Official statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are based on two main sources – data gathered from statistical surveys, including the census, and data extracted from other organisations' administrative or management systems.
These administrative and management data will have been initially collected for purposes such as operational monitoring and analysis, policy development, analysis of the effect of policy changes, forecasting, resource allocation or answering Parliamentary Questions and Freedom of Information requests.
By using data that are already available within administrative or management systems, rather than collecting data afresh, we are able to limit the overall burden placed on data providers, and also avoid the costs of mounting dedicated data collection exercises.
In addition, the information we extract from such systems often has the advantage of being more timely than statistical data, and when compared with data from surveys (and particularly sample surveys), can also deliver data with a greater breadth of coverage.
The UK Statistics Authority actively encourages public bodies to exploit administrative and management sources for statistical purposes.
However, the Authority recognises that the statistical advantages of such arrangements can only be fully realised if statisticians have appropriate access to such systems; if statistical purposes are reflected in the design, management and development of such systems; and if adequate safeguards are put in place to ensure the professional integrity of any official statistics derived from them.
The Authority's main requirements are set out in the third Protocol attached to their Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
Among other things, this Protocol requires all producers of official statistics to publish, in consultation with the National Statistician, a Statement of administrative sources that lists:
the administrative systems they currently use to produce official statistics
information about other administrative sources that are not currently used for statistical purposes but that have the potential to be so used
the arrangements they have put in place to provide statistical staff with appropriate access to such sources; to take account of changes to such systems; to audit the quality of the administrative data used for statistical purposes; and to ensure the security of the resultant statistical processes
This document, in conjunction with the spreadsheet detailing ONS statistical use of other organisations' administrative or management sources, forms our ‘Statement of administrative sources’.
It also describes the administrative and management sources that we currently use to produce official statistics, or that have the potential to be so used, differentiating between:
those sources that we own and managed
those owned and managed by other organisations