New ‘data campus’ planned by UK Statistics Authority

The UK Statistics Authority is to create a new “data campus”, bringing together professionals from across government, academia and the private sector.

The initiative, set out in the body’s latest business plan is one of two new units planned by the authority at the Office for National Statistics (ONS)  headquarters in Newport.

The other will be a “Centre of Excellence in Economic Statistics”.

The plan, which runs from 2016-2020, says: “Alongside the Centre of Excellence, we will develop stronger links with key users and producers of statistics, including through an increased London presence.” This target has a date of 2016/17.

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The core units of the ONS will remain in its offices at Newport and Hampshire.

The decision to increase London presence follows a recommendation in the Bean review of economic statistics, published last month. The review, carried out by former Bank of England deputy governor Charlie Bean, noted that around 90% of London-based staff left the ONS when it moved to Newport in the late 2000s “resulting in a considerable – though potentially temporary – loss of experience to the organisation.”

The review said a lack of facilities in London where many key statistics users are located “is likely to be a barrier to greater use of partnerships by ONS” and called for an increased “London profile” for the ONS as well as greater capability in Newport.

The ONS does not yet have details of what the increased presence will mean, although two stakeholder managers are already working in London, building links with the economics and data communities.

The new Data Campus will be established by the end of this financial year, and the UKSA will begin to recruit partner organisations for a centre which it says will “offer the capacity for fundamental methodological and conceptual work in the sphere of economic statistics”.

The plan also sets out how ONS will make statistics more useful for policy development, for example by including fraud and cyber crime in crime statistics by the end of this year.

It will also produce more statistics at a country, region or city basis, and will create task forces to work on evidence to support policy development around manifesto commitments.

In his foreword to the strategy, national statistician John Pullinger – who is also chief executive of the UKSA – says: “In my introduction to the strategy I set some radical expectations – more data will be real- time; our services will be digital by default; the quality of our advice and insight will have earned us a seat at the table where the most important decisions are made.”

The plan also states that by 2020 ONS will have a smaller, reshaped workforce with “a reduced number of administrative staff but an increased number of staff with higher levels of expertise.”

A spokesperson said that this was expected to be a gradual change achieved through natural turnover, with no plans for redundancies.

Colin Marrs

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