Harmonisation

Harmonisation is about making statistics more comparable, consistent and coherent. It improves efficiency and enables users to draw more value from statistics. To improve harmonisation, analysts, researchers and data owners should aim to, where appropriate:

  • use consistent definitions and survey questions in data collection
  • improve understanding of how data and statistics can be integrated and used in combination
  • present statistics in a comparable and coherent way

But, since statistics producers will each have their own specific user requirements, this is not always appropriate. In these cases, they should consider other actions to improve the coherence of their data and statistics, such as providing improved guidance.

What support is available?

We have developed a two year harmonisation strategy for the Government Statistical Service (GSS).

This strategy sets direction on the coherence and comparability of statistics across the GSS. It was developed through consultation with key stakeholders across the GSS and sets out realistic actions to improve comparability and coherence across official statistics. The strategy will provide guidance for all those involved in delivering statistics across the GSS.

Harmonised standards and guidance are tools for improving the comparability and coherence of statistics.

Being harmonised is about aligning with others, not necessarily being identical to them. As such, some of our harmonised standards can be tailored for specific situations. Further information on the importance of harmonisation can be found in the United Kingdom Statistics Authority’s explanation of how coherence relates to the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Harmonised standards include definitions, survey questions, suggested presentations and information for data users. Producers of statistics can use these harmonised standards to align with others, which will increase the usefulness of their statistics.

In some circumstances, it is not appropriate to suggest harmonised questions and definitions. In these cases, harmonisation guidance explains the topic landscape to help users understand where they can and cannot compare data.

Browse the harmonised standards and guidance by topic.

Search all the harmonised standards and guidance.

Harmonisation champions work across the GSS to increase awareness of harmonisation and the help available.

Read more about the harmonisation champions network.

If a department needs help with harmonisation, the harmonisation team (based in the Office for National Statistics but here to help the whole GSS) are happy to collaborate closely.

Email gsshelp@statistics.gov.uk to find out more.

This guide will provide answers to our frequently asked questions and give an overview of what the GSS harmonisation team do.

Why is harmonisation important?

Harmonisation allows analysts to work together to gain deeper insight from their data. This delivers more meaningful statistics that give users a greater level of understanding.

Bringing experts together can also take advantage of shared knowledge across the system. This means we can develop ways to best capture data and produce Official Statistics that answer user questions. It can also achieve cost savings by realising efficiencies of avoiding duplication.

Harmonisation is also required to follow the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Who are the GSS harmonisation team?

The GSS harmonisation team are a team of researchers and statisticians within the Best Practice and Impact (BPI) division. The team works on a cross-governmental programme of work to support the GSS by improving harmonisation. Our aim is to provide clearer and more robust comparison between data sources.

What is the GSS harmonisation champions network?

The harmonisation champions network works across the GSS to:

  • increase awareness of harmonisation
  • promote the help and support that is available

Each government department has a nominated harmonisation champion (or several champions).

What are the harmonisation standards and guidance?

Harmonised standards and guidance are tools for improving the comparability and coherence of statistics.

Harmonised standards include definitions, survey questions, suggested presentations and information for data users. Producers of statistics can use these harmonised standards to align with others, which will increase the usefulness of their statistics.

In some circumstances, it is not appropriate to suggest harmonised questions and definitions. In these cases, harmonisation guidance explains the topic landscape to help users understand where they can and cannot compare data.

What is a harmonisation topic?

Harmonisation topics  are related themes under which harmonised standards and guidance are grouped, such as health, housing and demographics.

Contact us

For general questions about harmonisation, please email gsshelp@statistics.gov.uk

For questions about a specific harmonised standard or guidance please use the relevant contact details on each page.

If you want to find out more about what harmonisation means for your department, speak to your harmonisation champion.