Data collection considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:30 April 2020
Owner:Nick Woodhill and Martin Ralphs
Who this is for:Producers of official statistics


This guidance has been drawn up to support producers of official statistics who need to decide when to pause or continue data collections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) released general guidance for producers on 23 March 2020. The OSR guidance covers changes to data collection, statistics production and release, but not in the same detail as the considerations set out here.

This guidance is particularly focused on data collection requests made to local authorities, but the considerations can apply to any data collection.  Data priorities must be balanced against the practical resource challenges that local authorities and other providers will face.

The Government Social Research (GSR) profession have expanded on this guidance. Their version is currently available on the GSR members website. If you can’t access this website you can contact the GSR by emailing:


Why do you need the data now?

  • Are the data required for coronavirus (COVID-19) understanding, decision making, funding and payments or analysis?
  • Are the data required to inform our understanding of changes in the fabric of the economy or society due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (in particular any immediate changes)?
  • Are operational or policy decisions made directly from the data?
  • How will stopping collection impact on the quality of operational or policy decisions?

What are the alternatives?

  • Are there alternative data sources for this data collection?
  • Is there a viable alternative with enough quality to meet user needs for now?
  • Is there anything you can do to reduce burden that will keep critical data flowing?
  • Can you reduce the scope or complexity of the data requested or use auxiliary information to model missing data?
  • Is data needed from all local authorities or would a sampling approach be sufficient?

Is it practical to ask for the data?

  • Do data providers have the resources to dedicate to this?
  • Are data providers able to access the systems they need to provide you with the data?
  • Is it appropriate and proportionate for you to be asking them to dedicate time to this instead of doing other things?
  • Are there any risks to the health and well-being of data providers if the data are collected now?

What happens if you don’t get the data?

  • Can the data be collected at a later stage?
  • Can the frequency of collection be reduced?
  • What are the consequences of reducing the frequency of collection?
  • Can you give flexibility over when data providers supply the data? – some may find it straightforward and easier to supply quarter by quarter, whereas others may prefer to submit two quarters of data once business returns to normal.
  • Are there knock-on effects of not collecting the data? For example, will other data products be compromised, reducing the capability of decision makers?

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