Independent production and the managed handling of statistics and data

This is a case study for Principle T1: Honesty and integrity.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the authoritative and recognised provider of rail statistics in Great Britain. ORR’s production of official statistics is distinct from its role as a regulator. Its statistical releases do not compare results against targets, or make judgements about how Network Rail, train operators, or other entities should be performing. All commentary is therefore factual, based on the trends in the statistics, without giving an opinion on the results.

ORR’s Information & Analysis (I&A) team is responsible for the production of all of its official statistics. The team consists of statisticians and business intelligence analysts. The principles of the Code and the working practices used to produce its statistics are explained to all ORR staff involved in the production of statistics upon induction.

The I&A team ensure that clear handling instructions are provided to those who access the statistics before they are published as management information, or in the production or pre-release stages. For example, some of the data ORR uses to publish statistics is also used as management information to support ORR’s ongoing regulatory monitoring of Network Rail through a series of internal dashboards. These are provided to users with specific handling instructions that they are for internal monitoring purposes only, and must not be disclosed to third parties.

ORR’s Communications team also have a clear understanding of how the Code applies to their activities, and new joiners are briefed by a senior statistician. The statistics pages are the most popular on the ORR website and the team recognise the value of being the trusted source of rail statistics. ORR’s statistics are one way in which it can demonstrate its authority, professionalism and breadth of knowledge about the rail industry. Communicating them clearly helps the media, stakeholders and public to be well-informed on key aspects of the rail industry. A media handling plan is agreed between ORR’s head of profession for statistics and the Communications team to ensure social media, press releases, blogs, internal briefs, and other communication using official statistics are compliant with the Code whilst still supporting ORR’s role as a regulator.

To further raise awareness of the Code within ORR, statisticians present at staff briefings and regularly offer work shadowing to communications staff and analysts joining other teams.

This example demonstrates some of the ways in which ORR ensures its statistics are truthful, impartial and independent. It also shows how ORR ensures its staff handle and use statistics and data with honesty and integrity and meet consistent standards of behaviour that reflect the wider public good.