Building the future of economic data – progress report from Frankie Kay

 The new Data Science Campus development (pic) taking shape at Newport symbolises the fundamental change happening across ONS. Here Frankie Kay gives a progress report on the modernisation of the economic statistics Newport produces.

“In 2016 we set out to transform the UK’s economic data. We’ve passed quite a few milestones already and there are more to come in 2017.

We  published our Economic Statistics and Analysis Strategy, which sets out our research and development priorities for the coming years, and announced the consortium of leading economic institutes which will deliver the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence. We also published our first analysis on the use of HMRC VAT data as we look to incorporate this data to improve our outputs.  We conducted a pilot Management Practices Survey for the manufacturing industry and published the results, providing some interesting insights into productivity.

We also set out our vision for the development of Enhanced Financial Accounts that, working closely with the Bank of England, will provide a more detailed understanding of the financial sector and support financial stability, alongside articles and interactive visualisations of experimental “whom to whom” statistics.

“It’s a great example of us putting our strategy into action – helping the country make decisions based on robust evidence.”

Even though there is a lot more to do, we’ve made much progress already.  Looking ahead, 2017 will be another exciting year.

The Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence will formally start its work to help us tackle some of the thorniest issues in the measurement of the modern economy, such as the improving our understanding of the digital economy. We will continue to identify new data sources that will bolster a number of crucial ONS outputs, such as using external data to provide better insight into the Enhanced Financial Accounts. And we will progress work to establish a new services inquiry to enrich our understanding of this vital sector of the UK economy, following an initial assessment of the feasibility of carrying this out. We will also be looking at how we can use HMRC Pay as You Earn (PAYE) data across Economic Statistics alongside continuing our work on using VAT data in our outputs.

Another big development to look out for this year will be the launch of the Data Science Campus. The Campus will be the hub for the whole of the UK public and private sectors to gain from increased investment in data science research and help cement the UK’s reputation as an international leader in this field. It will have an invaluable role to play in helping us improve decision making and deliver better data for the public good, including improved economic statistics.

More immediately, we’re barely into 2017 and we’ve already published exciting new work on the productivity puzzle. This work includes a new article analysing regional productivity data, which finds that the productivity of individual firms, rather than industrial make-up, has the biggest impact on which areas are most productive.

We’ve also published further analysis from our new Management Practices Survey for manufacturing, which finds that a 0.1 increase in management score (which measures the level of advanced management practices within firms) is associated with an increase in labour productivity of 6.7%.

This is exactly the sort of work we hope will prove invaluable to both national and local policy makers, as well as individual businesses looking at how to boost their own productivity. It’s a great example of us putting our strategy into action – helping the country make decisions based on robust evidence – and there’s plenty more of that to come in 2017. So watch this space!

I also hope to see many of you at our inaugural economic statistics conference, which will bring together leading academics, economists, statisticians and economic commentators to debate developments surrounding economic statistics and measuring the modern economy. ”

Frankie Kay is Director of Economic Statistics Transformation at ONS.  

More information on the forthcoming conference can be found here.