Annex: Official Statistics
The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 defines 'official statistics' as all those statistical outputs produced by the UK Statistics Authority's executive office (the Office for National Statistics) by central government departments and agencies, by the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and by other Crown bodies.
The Act also allows Ministers to determine, through secondary legislation, which non-Crown bodies produce official statistics so that they, too, can be subject to scrutiny and assessment by the Statistics Authority, and be eligible for assessment as Accredited Official Statistics. This provision is designed to ensure a broad definition of official statistics, as well as flexibility so that the scope of official statistics can be adapted over time to suit changing circumstances.
- Accredited Official Statistics
- Official statistics in development
- Strategy for official statistics in development – Biodiversity Indicators
- User engagement
Accredited Official Statistics
Accredited official statistics are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. An explanation can be found on the Office for Statistics Regulation website.
Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.
The UK Biodiversity Indicators is an accredited official statistics compendium. It complies with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics and should be labelled ‘accredited official statistics’ compendium. The accreditation does not mean that all the individual statistics presented are accredited official statistics in their own right. It means that the compilation publication has been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority as compliant with the Code of Practice.
These statistics were independently reviewed by the OSR in February 2012. See Assessment Report 173 Statistics on Sustainability and the Environment in England and the UK. Since this review by the OSR, we have continued to comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics.
The following individual statistics presented in the publication are accredited official statistics, also known as National Statistics:
B1b. Area of forestry land certified as sustainably managed Assessed March 2012
C5. Birds of the wider countryside and at sea Assessed February 2012
Although all other statistics in this compendium are not individually accredited official statistics, they are official statistics or official statistics in development, and as such have been produced in line with the Code of Practice. They are subject to rigorous quality assurance by the data providers and general quality assurance by Defra and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
The presentation of the statistics, the commentary, and the assessments have been overseen and quality assured by Defra Statisticians.
Official statistics in development
Official statistics in development (previously termed ‘Experimental statistics’) are a subset of newly developed or innovative official statistics undergoing evaluation. They are developed under the guidance of the Head of Profession for Statistics and are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in the assessment of their suitability and quality at an early stage. Further information can be found in the Guide to official statistics in development.
If you have feedback on any of the official statistics in development in this publication, please email email@example.com.
Strategy for official statistics in development – Biodiversity Indicators
Use of the official statistics in development label
It is our responsibility (JNCC and Defra) as the producer of official statistics to decide when to label a set of official statistics as ‘in development’ and when to remove that label. Where necessary, we will seek guidance on this from Defra’s Head of Profession for Statistics, who may approach the National Statistician for further guidance as required. We also have the option to contact the Office for Statistics Regulation to discuss specific situations as part of our decision to apply or remove the ‘in development’ label to/from any of our official statistics, but they have no formal role in making the decisions.
We will use our judgement, informed by consultation with indicator experts and data providers where necessary, to decide when to use the ‘in development’ label for a new output or for the modification of an existing output. In doing so, we will consider the following criteria laid out by the Government Statistical Service (2019):
- whether there is a defined and time-limited work programme, either to develop new statistics or to improve existing outputs, and the output falls within the remit of that programme;
- whether we are developing new statistics that have considerable immediate value to users; users are aware of the statistics’ quality and limitations and can make qualified use of them before operational testing has been completed
- whether the statistics remain subject to testing of quality, volatility and ability to meet user needs;
- whether new methods are being tested and are still subject to modification or further evaluation;
- whether there is only partial coverage (for example, of subgroups or regions) at the point when we plan to publish the new indicator.
Introducing official statistics in development
We will continue to actively develop indicators in conjunction with stakeholders and for those evolving experimentally, we will work towards full consideration of the standards set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics. When we introduce new indicators into our publications as official statistics in development, we will aim to:
- explain what the experimental statistics are;
- describe how they might be useful;
- describe why they are in development, what is new or different about them and how they complement existing official statistics;
- request user feedback via the firstname.lastname@example.org inbox, in particular to gauge the usefulness and value of our statistics;
- seek appropriate peer review for indicators involving specialist methodologies;
- include a statement in releases and metadata explaining what the official statistics in development label means;
- set out the criteria for removing the official statistics in development label and where known, when we hope to meet those criteria;
Where appropriate, we will also say whether and when we plan to request the UK Statistics Authority to assess whether the statistics fully comply with the Code of Practice so that they can be designated as National Statistics.
Removal of the official statistics in development label
The ‘official statistic in development’ label is temporary. We will decide when it is appropriate to remove the label from one of our indicators. Before making the final decision, we will consult with all parties involved in the production of the specific indicator (for example, indicator leads and data providers) and put forward a recommendation to Defra’s Head of Profession. As part of this process, we will consider the following factors:
- whether user feedback and/or expert peer review indicates that the statistics are trustworthy, of high quality, and valuable;
- whether feedback from data providers suggests that the data and methodology underpinning the indicator are of sufficient quality;
- whether the methods employed have proved sufficiently robust to suit the variety of circumstances in which the statistics are likely to be used;
- whether coverage has reached a sufficient level;
- whether the defined development phase has ended;
- whether it is judged that the statistics fully comply with the standards of the Code of Practice.
Statistics assessed as fully compliant with the Code of Practice are, by definition, no longer in development. As with all official statistics, we can ask the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) to assess whether official statistics in development comply with the Code of Practice in order that they can be designated as accredited official statistics (also known as National Statistics).
The OSR may also decide that it is appropriate to assess a set of official statistics in development and if so, will notify us accordingly.
We have the option to withdraw a set of statistics in development from one of our publications if they do not meet user needs or are otherwise not fit for purpose. If statistics are to be withdrawn, we will liaise with our Head of Profession who will then decide who to notify and whether to escalate changes of scope to the National Statistician.
The guidance on changing or ceasing to publish official statistics provides further details.
In line with our commitment to the Code of Practice for Statistics, during 2022 we carried out a user engagement exercise for the Biodiversity Indicators.
A user feedback survey was designed to assess users’ satisfaction with current indicators (including content, timing, coverage, quality, and accessibility), and to better understand how the indicators are used. The survey was launched on 22 September 2022 and closed on 20 October 2022. Alongside this we used Google Analytics to explore how users interact with the England Biodiversity Indicators GOV.UK web page, and the UK Biodiversity Indicators on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) webpage.
These findings and recommendations outline what we plan to do to improve our publications in future.
- Our survey told us that the most commonly used indicators are ones relating to species and habitats. We will seek feedback from users on how we can improve the value of these indicators further.
- Our survey and usage analytics give us confidence that our users’ needs are mostly met. For example, most respondents agreed in the trustworthiness of data and in the annual frequency of publications being sufficient.
- We recognise that there is room to do more to increase the usability and use of the biodiversity indicators. We will explore different methods for engaging with users, including contact users who left their details in the user survey and the use of newsletters.
- Feedback from users confirmed that there was value in continuing to publish both datasets and a commentary to aid understanding. Several users reuse the charts in the publication highlighting their value.
- User feedback informed a decision to discontinue production of a combined pdf booklet because no users reported finding value in this publication format.
- Our data providers views are valuable; we will aim to increase engagement with our data providers, making more use of their knowledge of source data to benefit the indicators.
- Where feasible we will aim to confirm exact publication dates a year in advance in accordance with the Code of Practice.