Harmonisation: An opportunity to build inclusive foundations

Sofi Nickson

Why harmonisation is important

To maximise the value of data we need strong foundations. We can create them by making sure data are ā€˜harmonisedā€™. Harmonisation means making sure data are consistent, coherent, and comparable across the UK. This work is led by the Government Statistical Service (GSS) Harmonisation Team at the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Harmonisation allows analysts to gain deeper insight into a topic. It means that they can combine statistics from lots of different sources with confidence.

Harmonised standards also provide a convenient solution to help with data collection. They help users to directly compare data collected and produced by different parts of government. This can save time and money.

The importance of harmonisation cannot be overstated. Our colleagues at the Cabinet Office have also written a blog post about why data harmonisation is important.

Introducing our new harmonisation workplan

Today we are pleased to launch our Harmonisation Workplan for 2022 and beyond. The workplan sets out our priority areas of work to review and update our standards and guidance. It also shows how we are responding to the Inclusive Data Task Force recommendations by putting inclusivity at the centre of our work.

Finding a balance

The creation of this workplan has involved finding a balance. Our workplan activities show how we will develop and provide comprehensive standards and guidance. But we also recognise that we will need to work quicker than ever to fill any gaps.

We will demonstrate leadership, but we will balance this by working together in all that we do. This is important because the topics we work on are often complex.

Our priority areas

We will concentrate on supporting the inclusivity of data. We want to make sure that no-one is left behind and everyone is counted.

We are pleased to set out new work on topics including:

  • ethnicity
  • disability
  • mental health
  • sex and gender identity

You can find more information about our plans in our GSS Harmonisation Workplan.

You should continue to use the current standards while we are doing the work. We encourage you to use them whenever you collect data.

As well as our priority areas, our harmonised standards and guidance webpage covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • age and date of birth
  • social capital
  • educational attainment
  • loneliness

What will happen next

Harmonised standards and guidance should be used across all data collection contexts. UK and devolved governments are the main users of harmonised standards and guidance. But private sector organisations, public bodies and local authorities can also use them.

We want to make sure that the standards we provide are used and meet different user needs. To do this, we will work closely with stakeholders in many ways. This includes:

We will also provide regular updates on our workplan. We will also publish blog posts to give updates about our work.

Contact us

We hope that you share our enthusiasm for harmonisation. By using our harmonised standards and guidance you can help create a consistent, coherent, and comparable data ecosystem across the UK.

We are excited to progress with our new workplan to improve the inclusivity of data in the UK. Please contact us if you want to get involved or have any feedback about our work. You can email us at harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk.

GSS Harmonisation Team
Sofi Nickson
The GSS Harmonisation Team are based in the Office for National Statistics. They help the whole of the GSS improve comparability, consistency and coherence of statistics.