FEATURE4 February 2021

National statistician Sir Ian Diamond on Covid-19, timely data and collaboration

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Covid-19 Features Impact Public Sector UK

In the latest of our In Seven series, we speak to Sir Ian Diamond, the UK’s national statistician, head of the Government Statistical Service and chief executive of the UK Statistics Authority. He provides overall leadership for the Office for National Statistics and the statistics profession across government.

Ian Diamond

1 ) What is the most often misunderstood aspect of statistics?

What many people don’t understand is just how big a role the collection and analysis of data plays in their lives. The statistical community could do more to help people understand the sources by which we securely collect data. We work with anonymised data from a variety of sources, such as data people provide when applying for services.

Public trust is very important. I think the public are largely supportive of sharing their data when they are kept informed of how it is used, when robust safeguards are explained, and when it’s for the good of society.

2 ) Has understanding improved or worsened during Covid-19?

The pandemic has been transformational in bringing statistics to the public, and people are increasingly aware of some of the challenges in making comparisons using statistics. The media have been good at trying to communicate what the statistics are saying. There is always more ...