1. Adhering to wider standards and guidance

Figure 1 illustrates our policies that ensure we comply with the code of practice and other standards and guidance.

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2. Quality Assurance of Administrative Data

ONS complies with the UK Statistics Authority’s Quality Assuring Administrative Data and implements practices outlined in the Quality Assurance of Administrative Data Toolkit.

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3. Data collection

At ONS, we collect data from both survey and non-survey sources. We are transparent and open with data providers and value their time and contribution, collecting data only when necessary. We collect information from individuals, households, public bodies and businesses through a range of surveys we administer. We also conduct the census in England and Wales every 10 years.

To explain what respondents taking part in our surveys can expect, we publish a Respondent Charter for Surveys of Households and Individuals and a separate Surveys. Similarly, for each census we explain publicly how we will conduct the census and what will happen to the data collected, including our commitment that census records will be kept confidential for 100 years.

We design our surveys to minimise the burden placed on respondents, only collecting the data necessary to fulfil our functions, meet users’ needs and serve the public good. We publish details of all the surveys we run.

We further reduce the need for surveys by using non-survey data sources in compiling some of our statistics. This includes administrative data obtained by public or private sector organisations in the course of undertaking their normal operations, rather than collecting data specifically for statistical purposes.

Wherever possible we follow the principle of “collect once, use many times” to produce statistics from existing data sources and avoid duplicate requests being made of those providing data.

When collecting data, regardless of whether from survey or non-survey sources, we must comply with the relevant legislation.

Summary of main data collection principles:

  • we will only collect data for statistical and research purposes, and where access is lawful

  • we will collect data transparently and treat data providers with respect

  • we will minimise the burden placed on respondents to surveys

  • we will aim to fully utilise non-survey data for statistical purposes

  • we will keep individuals’ and businesses’ information secure and confidential, regardless of whether it has been collected from survey or non-survey sources

  • we will collect data via web-scraping for the production of statistics and research that serve the public good, following practices and procedures set out in the ONS web-scraping policy

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4. Harmonisation

Harmonisation is about ensuring commonality in the use of definitions, survey questions, administrative data and in the presentation of outputs across the Government Statistical Service to enable comparability. Harmonisation is fundamentally important for maximising the power of data and analyses without compromising quality.

ONS complies with the Government Statistical Service Harmonisation Principles.

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5. How we publish statistics

At ONS, we produce statistics about the economy, population and society for the public good. We publish the statistics we produce openly online, available free of charge to all.

ONS statistical publications, including accompanying commentary, are guided by the principles of the Code of Practice for Statistics and the Civil Service’s core values of integrity, honesty, objectivity, and impartiality.

All our regular publications of statistics, analysis and datasets follow a pre-announced timetable. In addition, we also publish data in response to user requests for additional analyses or tables. Although we do not charge for data, we may need to charge for responding to requests for particularly complex analysis to recover the costs of providing that service.

We follow the protocol for release practices set out in the Code of Practice to ensure statistical reports are released in an orderly manner that promotes public confidence in our statistics. The protocol requires that all statistical releases are published online at 9:30am on a weekday, giving equal access to all users subject to statutory provisions for pre-release access.

Open data

We wish to enable the greatest possible use of the data we hold for wider public benefit and adopt an “open by default” approach. All the statistics we publish are available under the Open Government Licence, free of charge to all. We are committed to publishing open data where it is possible to do so.

Disclosure control

Even in aggregated data, rare combinations of attributes can make it possible to identify individuals within a dataset, either directly or by comparing it with other data. Where this is a risk, we employ statistical disclosure techniques, in line with Government Statistical Service (GSS) guidance to safeguard the confidentiality of information about individuals and businesses. This can reduce the level of detail we publish or alter a dataset in a minor way so that personal or commercial information is not identifiable.

Errors and corrections

Where an error occurs in a published ONS output, we aim to address this promptly and transparently, by placing a notice on the affected statistical release and making any correction as soon as possible.

Summary of key principles:

  • We make official statistics equally available to all, subject to statutory provisions for pre-release access

  • We provide statistics, analysis and datasets to meet users’ needs, in as much detail as is reliable and practicable, subject to legal and confidentiality constraints

  • We ensure that official statistics do not reveal the identity of an individual or organisation, or any private information relating to them, taking into account other relevant sources of information

  • We publish data in reusable, machine-readable form, wherever possible

  • We publish data under the Open Government Licence so that it is freely available for wider exploitation on a non-exclusive basis

  • Where an error occurs in a published ONS output, a notice detailing the error will be placed on the affected statistical release, and if a correction is required it will be released promptly and in an open and transparent manner

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6. Pre-release access

Equality of access to official statistics is a fundamental principle of statistical good practice. As of 1 July 2017, pre-release access to ONS statistics was removed in all but exceptional circumstances. Whenever a decision is taken to grant pre-release access in future, details will be published below.

For further information about ending pre-release access for ONS statistics, please see the letter from the National Statistician John Pullinger to Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority (15 June 2017), and Sir David Norgrove’s reply (15 June 2017).

Exchange of letters between Jonathan Athow and Ben Broadbent regarding exceptional pre-release access - 18 July 2017

Exchange of letters between Iain Bell and Robert Chote regarding exceptional pre-release access - 20 October 2017

Exchange of letters between Jonathan Athow and Robert Chote regarding exceptional pre-release access - February 2018

Exchange of letters between Jonathan Athow and Ben Broadbent regarding exceptional pre-release access - February 2018

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7. Revisions

The Code of Practice for Statistics defines “Revisions” as planned amendments to published statistics in order to improve quality by incorporating additional data that were unavailable at the point of initial publication.

Statistics are most often revised for 1 of 2 reasons:

  • For certain statistics such as gross domestic product (GDP), migration statistics, and Retail Sales Index (RSI), initial estimates are released with the expectation that these may be revised and updated as further data becomes available

  • Revisions may also be made when methods or systems are changed

ONS manages its scheduled revisions in accordance with the requirements set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

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8. Reporting a breach

A breach is caused when an organisation producing official statistics fails to meet the standards outlined in the Code of Practice for Statistics. Reporting breaches means being open about mistakes and the actions being taken to correct them. It is important for building public trust in statistics and for statistics producers to learn and improve.

ONS complies with Government Statistical Service policy and guidance on reporting breaches of the Code of Practice for Statistics.

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