V5: Efficiency and proportionality

Statistics and data should be published in forms that enable their reuse. Producers should use existing data wherever possible and only ask for more where justified.


V5.1 Opportunities for data sharing, data linkage, cross-analysis of sources, and the reuse of data should be taken wherever feasible. Recognised standards, classifications, definitions, and methods should be applied to data wherever possible.

V5.2 Statistics producers should make supplementary analyses available for reuse where practicable and consider the release of statistics and data that are the subject of regular queries during statistics planning.

V5.3 The suitability of existing data, including administrative, open and privately-held data, should be assessed before undertaking a new data collection.

V5.4 Voluntary participation in statistical data collection should be sought, rather than using statutory powers, wherever possible.

V5.5 Statistics producers should be transparent in their approach to monitoring and reducing the burden on those providing their information, and on those involved in collecting, recording and supplying data. The burden imposed should be proportionate to the benefits arising from the use of the statistics.

V5.6 Statistics producers should analyse the impact of new data requirements or extending existing collections on those involved in the collection, recording and supply of data, against the potential value of the statistics in serving the public good.

Case studies

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) introduced Stat-Xplore, an open data tool which provides a guided way to explore DWP benefit statistics and helps to ensure that DWP statistical data is used, re-used and understood by a wide range of users.

Stat-Xplore currently holds data relating to 16 different DWP benefit programmes with plans to extend this to others in the future. The data on Stat-Xplore is the same data used in DWP statistical publications, so it does not impose any additional burden or require any additional supply of information from DWP sources, making efficient use of the statistical data DWP already holds.

DWP data on Stat-Xplore is available made in a number of ways to suit many user types, (including the Enquiring Citizen, Information Forager and Expert Analyst) with a helpful user guide, an interactive tour and extensive metadata provided to support users get the most value out of the data available.

The data contained in Stat-Xplore draws on recognised standards, classifications, definitions and methods. For example, many of the data sets draw on standard geographical units, and data perturbation/statistical disclosure control is applied to avoid the release of confidential information.

In conjunction with statistical publication consultations, user feedback and queries relating to Stat-Xplore datasets help DWP statisticians to determine whether new or extended data requirements are needed, thereby helping to inform decisions concerning the possible impacts of changing data requirements against their potential value.

Stat-Xplore has been upgraded to better meet user needs since its inception. User feedback has informed the further development of:

  • Ready-made tables available for most sets of benefit data, for ease of use
  • User defined tables which can be saved in a variety of formats (Excel, CSV, XML, ZIP), with additional large table functionality available to registered users
  • Derivations – allowing users to create new calculated items within a table such as adding together values in other columns or using mathematical and statistical functions
  • Linked data visualisations for 5 key benefits, hosted directly onto Stat-Xplore
  • Mapping – a relatively new feature which allows users to view results from geographical fields inside an interactive map
  • Open Data API – Registered users also have access to all datasets via the Open Data API. Users can build their own third-party interactive reports and applications that retrieve data directly from Stat-Xplore and automatically update every time DWP releases new data. The API also caches new requests to make the future retrieval of the same data much quicker

DWP has itself been making use of the Stat-Xplore Open Data API and JavaScript to build interactive visual dashboards that give a live summary view of the data in Stat-Xplore. DWP Data Scientists are also making use of the Stat-Xplore Open Data API in their products and have begun to promote this work more widely.

Stat-Xplore makes and is a valuable resource which makes efficient use of DWP statistical data and promotes its re-use both within DWP and more widely. Users access is well supported through extensive guidance, recognised standards, classifications and metadata. The analysis of users’ queries also supports DWP statisticians in determining whether value can be added to DWP statistics by adding new or extending existing data requirements.

Guidance and resources

A webpage with links to a series of guidance documents on harmonisation, including what harmonisation is and its aims, the Harmonisation Handbook and the Government Statistical Service's (GSS) Harmonised Principles.Harmonisation within the GSS webpageGSS
This guidance provides advice on how government departments should treat management information to get maximum value from it while protecting public trust in official statistics. The sections of this guidance relating to pre-release access are mandatory.Publishing management informationGSS
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) handbook for using administrative and secondary sources for official statistics provides international methodological guidelines to help those in the early stages of using administrative data.Using Administrative and Secondary Sources for Official Statistics: A Handbook of Principles and Practices (2011)UNECE