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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The UK Data Service Variable and Question Bank, which highlights more than 13,000 harmonised variables, is now LIVE!

See and an accompanying news item at

During the beta phase the question bank team are gathering feedback, so please let us know if you have any comments.

If you have any queries, please contact:


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Release of Revised Harmonised Standards
An update to the following harmonised standard has been undertaken. The update includes the following amendments and additions:

Other Primary Standards

The Harmonised Standard for Other Primary Standards has been amended to include revisions to the information on the Harmonised Geography Classifications. The amendment includes updated links to the various Geography Classifications and descriptions of the linked material. Further background and guidance is available here: Other Primary Standards (68.8 Kb Pdf)

If you have any queries, please contact:


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StatsUserNet, the Royal Statistical Society’s interactive website for all users of official statistics, has reached 1,000 members since its launch in March 2012. The members span a wide variety of sectors including central and local government, academia, business, the voluntary sector, and the general public.

The site was set up to fulfil the widely recognised need for improvement in communication between users, and between users and producers, of official statistics. It makes use of the latest social networking technologies, providing facilities for discussion, sharing of resources, interactive content and blogging. There is also a selection of featured articles and multimedia on the homepage.

James Tucker, user engagement programme manager, has overseen the development of the site. ‘It is already home to a selection of topic based communities, which have hosted debates on high-profile issues such as the future of the Consumer Price Index,’ he explains. ‘It is also progressing towards being a one-stop-shop for resources, such as presentations, articles and useful links. Take a look at the 

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Last summer’s riots and the re-definition of fuel poverty are the topics covered by the winners of this year’s RSS Statistical Excellence in Official Statistics award.

Two winners were recognised in the 2012 awards: one was the Ministry of Justice’s Analytical Services, for its statistical work following the public disorder of August 2011. The other was the Fuel Poverty Statistics team at the Department of Energy and Climate Change for its analytical work to support the Hills Review of Fuel Poverty.

The judges were impressed by the responsiveness of the public disorder statistics, which published estimates of initial court hearings for suspects involved in recent disturbances as soon as two days after the riots ceased. One judge praised the statistics’ relevance to both government and the media, saying: ‘The published outputs clearly added value and understanding among the full range of users of the information, providing the information needed by government to manage the crisis, while providing other interested parties with information to dispel myths.’

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The Office for National Statistics has launched an interactive guide to help users find ONS statistics on UK business. The guide features 21 different releases from the ONS and covers statistics about turnover, employment, economic growth and productivity. The tool helps users select topics of interest and pinpoint publications of best interest to them, with links to more information and relevant statistical releases.

The Royal Statistical Society supports this approach in helping users better understand and access official statistics outputs, and users can discuss the guide or give feedback at the Business and Trade Statistics community section of the RSS StatsUserNet website.

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Source: Royal Statistical Society eNews

The UK government has just published plans to make huge amounts of data from the public sector available. The move, as Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude states in the White Paper’s foreword, aims to ‘empower citizens, foster innovation and reform public services’ by offering people ‘informed choices that simply haven’t existed before’.

Open Data White Paper: Unleashing the Potential’, outlines what data from each government department will be made available on the revamped website over the next two years.

The White Paper sets out the government’s ideas following its consultation, Making Open Data Real, to which the Royal Statistical Society

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Follow my daily blog on 

I am looking for help in analysing my daily data tracking of my exercise, supplements, nutrition, drugs and treatments against my cancer markers.

I've done a linear multiple regression analysis, but this doesn't take in the time element - so it is inadequate. What I need is a time-series multi-variate analysis - which is beyond my stats program (Statistica) and perhaps my ability.

I believe such an analysis will enable me to find which things reduce and increase my cancerousness (and what's useless). Sharing this info with others (with all the usual caveats) will help others in a similar situation.

My data in Excel can be viewed
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Whitehall is systematically undercounting households in London boroughs by 6 per cent, according to Professor Les Mayhew  of the Cass Business School at City University . Using administrative data produces figures for households and unoccupied dwellings at variance with those used by the Department of Communities and Local Government. 
 Mayhew, himself a former government statistician and civil servant, is viewed askance by ONS apparently but his criticism of relying on data from the decennial census is well timed - and he joins a swelling chorus saying administrative data is underused, both for public policy and social research more broadly.
 An irony in his paper is that local authorities themselves collect much of the very admin data that, if used instead of ONS Census data, would potentially increase their receipts from central government grants

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As users of official statistics will be aware, more and more government datasets are available, in fairly raw form, on the internet. This allows people to examine for themselves the data used by government.  Have you tried this armchair auditing?  Here is a link to the Treasury COINS database - not official statistics I should stress.  If you can find a usable statistical message in these databases you clearly do not need much help from government statisticians.  Or could it be that you do need help but have not realised it; and the messages you have inferred are not actually correct.

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