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Happy Birthday to the Code of Practice for Statistics!

The Code of Practice for Statistics is one year old today. This is real cause for celebration.

Our new code reframes the debate about statistics. The statistician is not just a calculator. Rather, the statistician’s job is at the heart of democracy.

As David Norgrove states in his introduction to the code: statistics are a foundation of our society, supporting the decisions we make at home and at work, as individuals and collectively. They are part of the lifeblood of democratic debate.

The code is framed around three pillars: trustworthiness, quality and value.

Trustworthiness is about processes, people and systems. No one can just expect to be trusted. An organisation must provide testable evidence to demonstrate that they have the interests of the public at heart, by demonstrating competence, honesty and openness.

Quality is about the data and how they are processed into statistics. Statistics that are the best available estimate of what they aim to measure, and should not mislead.

Value follows the emphasis in the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics on statistics that meet the test of practical utility. This includes a coherent picture, a focus on users, an emphasis on what questions the statistics answer and on innovation as the world changes.

The real power of the code is as an antidote to the narratives about loss of trust in institutions in general and in the use of data in particular. Its pillars and principles are designed to be universal and can voluntarily apply to any situation where an organisation wants to publish data, evidence and statistics that command confidence.

The code places those involved in the creation and communication of official statistics as an essential element of an emerging ecosystem that seeks to enhance the positive public good that can arise from better use of data. It also provides a stern challenge to those who harness data for their own vested interest in ways that damage society, communities and individuals.

Happy Birthday to the Code of Practice for Statistics!

 

John Pullinger
Hannah Thomas
The UK's National Statistician