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Quality in the Office for National Statistics

What is quality?

The quality of a statistical product can be defined as the fitness for purpose of that product.  More specifically, it is the fitness for purpose with regards the following dimensions: relevance, accuracy, timeliness and punctuality, accessibility and clarity, comparability, and coherence.

ONS and quality

ONS statistics are generally recognised as fit for purpose by our customers. The Statistics Authority's Code of Practice requires us to improve our engagement with customers on statistical quality by ensuring customers understand the quality of our statistics and by establishing how far the quality meets their needs. Additional government security requirements and the continued concern about data assurance requires us to ensure our confidentiality commitments are met and that the security of our statistics is maintained. Establishing a climate of continuous quality improvement will also reduce cost and enhance value.

The ONS Quality Management Strategy sets out the ONS’s key quality goals, which are to:

  1. use Quality Management to encourage and promote a culture of continuous improvement through self assessment and quality reviews
  2. produce relevant outputs with up-to-date metadata
  3. produce standardised outputs

Dimensions of quality

We use European Statistical System indicators of quality to discuss and measure our processes and outputs. For processes these are efficiency, effectiveness, robustness, flexibility, transparency and integration. For outputs they are accuracy, timeliness and punctuality, coherence, comparability, accessibility and relevance.

In addition, there are additional characteristics that should be considered when thinking about quality, these include output quality trade-offs; user needs and perceptions; performance cost and respondent burden; and confidentiality, transparency and security.

See the ONS Guidelines for measuring statistical quality for more detail on the output indicators.

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