Quality in official statistics
Several factors characterise the quality of official statistics even if it is often accuracy that is focused on when talking about quality - that is, how precisely the statistics describe reality. For the users, however, it is also important that the statistics are relevant so that they describe the phenomenon the user is interested in. The statistics must also be timely enough for it to be a basis for decisions, and it must therefore not take too long before it is published. Time series that describe the development in an area and are comparable to similar developments in other countries are often important. For the users, the statistics must also be accessible – readily available, easy to locate and presented through formats that enable understanding.
What is official statistics?
Statistics contribute to decisions at all levels in Danish society being made on the basis of credible and objective information - everything from government policy and research to the actions of private companies and the everyday choices of individuals. A prerequisite for this, however, is that there are standards that ensure that the statistics are credible and objective. To address this issue, the concept of ‘Official Statistics’ has been introduced in the Act on Statistics Denmark. The act stipulates that statistics that are publicly produced and that meet a number of quality criteria can be called official statistics. For all public authorities that produce statistics, guidelines for official statistics have been prepared, which are described in more detail on the Official Statistics Portal (in Danish only).
Common quality framework
European Statistics Code of Practice
The European Statistics Code of Practice is the cornerstone of the common framework for the quality of European Statistics. The Code of Practice consists of 16 principles covering institutional environment, statistical processes and statistical output. The Code of Practice was adopted in 2005 and revised in 2011 and 2017.
The Code of Practice is designed to strengthen confidence in the European Statistical System and to ensure that all producers of official statistics in the EU apply the best international statistical principles and methods.
In support of the Code of Practice, a Quality Assurance Framework has been developed. This supports the quality requirements and provides advice on methods, tools and practices that can be useful in implementing measures to be able to comply the Code of Practice.
UN’s Fundamental Principles
- Principle 1. Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society, serving the Government, the economy and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation. To this end, official statistics that meet the test of practical utility are to be compiled and made available on an impartial basis by official statistical agencies to honour citizens’ entitlement to public information.
- Principle 2. To retain trust in official statistics, the statistical agencies need to decide according to strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and professional ethics, on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data.
- Principle 3. To facilitate a correct interpretation of the data, the statistical agencies are to present information according to scientific standards on the sources, methods and procedures of the statistics.
- Principle 4. The statistical agencies are entitled to comment on erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics.
- Principle 5. Data for statistical purposes may be drawn from all types of sources, be they statistical surveys or administrative records. Statistical agencies are to choose the source with regard to quality, timeliness, costs and the burden on respondents.
- Principle 6. Individual data collected by statistical agencies for statistical compilation, whether they refer to natural or legal persons, are to be strictly confidential and used exclusively for statistical purposes.
- Principle 7. The laws, regulations and measures under which the statistical systems operate are to be made public.
- Principle 8. Coordination among statistical agencies within countries is essential to achieve consistency and efficiency in the statistical system.
- Principle 9. The use by statistical agencies in each country of international concepts, classifications and methods promotes the consistency and efficiency of statistical systems at all official levels.
- Principle 10. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation in statistics contributes to the improvement of systems of official statistics in all countries.
European quality evaluation – ESS peer review
Evaluations and reviews of Statistics Denmark, including international evaluations, are carried out at regular intervals, for example, ESS peer reviews. The purpose of peer reviews is to evaluate whether the EU Member States and EFTA-countries comply with the 16 basic principles of official statistics as set out in the Code of Conduct for European Statistics. In addition, coordination within the national statistical system as well as integration in relation to the ESS is evaluated.
In the spring of 2022, Denmark was last assessed by a European expert team. The European team of experts, organized by Eurostat, made their assessment of the production of statistics through documentation and self-assessment. The expert team had dialogues with Statistics Denmark, other national producers of European statistics, the media and other users of European statistics as well as representatives of suppliers of data for statistical production. The other producers of European statistics that also were assessed were the Danish Energy Agency, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and the Danish Immigration Service. As a result of the peer review, the expert team has delivered recommendations that can contribute to improving the quality of official statistics in Denmark.
Two rounds of peer reviews have previously been conducted - in 2007 and in 2015: