In line with our commitment to collect data transparently and treat data providers with respect, these pages in conjunction with the list of administrative sources spreadsheet, form our Statement of Administrative Sources. They explain where data that are collected from ‘administrative’ sources originated and how they are used.
Official statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are based on 2 main sources: data gathered from our statistical surveys - including for instance the census - and data extracted from other organisations’ administrative or management systems (including commercial organisations). The administrative and management data used will have been initially collected for the delivery of services or for operational purposes. Three examples of administrative data are: UK Visas and Immigration records of the number of visas to the UK granted to foreign nationals, HM Revenue and Customs records of business sales figures for taxation purposes, and a business’s payroll records confirming the number of employees.
By using administrative data instead of collecting the data through surveys or other methods, we are able to limit the overall burden placed on businesses and individuals, and also minimise the costs associated with collecting the data. 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 sample surveys, can deliver a greater breadth of coverage. There are challenges with using data not collected with the intention of the production of statistics and these pages also outline how these challenges are addressed as well as listing the sources.
The UK Statistics Authority is clear that adequate safeguards must be put in place to ensure the professional integrity of any official statistics derived from them. The Authority’s regulatory standard for the quality assurance of administrative data is the ‘Quality Assurance of Administrative Data’
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.
We update the list within the Statement of Administrative Sources twice a year and it can be seen as a living document that will evolve accordingly. In line with ONS's commitment to improve transparency, the Statement of Administrative Sources from October 2016 includes an increased range of information on the sources and uses of administrative data for statistical purposes.
The list includes all the administrative sources currently being used and those with the potential to be used for the production of statistics in the future. It also includes administrative data produced by the ONS, such as Payroll data which are used to help produce statistics or for other purposes (i.e. the quarterly Cabinet Office sick return).
Arrangements for auditing the quality of the original source data
Where we already hold administrative information for statistical use, the quality of the source data is assessed as part of the regular reviews of the wider statistical system.
The quality of new data shares is tested early in the data sharing process. It is assessed by staff to ensure it is of sufficient quality for the intended statistical outputs as part of the feasibility study, before a formal request is submitted for the information to be made available to ONS.
We are rolling out the use of the Quality Assurance for Administrative Data developed by the UK Statistics Authority to ensure that ONS continues to assure the quality of administrative source data. The toolkit embeds actions to provide an appropriate level of quality assurance and to manage risks to data quality.
Procedures for handling changes, and possible discontinuities, in the underlying source data
Where possible, time series are recalculated to allow a period of comparison if there is a change or discontinuity in the underlying source data. Such events are always described in any metadata made available with the data and are highlighted and described in any publication of the statistics.
Information on how we collect, keep secure, use, and permit access to data including from administrative or management sources is available.
For further information and queries contact the:
Admin Data Quality
Office for National Statistics
Telephone: +44 (0)1329 444724 Email: AdminData.Quality@ons.gov.uk
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- List of administrative sources, Oct 2016 (305.2 kB xls)