Exploring the user need for statistical coherence
The value of statistically coherent data
The value of Government departments working together to produce ‘coherent’ statistics and analysis is well known. But we do not have such a clear understanding of the needs of our data users in relation to coherence. To understand this better, we have we have been working on an exciting user research project. We have also used the findings from this research to consider how the Government Statistical Service (GSS) can best support data users to combine and compare statistics to better explain the part of the world they describe.
Who we are
We are a cross-department project team, with members from the GSS Statistical Coherence team (based in the Office for National Statistics) and the Constitution Group Analysis team (based in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities). By working together, we have completed qualitative research with a range of organisations to understand what our users need to help them combine data from different sources.
What we found
Data users told us they see great value in bringing together data. This helps them answer policy questions and gain greater insight. But they often encountered challenges when trying to bring data together. Through our research, we have identified three main areas where statistical producers can support the efforts of data users and improve statistical coherence. We found that:
- working together with strategic oversight enables the production of coherent statistics
- understanding the context of their data, and the wide user need, allows data producers to embed this into outputs and appropriately concentrate their efforts to improve statistical coherence
- data can be used to produce a wider narrative when producers clearly communicate appropriate data comparisons and publish data that is easy to access and navigate through
You can find more information about each of these findings in our high-level finding report.
Our interviewees gave broadly similar evidence about the importance of coherence, despite coming from different policy areas and different parts of the UK.
We will be expanding our research further to assess if these findings are relevant to a more diverse range of data users and to continue building our understanding of user requirements for coherent statistics. If you would like to share the opportunities, challenges and outcomes you have experienced when bringing together data from across different sources, please take part in our short survey.
Building on existing good practice
Coherence is an important cross-cutting theme from the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. Our work builds on this, and supports findings from previous work such as:
- the OSR Coherence Insight report
- The State of the Statistical System review
- OSR analytical leadership work
- the GSS User Engagement Strategy
This selection of reports brings together recommendations and observations on working across the UK statistical system.
The recently updated Concordat on Statistics highlights the responsibility of the UK Government and devolved administrations in producing “coherent and comparable statistics at international, UK and other sub-UK levels”. It also recognises the different statistical requirements of the legislation and the priorities of each nation.
There are many examples of good practice where GSS statisticians have worked to improve coherence and comparability of the statistics they produce. This includes:
- the GSS Coherence work programmes, where government statisticians are working together to bring transparency to the work they do
- the Integrated Data System Dissemination portals, such as the climate change statistics portal which aims to bring cross government data together in an easy to navigate way
Help us by taking part in a short survey
We are continuing our work to expand our understanding of the user need for statistically coherent data. If you have previously brought together data from different sources, we would like to hear about your experiences and any challenges you have faced when combining data. Please share your experiences by taking part in our short survey. It should only take around 5 minutes to complete. Your feedback will be used to further develop our findings and inspire improvements of coherence of UK statistics
We will continue to support improved coherence and highlight the added value and insight coherent data can create. We will work to bring statistical producers from the UK government and devolved administrations together to meet data priorities and enable data users to benefit from a broader understanding of their topic areas.
If you have any questions, or would like to hear more about our work, please email the team at GSS.Coherence@ons.gov.uk.