Head of Profession: Ian Lonsdale

Large version of the profile picture for Ian Lonsdale, the Government Statistical Service (GSS) Head of Profession (HoP) at the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Ian Lonsdale is the Government Statistical Service (GSS) Head of Profession (HoP) at the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).

My biggest work-related accomplishment

As well as being Defra’s Head of Profession, I am also the lead analyst for Defra’s food chain analysis and farming statistics. I am particularly proud of how my analytical team, and others within Defra, have responded to the various emergencies that have affected food and farming over the past couple of years. This includes events like leaving the EU, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the cost of living crisis. Analysis in Defra has been at the forefront of informing and developing policy in these areas and has had great effect.

If I could only produce one piece of work next year

My priority would be supporting the statisticians across Defra and it’s agencies through the challenges likely to face the Civil Service over this spending review. This includes prioritising our outputs and maximising their value.

Why I chose a career in statistics

Maths was always my favourite subject at school, and I especially enjoyed survey statistics. I was really interested in how I could collect a small amount of raw survey data and transform it into meaningful evidence for a much larger population. I joined the Civil Service straight from university as a Statistics Officer in 1996 on a one year contract, and the rest is history.

The best skills I bring to the job

I have worked very closely with policy teams over much of my career. I think I have a particularly good understanding of how to communicate evidence to policy teams, so that it’s as effective as possible. 

One thing I wish I knew before I joined the Civil Service

I wish I had known that I would need to get used to filling in forms!

The biggest influence on my approach to work

I feel I learn a lot by observation. I have had many line managers over my career and I have always tried to replicate what they have done well, and avoid repeating their mistakes.

The best advice I have been given

I remember being on a training course very early on in my career, and the trainer said that the most important thing he wanted to share was the importance of really listening to people. I always try to really concentrate on listening when people are telling me something that is important to them. It applies at home and at work.

My dream career as a child

A dustbin man. It probably explains why I’m forever nagging my children about putting the rubbish in the correct recycling bin!