Clarity and insight in government statistical outputs

This is a case study for Principle V3: Clarity and insight.

The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) selected the 2018 winner and first and second runners-up for the Campion Award for Official Statistics. The purpose of the award is to recognise outstanding innovations or developments in official statistics that improve the users’ experience.

  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) won for The Future Farming and Environment Evidence Compendium published in February 2018. According to the judging panel, Defra showed excellent use of administrative data with a direct impact on policy and communication with users.
  • The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) received plaudits for Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2017 (NIMDM2017), the official measure of deprivation in Northern Ireland. Judges thought the Measure brings together complex data and presentation at a very local level in a politically-sensitive context
  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office (HO) were recognised for their 2017 joint article, What’s happening with international student migration. The judging panel thought this piece of work dealt with a sensitive matter of real public interest and that the statistics both informed the debate and corrected a misunderstanding

All three are excellent examples of statistics that are presented clearly and explained meaningfully.

Defra’s compendium brings together data and statistics from a variety of sources and analysis such as statistical outputs, scientific research, operational research and economics. The output is an impressive effort compiling information from a wide array of sources and distilling that information into a digestible, interesting narrative. The compendium, through data and colourful graphics, demonstrates the importance of farm economics, food production, and environmental land management to help the reader understand UK agriculture and its contribution to the economy.

The newly developed NIMDM 2017 analysis package and online interactive maps provide users with robust insights into deprivation. The analysis package, for example, is simple to use, provides examples of what a user can do with the data and encourages interrogation. Users can break down the data by income, employment, health and disability and other deprivation domains that combine to produce the overall multiple deprivation measure. Other Excel spreadsheets are available for different geographies such as Wards and Assembly Areas.

The ONS/HO article is an update on progress towards developing a better understanding of student migration to and from the UK. The article is a major part of ONS’s work plan, in response to debates on student migration. ONS and Home Office statisticians analysed Home Office Exit Checks data to examine what happens to non-EU students when their visas have expired following their studies; whether they leave the UK or remain by extending their visas. Using new data sources to provide a complete and coherent picture of international student outcomes was one of the requirements of our compliance check of ONS’s long-term student migration estimates. The ONS/HO analysis goes some way towards building that picture – it provides insights into a sensitive political issue that attracts intense public and media interest.

The Defra and NISRA outputs provide clarity and insight by presenting relevant statistics and data in a clear and valuable way that enables use by all types of users. The ONS/HO article makes use of alternative data sources and explains the issues to generate insights into an important topic.