Methodological Assurance Review panel – Census


In March 2014, the National Statistician recommended that the census in 2021 should be predominantly online, making increased use of administrative data and surveys to enhance the statistics from the 2021 Census. This recommendation was endorsed by the Government’s formal response, which also set out its ambition that “censuses after 2021 will be conducted using other sources of data and providing more timely statistical information. However, any final decision on moving to the use only of administrative data beyond 2021 will be dependent on the dual running sufficiently validating the perceived feasibility of that approach.”

Following the National Statistician’s recommendation and the Government’s response, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) established a programme in January 2015 to take forward three high level deliverables:

  • A predominantly online census of all households and communal establishments in England and Wales,
  • Development of alternative administrative data census estimates, to be compared to the 2021 Census,
  • User focused, improved and expanded population statistics through increased use of administrative data and surveys.

A review panel has been set up to undertake a review of methods and research associated with the programme’s deliverables. The review will provide assurance to the National Statistician that:

  • The statistics resulting from the 2021 Census will meet the code of practice for official statistics and therefore can be badged as National Statistics,
  • The online census is methodologically robust,
  • The evidence to show whether or not an Administrative Data Census approach to census-taking is valid and enables the Government to make a decision after 2021 about the future of the census.

These reviews are planned to take place between 2018 and 2023.

 Purpose of the Panel

The purpose of the review panel is to:

  • Provide external, independent assurance and guidance on the statistical methodology underpinning 2021 census estimates and those based on administrative sources,
  • Identify significant gaps and risks in methods and make suggestions for mitigation,
  • Review admin data methods and contribute to their continuous improvement.

Panel membership

Bernard Silverman’s statistical research has ranged widely across theoretical, computational and applied aspects of statistics, with collaborations in many areas of science, industry and government.  After an academic career, he was Chief Scientific Adviser to the Home Office from 2010 to 2017.  His current portfolio encompasses research, consultancy, and expert advice, in areas such as modern slavery, security, official statistics, and science and technology for policy, business and government.

Visit Sir Bernard’s personal site.

Dr Oliver Duke-Williams

Oliver Duke-Williams is an Associate Professor in Digital Information Studies at University College London. His research focuses include statistical disclosure control and demographic information capture in the UK. He is currently Acting Service Director for Census at the UK Data Service, and is also a Senior Adviser to the Centre for Longitudinal Study Information and User Support, which facilitates access to the ONS Longitudinal Study.

Read Dr Oliver Duke-Williams’ academic profile.

Dr Nik Lomax is Associate Professor of Data Analytics for Population Research at the University of Leeds and a fellow at the Alan Turing Institute for data science and artificial intelligence. His research includes the estimation and projection of ethnic group populations, modelling of migration, and the use of consumer data in demographic research. Nik is co-director of the Consumer Data Research Centre.

Read Dr Nik Lomax’s academic profile.

David Martin is Professor of Geography at the University of Southampton. His research concerns many aspects of spatial population modelling and led to the current system of census output areas and workplace zones used by the Office for National Statistics.  He has previously served as a member of the Economic and Social Research Council and led its Census Programme, and is currently a deputy director of the UK Data Service.

Read Prof David Martin’s academic profile.

Natalie Shlomo is currently Professor of Social Statistics at The University of Manchester, leading research focused on survey statistics and survey methodology. She is the UK principal investigator for several collaborative grants from the 7th Framework Programme and H2020 of the European Union involving research in advancing survey statistics and dissemination. She was also principal investigator for the Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant on Bayesian Adaptive Survey Designs 2015-2018 and an ESRC Research Grant on Theoretical Sampling Design Options for a New UK Birth Cohort 2019.

Read Prof Natalie Shlomo’s academic profile.

Professor Ana Basiri holds a chair position in Geospatial Data Science at the University of Glasgow. She works on developing theoretical and applied solutions that consider missingness, under-representation and biases in data as a useful source of data itself to make inferences about the underlying reasons that caused missingness or bias in the first place. For this, she leads an interdisciplinary team working on “new forms of” data, such as social media and crowdsourced data. Ana is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, and the director of the Centre for Data Science and AI.

Read Prof Ana Basiri’s academic profile.

Panel Links