‘Shining a light on society’ – innovating to answer big policy questions

Award-winning work on homelessness, world-leading progress in measuring sustainable development and the transformation of the UK’s migration estimates are just three current projects in ONS Public Policy Analysis.  They show how the ONS is uniquely placed to harness the potential of new data sources and answer important questions facing Britain today. Here Liz McKeown reflects on recent achievements and looks forward to another exciting year ahead.   

In Public Policy Analysis we aim to provide decision makers – from the citizen to the heart of Government – with the statistics and analysis they need to make the best possible decisions. Our work spans a huge range of areas including life expectancy, loneliness, housing, health, human capital, the environment, crime, migration and the changing population.

We recognise that it can be challenging for time pressed people to keep abreast of all our statistics and analysis – we produced over 200 outputs last year – and, after discussions with policy makers, academics and think tanks we developed the ‘Public Policy Analysis Quarterly Review’ which I introduced in a blog earlier this year. This short publication simply aims to provide a brief overview of the key findings from the last quarter while providing links to the fuller articles for those who want to find out more.

We’ve been delighted with the feedback it’s received and are pleased to publish the fourth edition today. To mark a year’s worth of quarterly reviews I thought I’d use this blog to look back across the four editions and reflect on some of the progress we have made. As we set out in our year ahead document in July our work spans three key objectives:  improving our regular outputs; providing analysis that addresses the major issues facing society; and filling the evidence gaps that remain across public policy.

How have we been doing in the last year across these three objectives?

Well, we’ve worked hard to improve the clarity and communication of messages in our regular outputs and are increasingly making use of new data sources and approaches to provide better more granular statistics. We’ve launched five new public policy centres (as I outlined in this blog) covering Equalities and Inclusion; International Migration; Crime and Justice; Ageing and Demography; and Subnational Analysis. Each has produced new analysis often working on request and in partnership with other government departments, local authorities and civil society. And we’ve undertaken a wide range of work to fill crucial evidence gaps and ensure that our statistics, in concert with our work on SDGs, ‘leave no-one behind’.

To take a few examples that highlight our work across these areas:

While there is much to be proud of, we know there is also more to do.  As we look to the year ahead we’d love to know what you think of our work in Public Policy Analysis, please do share any feedback or ideas with us – you can contact us at ppp.strategy@ons.gov.uk.

In the meantime, I hope you can find some time to sit back and enjoy the latest quarterly review. Like its predecessors it brings together a great and diverse collection of analysis. This quarter the topics range from: new analysis of the ethnicity pay gap to estimates of the very old and from our consultation on human capital to our analysis of healthcare spending – providing a wealth of fascinating insights to explore.

Liz McKeown is Director of Public Policy Analysis at the ONS