Noswaith dda/ Good evening and welcome to this week’s digital round-up at the Office for National Statistics.
So what’s been happening?
It’s been a packed week starting with our attendance at the GSS annual conference in Birmingham.
As part of the conference programme, ONS staff with responsibility for Open Data and Data Visualisation were joined by Fullfact’s Will Moy to debate whether the Government Statistical Service should simply produce data, or if they have a responsibility to tell a statistical story through analysis and visualisations. This was a timely debate due to the fairly recent PASC reports showing both the importance of releasing more data in more formats, and the need to better communicate statistics.
The GSS has a committment to increase the amount of data released in open and re-usable formats in the production of its statistical outputs which is consistent with the UK Government’s policy, as set out in the Open Data White Paper.. However we also acknowledge analysis is an essential element of producing statistics, but how much further might we need to go to improve the communication of the statistics, especially to non-expert users?
The panel, chaired by DD for Digital Publishing Laura Dewis, discussed questions such as: “Are there times when the data can, and should, speak for itself?” and “When does analysis add most value?” It was a lively debate with both sides well argued by the experts and equally challenged by the independent Will Moy. Delegates posed some interesting questions to the panel on resources and code of practice and were interested in hearing thoughts around the question “What do users trust most – the openness of data that they can examine, or the accessibility of a story which clearly explains the data? Engaging users of statistics is an essential way of informing policies and decisions across public and private sectors which have an impact on everyone and knowing what our users want and how best to present it to them is fundamental in helping understanding. Overall the debate was thought provoking (before as well as during) and hopefully left those who joined in feeling inspired and ready to take on the challenge in their own organisations.
In publishing, we have developed a set of metadata standards to improve the findability and consistency of ONS content. Currently our users struggle to find relevant content due to the metadata being complex, unsuitable or unclear. We hope that by refining the explanations so that they are more concise, compelling and have the most essential information up-front (frontloading), search engines both internally and externally will return the results users are looking for.
Our social media team have been busy looking at how we can get our infographics on to related Wikipedia pages and reviewing our listening tools to see if more things can be automated, thus freeing up more time for analysis. We have also piloted the monitoring of social media outside of digital publishing by business areas themselves and are evaluating the findings.
On the editorial front, it has been a very quiet week with only one short story and graphic on Health Gaps released. Work is nearly complete on a video to mark 40 years of the Labour Force Survey and we have started to create audio-visual formats that are consistent, reusable and widely applicable to the range of ONS outputs.
The results from comparability study with other NSI’s are in. It makes for an interesting read and we hope to share the findings with you here soon.