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UK to lead UN project defining the value of global statistics

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday began work to lead a UN project to measure the true value of the world’s official statistics.

Every day, measures such as gross domestic product (GDP), migration, and trade statistics are used by hundreds of decision makers and governments and make news headlines around the world. But, until now, little work has been done to assess the monetary value of these important datasets.

The ONS yesterday brought together up to 21 countries and organisations from around the world in London to try and find out what a value might look like. These findings can then be used as evidence to help encourage further development of official statistics around the world.

In 2017, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) published a set of recommendations from a UK-led international task force. The recommendations included initial ideas for estimating the value of official statistics and a draft framework for the comparison of results across countries.

Yesterday’s event is the next step towards putting these recommendations into practice, with contributions from the task force including representatives from the US, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Denmark, Poland, Israel, Namibia and the Gulf Arab States.

Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, yesterday said:

“Official statistics are needed to help policy makers make better decisions and improve lives. By evaluating their worth, we hope to prove their importance to society here in the UK and elsewhere.

“In today’s world of Big Data, statistical agencies have an opportunity to show how high-quality statistics and clear insight are a vital public good, and I am proud that the ONS has taken a lead on this. Through working with other countries, we can share ideas and help provide better evidence to tackle the global challenges our societies face.”

Fiona Willis-Núñez, Statistician at the UNECE, yesterday said:

“We official statisticians like to repeat the adage that only when something is measured does it become truly visible and understandable. We know our products are important, but being able to prove this to decision makers relies on having quantifiable evidence of our efficiency and value for money.

“International cooperation is fundamental. The immense variety of possible ways countries could measure the value and impact of their statistics means that finding a final answer will prove to be a massive task. We are grateful to the UK for taking a lead on this subject and helping to drive this programme with other countries.”

The UNECE are continuing to work as secretariat for the project. Findings from this work will feed into final recommendations, which will be presented to the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) in 2021.

Background notes:

The initial international task force was created in 2015 and presented their recommendations to the Conference for European Statistics (CES). These can be read on the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe website.

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