Public data for Public Good: Making sure official statistics are better joined-up

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of providing the public with coherent and accessible statistics where there are multiple producers. A key part of this is working across the statistical system to ensure that our statistics tell a joined up and coherent story.  In this post Debra Prestwood explains the latest work being undertaken across government bodies to ensure that we are drawing together outputs on the same topic to present a single picture.

Today we are launching our Government Statistical Service Coherence Programme for 2021/22 and we are looking for your feedback. We know that with the wide range of data sources and a vast amount of analysis being produced across Government and the four nations, it can sometimes be hard to get a coherent picture. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of joined up UK-wide data to support effective policy making and implementation.

As statistical producers, we must challenge ourselves not to simply publish a set of numbers, but to explain how they relate to other data on that topic, and how they combine with other statistics to better explain the part of the world they describe. We must also be able to explain the consistency and comparability of statistics across the UK.

Improving the availability and coherence of data links closely to the inclusivity strand of our 2020 Statistics for the Public Good strategy.

Progress to date

The ONS has created a dedicated team to join up statistics and build an inclusive, coherent evidence base across and within the four nations of the UK. Initially concentrating on national priority areas of statistics, we have produced cross-cutting analysis in a way that best informs public policy decisions and are working to address critical data gaps for underrepresented groups of society. For example, our work on improved UK coherence on housing and homelessness and adult social care will help the Government better understand the aspects of society that require most intervention.

Coherence Work Programme  

The Work Programme summarises the work already underway on a range of statistical topics. Our aim is to provide transparency and better accessibility to data, making it easier to look across the statistical system to see what coherence initiatives are taking place, and to access the data. We want people who use our statistics to be able to give us feedback on priorities and ask questions.

The COVID pandemic has shown us that even more than usual we must be adaptable and flexible. As we receive feedback and continue to move through the pandemic, the work programme is designed to evolve and develop.

Challenges and opportunities 

We know that improving statistical coherence can be complex which requires meaningful investment of time and resources. There are challenges, particularly where statistics are devolved across the four countries of the UK and the resulting differing legislative frameworks driving differences in statistical collection and outputs. However, there are also corresponding opportunities. For example, new data sources and linking datasets together from different producers provide opportunities for increased coherence and reducing the burden of traditional surveys.

The planned creation of the new Integrated Data Programme will be an opportunity to create a new culture of data sharing and collaborative coherent analysis across Government and the four nations. Strong leadership from the centre of the statistical system is key to realising these opportunities.


As our economy and society change, the UK statistical system will need to change. We are working hard to ensure our statistics give a joined up and coherent picture of the UK. We have developed a cross-GSS Work Programme for user comment, to bring together a summary of the collaborative statistical improvement work going on across the GSS.

While inherent challenges exist when improving coherence and current resources are limited, good progress has been made in recent years. I really welcome your feedback (

Picture of Debra Prestwood

Debra Prestwood is Deputy Director, GSS Strategy Delivery at the Office for National Statistics