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The ONS and us

ODILeeds and regional statistics

ODILeeds and our sponsors are big users of The ONS’s data. We’re big contributors too. And with projects like our IoTUK Nation database, we're maybe even friendly rivals.

We love that the ONS’ data is open for everyone to use, and we’ve been very positive about recent improvements and upcoming plans.

ODILeeds was recently invited to an event in London to discuss how to make things even better, but we’re all busy working on great data projects with our sponsors and partners, like our huge NHS Analytics data release on the 23rd of May.

Instead of emailing a response, we thought that we’d just be radically open and share our thoughts in public.

Good stuff The ONS is doing.

  • Recent improvements in regional GVA (the “balanced” dataset and the implied deflators by region) are great.
  • The ONS website has been improving for a while. The newest version of data is consistently pointed to. Data is available in consistent formats (we're fine with .xls) and increasingly in better layouts, without annoyances like cell shading and freeze panes.

Stuff The ONS is doing that will soon be good.

  • Regional GVA. Upcoming availability of timely regional GVA data will be a gamechanger (quarterly, with a similar delay to Scottish GDP figures). It is long overdue and this delay has damaged the UK. But once this data is available it will elevate economic debate in England significantly. I have written about this. Lots of countries do better than us on this, The Netherlands is a good example. It will be good to close the gap.
  • Regional productivity. We have assumed that these improvement in timeliness will cascade to other datasets, such as productivity (GVA/hour worked) etc… but some clarity on this would be great.

Opportunities for The ONS to do even better.

  • Come work with us. The ONS has no presence in North England. Could we help you to run some events in the North? We know that we could get more people excited about the new types of data analysis using new data sources that you’re doing. All we need is some commitment and some budget. We can do filming and streaming and get people interested. We have hundreds of people interested in data in our space every month. Let’s talk.
  • Set up a secure lab in Leeds. The ONS does not have a secure data lab in North England. This seems like a big gap, and we’ve heard from lots of people that needing to visit London to use the secure data lab there puts them at a big disadvantage. This is stopping companies from growing, reducing the quality of research, and hurting innovation with data in the UK. Can you explain how you picked the current secure lab locations? It would also help if you could release data on how well each site is used by people from different parts of the country.
  • Better companies data. The quality of open companies data in the UK has been overtaken. For example, in France the Sirène database includes the number of employees at each company and at each site for the same company. That this French data is open is hugely valuable to some of our sponsors and supporters and they would love to have the same in England and Wales. Currently we could only get equivalent data by spending a lot of time and money in an ONS secure lab looking at the business structure database. It has helped us and others where third parties such as Nesta in their Creative Nations report or Tech Nation in their Tech Nation report have done this work and released their aggregate results. Relying on this inherently limits the work we can do and the questions we can ask.
  • Better local housing data. At the moment the ONS is taking over responsibility from many housing datasets from DCLG. We understand that this is part of an effort to use data to set local housing targets. There are significant changes to national household estimates, but in the continuing absence of local authority level data this is causing considerable confusion. Planning operates at local authority level in England and Wales and we cannot be usefully informed with national or even regional datasets. Has there been a public statement following the recent consultation on this issue? If not, when can we expect one?

What do you think?

Let us know on twitter, by email, or come to one of our many events, in Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Wales, Scotland, across North England and The Midlands, and tell us.