Hetan Shah, Executive Director of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), introduces the RSS’ Data Manifesto. Calling for evidence, and offical statistics to be at the heart of policy making and policy debates, the Manifesto argues for the opening up of government data and improvements in statistical literacy.
Lord Gus O’Donnell gave a lecture at the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) on evidence based policy making to celebrate our 180th anniversary. Evidence based policy has been a long standing concern for the RSS throughout its long history, and we have articulated this again through our Data Manifesto. The manifesto has ten recommendations and focuses on how the Government can improve data for policy making, democracy and for prosperity.
Evidence & official data should be at the heart of policy making
The Data Manifesto argues that evidence must be taken more seriously in policy formulation and evaluation, and that official statistics should be at the heart of policy debate. We know that making policy when resources are tight is difficult but perhaps more than ever in austere times choices should take into account the probable quantified consequences of alternatives. We argue that there should be further investment in investigating what policy works, including through the ‘What Works’ centres. Government should publish the data and evidence that underpin any new policies it announces, and should also commit to regular and long term evaluation of policies. Where we lack the data to inform choices between options in important policy areas, we should invest in getting it.
We need to open up government data
The Data Manifesto pushes for the opening up of government data and giving citizens greater access to quality local data. It calls for greater data sharing between government departments for statistics and research purposes and believes the private sector should be encouraged to share data with researchers for the same purpose. It also calls for an end to pre-release access to official statistics to increase trust in the system.
Greater access needs to be accompanied by improved statistical literacy
Finally, the Data Manifesto calls for improvements in statistical literacy across the board; it supports the teaching of basic data handling and quantitative skills in all A levels that use data, raising its profile in maths A levels, and ensuring that the new Core Maths qualification teaches appropriate statistical skills. It also calls for politicians, policymakers and other professionals in the public sector be given basic training in data handling and statistics.
We hope that the calls in our Data Manifesto are things that all supporters of the Alliance for Useful Evidence can get behind. I would contrast our approach with the call in the Daily Mash for policy to be anecdote based.
Views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the Alliance for Useful Evidence. Join us (it’s free and open to all) and find out more about the how we champion the use of evidence in social policy and practice.