The Programme’s final recommendation will be made in 2014.
 

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