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ONS's user insight and innovation team has asked if the Good Practice User Panel would be willing to help them out with some user research. They've asked if I can pass on the following message about their short survey (it takes less than five minutes to complete):

"Thank you for your interest in participating in user research at the Office for National Statistics. From time to time we undertake different types of user research such as user testing, user interviews or questionnaires. To be involved in this research in future, please could you complete this short survey. We will then be in touch when any suitable research takes place.

If you have any queries about this survey please email and we will get back to you as soon as possible."
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John Pullinger, the new National Statistician, said in an interview with Civil Service World that he wants to ensure that statisticians in government are more involved in decisions about policies, and pledges to support statisticians in standing up against misuse of statistics by politicians.

See more at:
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In an interview with Civil Service World recently, Jil Matheson talks about how removing pre-release access would improve trust in politicians as well as in the statistics. See more at:

And in a letter to Nicholas MacPherson yesterday, Andrew Dilnot reiterated that the UK Statistics Authority's view of pre-release access is that it can undermine public confidence both in statistical evidence and the policies to which official statistics relate. This followed distribution of the market sensitive UK Trade Statistics to 421 officials 40 minutes prior to the 9:30am release time on 9 May. See letter here:

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The UK Statistics Authority has suspended the National Statistics designation of the UK Trade Statistics published by ONS. This is due to an error in HMRC data, upon which the statistics are based, which led to an underestimate of oil exports.

The UK Statistics Authority anticipates that the re-issued April 2014 release, with the error corrected, will have the National Statistics designation reinstated. It also expects that subsequent releases of trade statistics can regain and retain the National Statistics designation, as long as other errors such as this do not recur.

For more information see Andrew Dilnot's letter to Glen Watson here:

This was also reported by the BBC:



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A reminder that the UK Statistics Authority launched a Call for Evidence in April for the fourth semester cross-cutting Voting Rights, Consular Services and Statistics Report which will contribute towards the UK Government's Balance of EU Competences Review. The Report is being coordinated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The deadline for submitting evidence is noon, 2 July 2014.

Launched in 2012 the Review is looking at the scope of the EU's competences as they affect the UK, how they are used, and what that means for the UK. While the review is government led it involves extensive consultation with a wide range of interested parties including Member States, EU Institutions, think tanks, academia, business, civil society, the UK Parliament and the general public. The reports are analytical, transparent and evidence-based; they will not produce specific recommendations and will not prejudge any future UK policy.
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ONS has published a Compendium of UK Statistics which presents statistics for all 4 UK countries on population and migration, the economy, social indicators and the environment. The release includes interactive maps and charts.

It has been produced to facilitate comparisons and is intended to help support key decisions such as the forthcoming Scottish referendum on independence which is due to take place on 18 September 2014.

It follows on from the UK Statistics Authority report, ‘Official statistics in the context of the referendum on Scottish independence’, published in October 2013.

You can find this report at:
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The UK Statistics Authority has published its latest Monitoring Review: 'The Geography of Economic Statistics - Final Report'.

Feedback on the report is welcomed and should be sent to:

The report can be found at:

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The Higher Education Initial Participation Rate publication is typically published in March or April. BIS have delayed the release this year because the population estimates as at 31 August are not yet available. This is due to long term changes to the processing timetable of the data suppliers, the Department for Education, in order to streamline resources. The Higher Education Initial Participation Rate publication relies on this data.

Other options explored in order to retain the April publication date were concluded to be less appropriate. As a result, BIS does not expect to release this publication before August. BIS apologises for any inconvenience caused to users. We are exploring the impact this has on future releases.

Statistics on higher education (HE) initial participation rates are published as “Participation rates in higher education” and include data on 17-30 year old English domiciled first-time HE entrants to UK HE institutions and English, Welsh and Scottish further education (FE) colleges who remain in HE for at least six months. Releases prior to 2008 are available on the

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The furore in the news media about crime statistics not being properly recorded by police forces points to a weakness in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics that now needs to be addressed.  In a recent report, the Public Administration Select Committee said that the UK Statistics Authority “must not in future grant to, or maintain, the kitemark of National Statistics on any set of statistics where it has failed to verify whether the underlying data meets the standard required. …UKSA should review the Code of Practice for Official Statistics to determine whether it needs to be revised to allow for the new emphasis on administrative data.”

Under the 2007 legislation, the UKSA cannot simply make up the rules on good practice as it goes along.  If statistics comply with the Code of Practice then they must be granted National Statistics status.  So the two parts of the PASC recommendation are closely linked.  The formal assessment of official statistics against the Code does not currently involve actively verifying ‘whether the underlying data meets the standard required’. 

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With over 15 million book sales, Steven Covey believed there are 7 habits of highly effective people. The first is to ‘be pro-active’ and the second is ‘begin with the end in mind’. This second habit is perhaps the most important one for me…

In the context of writing statistical releases, I’ve always taken the second habit to mean that you understand what your audience wants and aim to provide this.

When speaking with a group of bright young economics undergraduates recently I took the opportunity to ask them how they would improve a particular ONS PDF release?Their response…

"Put it in the bin and write exclusively for the web!"

A bold answer and, as someone who enjoys reading PDFs, I wondered if they were actually joking? They were not joking – but perhaps i was showing my age.

This got me thinking…

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The UK Statistics Authority has published its latest Monitoring Review: "The Geography of Economic Statistics - Interim Report", and invites comments from producers and users of these statistics before finalising the report. Comments are requested by 14th March and should be sent to

The report can be found here:

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There are three statistical consultations currently open on the ONS website:

1. Proposals from the Review of Public Sector Finance Statistics - open until 28 February

2. 2012-based Subnational Population Projections for England - until 28 February 2014

3. Country Groupings in International Migration Statistics - until 18 March 2014

See link here for further details:

ONS Open Consultations
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Today marks the launch of as the landing page for access statistical geographies in a linked data format. This linked data site is the culmination of three years' work that started with a request in 2010 by the UK Location Programme to pilot the use of linked data to meet UK's obligations under INSPIRE, an EU Directive to harmonise how spatial datasets are supplied across Europe. 

The pilot ran for eighteen months and provided proof of concept that ONS could develop a set of unique resource identifiers (URIs) to break open and publish the millions of data cells from its geographic products, and link these attributes together. Access to this machine-readable data was delivered directly or via a slightly clunky API. The pilot also successfully achieved its aim to develop ONS's in-house knowledge of linked data rather than simply contracting the project out to an external supplier. These newly acquired in-house skills allowed ONS to develop the next stage of the project.

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is consulting on the census and the future provision of population statistics in England and Wales.

The 2011 Census successfully provided population statistics that will be used for the next decade by planners, policy makers and researchers across the public and private sectors. Our population is changing rapidly, and the need to understand these changes will continue. The Office for National Statistics' Beyond 2011 programme is currently reviewing these needs, and how they might best be met in the future.

Improvements in technology and in government data sources offer opportunities to either modernise the existing census process, or to develop an alternative census method that reuses existing data already held within government.

Our research has resulted in two approaches for taking the census in future.

  • A census once a decade, like that conducted in 2011, but primarily online.

  • A census using existing government data and compulsory annual surveys.

Both approaches would provide annual statistics about the size of the population, nationally and for local authorities. A census using existing data and surveys would provide more statistics about the characteristics of the population every year. An online census would provide more detailed statistics once a decade.

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is seeking views to inform necessary reductions to its statistical outputs. In common with much of the public sector, ONS is facing significant funding pressures. Over the next two years there is a need to make annual savings of around £9 million. Most of these savings will come from streamlining business operations, but some cuts to statistical outputs will also be necessary.

As around 80 per cent of ONS outputs are required under EU or UK law, this consultation focuses on non-statutory outputs – those not required by law. The aim of the consultation is to obtain feedback on the need for, and use of, these outputs to determine which cuts would have the least impact on users. Your views will help to inform these important decisions. 

This consultation covers outputs in the following areas:

Outputs from the following surveys:

• General Lifestyle Survey
• Integrated Household Survey
• Labour Disputes Survey
• Internet Access Quarterly update
• Annual UK Business: Activity, Size and Location

Regional and local outputs:

• Bi-annual local enterprise partnership profiles

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You may have seen an article in the Guardian entitled "Public health statistics could cease to be published amid wave of budget cuts: ONS statisticians also looking at 'a significant reduction in the scale' of David Cameron's 'wellbeing programme'."

ONS have responded to the story with the following statement on their website:

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StatsUserNet, the Royal Statistical Society’s interactive website for all users of official statistics, has just celebrated its first anniversary.

Launched in February 2012 with support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK Statistics Authority, it now has over 1,700 members signed up to around 25 communities of interest. Members come from a wide range of sectors, including central and local government, academia, business, the voluntary sector and the general public.

StatsUserNet has a number of aims which include:

  • To enable users to exchange information and experience freely on all statistical topics
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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is continuing work to improve its website, and has recently enhanced the search function and created new interactive theme pages for:

 - the economy
 - labour market
 - population

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ONS and the Survey Question Bank (SQB)

The Harmonisation team based at ONS Titchfield have been working collaboratively with the Survey Question Bank (SQB) at the University of Essex to promote the use of harmonised standard questions. A Beta version re-launch of the improved SQB and search facility tool has now been released:

During this time the UK Data Archive and the SQB have been re-branded to the UK Data Service and the UK Data Service Variable and Question Bank

What is the UK Data Service Variable and Question Bank ?

The SQB (as it was) was developed to provide access to questionnaires in PDF format from a range of major UK and cross national social surveys. The questionnaires, which are fully searchable, are displayed in their original format allowing users to better understand the context in which a particular question was asked. The SQB has a survey question search tool that provides access to over 200,000 questions from more than 50 survey series across the ESDS Data Catalogue and allows users to locate survey questions (from PDF files) and view responses to questions as frequency outputs in the ESDS Nesstar Catalogue (Nesstar is a Norwegian Data Archive Commercial product that the UK Data Archive has a licence to run) (see links below). Any user is able to access the SQB, complete searches and view questionnaires free of charge. The search is intuitive and no training or specialist software is required. The SQB includes survey questionnaires, information on the survey processes/methods and interviewer instructions (where available), providing a greater understanding of data collection issues.

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