Members were welcomed to the meeting. Apologies were received from Kate Barker, Paul Boyle, Robert Bumpstead, Jane Falkingham, Moira Gibb, David Martin and Bernard Silverman. The minutes from the meeting of 28 March were agreed and all actions were reviewed.
2. Discussion with User
Anna Powell-Smith, the Director of the Centre for Public Data joined the meeting to reflect on her experience as a statistics user and discussed some problems and gaps that users who relied on data and statistics, but did not consider themselves as statistics users, had encountered. Some examples of these groups of users were charities and campaign groups, Members of Parliament (MPs), and Journalists. These user groups were part of the democratic process and problems around misinformation could occur if their needs were not met.
Members agreed that active user research and outreach would improve engagement, widen the notion of who is a user and enable data to be provided to those who needed it. It was important to develop and maintain good relationships with all users and the Inclusive Data Taskforce and the Integrated Data Service (IDS) would enable users to access data in an inclusive way. Work was ongoing with the NHS to develop a trusted research environment for health data. The Office for Statistics Regulation often encouraged consideration of wider users and it was an important role of the committee to reach out to user groups and drive improvement.
3. Localism [NSEUAC(22)04]
Richard Prothero presented a paper on Localism, ONS Local and the various initiatives that were happening across the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Government Statistical Service (GSS). The ONS Local initiative had been well received well and stakeholders wanted to ensure that relationships were genuine and collaborative and wanted differences across regions recognised so that commonalities could be linked. Resource had been acquired from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities which would allow the scope of the work to expand .The team was looking to expand subnational data in order to fill long standing gaps in areas such as quality of jobs, regional supply use and capital data and improve the granularity of statistics and provide analytical insight of geographical inequalities.
Members supported the work and agreed that a lot of existing users had been captured and the new system would mean further improvement when identifying new users. Analysts being located locally would allow engagement with wider stakeholders and members agreed it was important to build on past experience to build relationships and engagement. The engagement hub would take the best practice of Census and embed that into everyday work so that teams across the ONS could prioritise where demands were the greatest. The mission would be to provide local data to local decision makers on local problems.
The meeting agreed that the work was a superb example of current needs being met and new needs being identified. The Chair highlighted the role of the committee in identifying new user needs.
4. Integrated Data Service [NSEUAC(22)05]
Alison Pritchard provided an update and overview of the IDS. The initial public beta had been launched on 15 July and the team was now in the process of remediating and scaling the service to full public beta and Digital Economy Act accreditation. The transition of the Secure Research Service was due to be reached by March 2024. Members of Alison’s team presented a live demonstration of the IDS, focussing on what the user experience would look like and how simply data could be manipulated.
Members welcomed development and agreed that the IDS would be an important tool for not only researchers, but all citizens who wished to access data and should live up to the fundamental principle of equal access. The IDS used the Five Safes approach and the National Statisticians Data Ethics Committee would look at the ethics of the work before it would be approved by the approval panel. The goal of the IDS was to bring as much data and link it where possible within the framework for ethics.
The meeting supported the IDS and looked forward to further updates as the service matured.
5. Theme Based User Engagement [NSEUAC(22)06]
Owen Brace provided an overview of the approach to theme based user engagement. User engagement was being improved to make it as easy as possible for users and producers to understand where analysis had the most impact. The paper summarised plans for setting out a GSS wide theme based approach to user engagement, tying into existing activity as much as possible to ensure that discussions had influence within the user engagement structure.
Members agreed that the challenge would be ensuring that users were able to find their way through the system with ease. The outreach team were considering how relationships were actively built and maintained in order to ensure that users received the information they needed and could contribute information that they wished to add with ease. The meeting agreed that the theme based structure should be reviewed regularly in order to react to the ongoing environment and that an update to Annex A should be provided to members at a future date in order to visualise the connections between themes.
6. Forward Agenda
The meeting discussed ideas for future items and members were asked to provide suggestions for future external speakers.
The Chair suggested that it would be useful for the committee to have an overview of what best practice guidance was available within the ONS at a future meeting.
Roger Halliday was again suggested as guest external speaker for the next meeting and the secretariat team would issue an invite to him. It was suggested that representatives from charities, MPs, journalists, and people who use data in commercial services could be invited to share experience from their perspectives. Further suggestions included speakers from a setting other than statistics, such as the Royal Society of Arts, and a speaker from the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity. The Office for Statistics Regulation had published their State of the Statistical System review the previous week and would present this at a future meeting.
7. Any other business
The next meeting would take place on Tuesday 4 October 2022.