As he starts his first week in “the perfect job”, Sir Ian Diamond reflects on the important role of statistics in decision making and considers the exciting road ahead.
In August, when news of my appointment was announced I received many messages of congratulations from friends, family, former and future colleagues. I replied to everyone with, I hope, a sense of excitement. A role leading the statistical community, ensuring the public we serve are better understood and that the vital services we all rely on are fit for purpose, has to be the perfect job.
Many across the country may be unaware of how important statistics are and how quality data sits at the very heart of excellent decision making, from where to build a school to where a household might choose to live. We often take data for granted but as the new National Statistician I know and appreciate the enormous amount of work and effort that goes into producing the information that informs the everyday decisions that we all make.
There is no part of our daily lives where our statistics have not had an impact. When you send your children to school, there is a place because official statistics informed where school places need to be. When you travel by rail, statistics have been used to work out commuting flows so that there will be a train for your journey.
The last few years have seen strong progress as we have embraced the data revolution. To give just two examples, the ONS has been innovating to produce faster and more detailed readings of the economy and modernising our estimates of population and migration.
As we continue to mobilise the power of data, many important challenges remain. The 2021 census is likely to be the last of its kind in England and Wales. We must engage and enthuse the public to participate in that huge undertaking while at the same time building a modern, data-driven statistical system fit for the 21st century.
For many decades the UK has rightly been seen as a world leader in statistics. We will continue to work with our partners in the United Nations and our sister bodies around the world as we all transform and evolve, while ensuring our statistics remain internationally comparable.
Success however must begin at home.
I have already spent some time hearing what our stakeholders want from us. I have met my counterparts across government, politicians, colleagues in other analytical organisations, commentators and many more.
The needs of those who use our statistics will be paramount in our future strategy and I look forward to us working together to develop an exciting strategy of which we are all proud.