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Glossary

On this page you can find a glossary of terms used across the Government Statistical Service (GSS) website.

If you can’t find the term you’re looking for then please email gssnet@statistics.gov.uk.

The Chief Statistician is the accountable officer in the official statistics producer organisation that is given executive responsibility for decision making on statistical matters.

In some organisations the Chief Statistician will also be the statistical Head of Profession. In others the Chief Statistician will delegate responsibility for professional matters to the statistical Head of Profession.

The Chief Statisticians in the devolved administration are the principal advisers on official statistics in their respective administrations. They have overall responsibility for the implementation and coordination of professional statistical standards and for ensuring adherence with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

  • In Northern Ireland the Chief Statistician is the Registrar General and Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
  • The Chief Statistician in the Scottish Government works in consultation with the Registrar General for Scotland and the Head of Profession for Health and Care Statistics.
  • The Chief Statistician in the Welsh Government is responsible for professional statistical standards in Wales.

Some GSS committees/boards/groups are run on a constituency model basis.

This means not every government department is represented by an individual, instead there are constituency representatives which represent multiple departments.

A constituency representative is either a statistical HoP or an agreed representative who has been delegated the authority to make decisions at the committee on the behalf of their HoP. In addition, they represent the statistical HoPs of other departments in their constituency.

Each representative is expected to understand the individual views of the departments they represent through prior consultation of meeting papers.

In some committees/boards/groups the constituencies will be sets of people rather than government departments e.g. people of a certain job grade.

Each government department that produces official statistics has a statistical Head of Profession who leads and manages the statistical activities within their own department. Some smaller departments and arm’s length bodies have a “lead official” with accountability to a Head of Profession from a sponsor department.

The statistical Heads of Profession are accountable to their departmental management for day to day delivery, but also have a professional accountability to the National Statistician as the head of the GSS.

The Director General for Regulation leads the Office for Statistics Regulation and has a statutory role as the Authority’s Head of Assessment, and principal adviser on the assessment and reassessment of official statistics and their compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

The Director General for Regulation is a member of the Board of the UK Statistics Authority, reports directly to the Chair of the Authority, and operates independently from the National Statistician and all statistical producers.

Lead officials are senior statisticians or analysts in an arm’s length body that have been given the responsibility to lead on statistical matters by the organisation. They liaise with the statistical Head of Profession in a sponsoring department.

The National Statistician is the head of the Government Statistical Service and the government’s principal adviser on official statistics.

The National Statistician is an executive member of the UK Statistics Authority Board and has executive responsibility for the Office for National Statistics as the Authority’s Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary.

Official statistics are statistics produced by crown bodies, those acting on behalf of crown bodies, or those bodies specified in statutory orders, as defined in section six of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

The responsible government Minister, acting on the advice of their statistical Head of Profession, and in accordance with the guidance issued by the National Statistician on identifying official statistics (pdf, 1MB), determines whether or not statistics should be treated as official statistics.

The term official statistics includes three types of statistics produced by public bodies:

  • National Statistics, which have been assessed by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) as fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Statistics. Accredited National Statistics use the National Statistics Quality Mark. For a complete list of all National Statistics, you can view the list maintained by the OSR.
  • Experimental statistics, which are newly developed or innovative statistics. These are published so that users and stakeholders can be involved in the assessment of their suitability and quality at an early stage.
  • Statistics that have not been assessed as fully compliant with the Code of Practice. A register of de-designated statistics is also maintained by the OSR.

The public good is defined in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 in terms of the Authority’s statutory objective to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good.

This includes informing the public about social and economic matters, assisting in the development and evaluation of public policy, regulating quality and publicly challenging the misuse of statistics.

Quality in statistics refers to data and methods that produce assured statistics.

Quality means that statistics fit their intended use, are based on appropriate data and methods and are not materially misleading.

Quality requires skilled professional judgement about collecting, preparing, analysing and publishing statistics and data in ways that meet the needs of people who want to use the statistics.