NEWS26 September 2019

Industry stats body calls for policy debate centred on evidence

Data analytics Media News Public Sector UK

UK – The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) has called on the government to take evidence seriously when formulating and evaluating policy, and improve data sharing between government departments.

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Official statistics should be at the centre of policy debate and data underpinning any new policies should be published, the RSS recommended in its latest Data Manifesto.

The industry body also called on the practice of pre-releasing official statistics to government ministers to be ended, saying all users should be able to access data at the same time.

Releasing economic data to ministers and advisers before it is available to the public has come under some scrutiny recently, with the Scottish parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee voting in favour of moves to end the practice and the UK Statistics Authority backing the plan.

The RSS also called for the government to tackle misinformation by arming the public with the tools to evaluate claims made in the media, saying: "Misinformation needs countering but without undermining free speech. The public should be given the tools to critically evaluate the claims that are made in the media and on social media.

"The UK Statistics Authority’s role in calling out misuse of statistics should be supported, even when this is uncomfortable for the government of the day." 

Data should go beyond national averages and be broken down to a more granular level to allow communities to access statistics relating to their local area, the RSS also argued, adding: "The public should see themselves reflected in the data. Statistics should be easy to break down by sex, race, disability and age."

The full set of recommendations can be found in the RSS Data Manifesto.