Venue: CSO, Skehard Road, Cork T12 X00E
Date: Thursday December 8, 2022
Presentation on Uses of Environment-Related Administrative Data
National Statistics Board
The meeting took place in the CSO Office in Cork and was a hybrid meeting.
Date: Thursday 8th December 2022
Members present: Ms. Anne Vaughan (Chairperson), Ms. Eithne Fitzgerald, Dr. Eimear Cotter*, Mr. John Martin, Mr. John Shaw, Mr. Gerard Brady, Mr. John McCarthy and Mr. Pádraig Dalton.
Non-members in attendance: Ms. Claire Hanley (Secretary) and Brian Cahill (attended as incoming Secretary).
Gerard Brady (CSO)* attended for item 4. Fiona O’Riordan and Jessica Coyne attended for item 6
Item 1: Minutes of NSB meeting June 16, 2022 (NSB 2022-4-2)
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed, with one amendment.
The CSO’s Action Plan in response to the European Statistics Code of Practice (ESCoP) Peer Review recommendations will be circulated to the NSB members, when available.
Item 2: CSO Director General’s Report to NSB (NSB 2022-5-3)
CSO’s Director General, Pádraig Dalton, briefed the Board on four strategic items currently facing the CSO and the Irish Statistical System (ISS) that relate to the NSBs Strategic Priorities for Official Statistics 2021-2026. These included:
Article 7 of the EU Data Governance Act: The Board were updated on Article 7 of the EU Data Governance Act (DGA) and the possibility of the CSO taking on the role of “Competent Body“ as outlined in the Article. Initial observations on the possible benefits and risks of taking on the role were presented to the Board, and the DG outlined that further analysis was required. The Board asked the CSO to draft a document for consideration at the next meeting of the NSB, outlining the various options open to the CSO and the risks and advantages associated with each. The DG and the Board agreed on the importance of the CSO’s independence and associated public trust, which should be considered in the decision-making process.
Future of Census: The Board were updated on Census 2022 processing and preparations for the commencement of the dissemination programme. The Board were informed that planning is underway for Census 2027, which will include a Census Pilot in 2024 to ensure an Online Census option is available in 2027. There is also a need to begin planning for Census 2031. With the development of the regulation on European Statistics on Population (ESOP), which will require annual detailed population statistics, and as countries continue to move away from traditional census taking due to decreasing response rates new methods of census taking will, in all likelihood, be required in 2031 and beyond.
The alternatives to traditional census taking, which would include the use of administrative data, must be assessed for suitability and indeed acceptability. Irish Population Estimates from Administrative Data Sources (IPEADS) is the CSO’s first step in the processes of producing population statistics from administrative sources. The further development of IPEADS and other administrative data informed population statistics requires greater adoption of the National Data Infrastructure and increased Eircode capture on public sector data holdings.
The Board agreed that a Census conference would be organised in H1 2023 on the Future of Census taking to get some initial input and opinions of various stakeholders in society.
Cloud Storage: The Board were updated on the status of CSO’s Cloud Strategy. A first draft of the strategy is due to be presented at CSO’s Management Board in December and CSO’s Confidentiality and Data Security Committee (CDSC) thereafter. The NSB will be asked for input in Q1 2023 prior to the strategy coming back to the Management Board for comment and sign-off.
Data Stewardship: The Board were updated on the progress being made and the challenges faced in the development of the Irish Government Statistical Service (IGSS) and the establishment of the CSO in the role of Data Steward. The number of CSO Statisticians and Senior Statisticians seconded to Government Departments and Agencies is 35 and the CSO has a further 11 applications. Departments are coming to the CSO for guidance on the implementation of data standards, governance, and analysis, which is key to CSO’s Data Stewardship role.
In the current environment the use of data analytics is expanding in the public and private sectors and there is increased demand for data skills in the labour market. Because of this CSO is encountering challenges in the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified staff to fill Statistician/Data Analyst roles in the CSO and across the ISS. There is a need for a strategic and coordinated approach to be taken in the recruitment of data skills across the Civil and Public Service.
The Board welcomed the increased engagement between CSO and Departments on data matters. The Board reiterated the importance of the CSO having a coordination role for data skills and recruitment in the public service. The Board suggested that a paper on the Vision for IGSS would be useful for discussion at a future NSB.
The Board discussed other items in relation to the DG’s update:
The Board congratulated CSO on all their outputs in the past year and noted that the quantity and quality of CSO outputs continue to grow and that the new publication format and style is excellent at communicating the key messages. They also noted that real time reporting is improving.
The Board noted that plans are underway to develop a ‘Trust’ section on the CSO website. This will include sections on where the CSO gets its data, how the data is used (societal benefit) and promote the reasons to trust the CSO. A ‘social acceptance’ strategy for CSO is in early stages of development. The Board reiterated the need to hear from all parts of society in developing social acceptability.
The Board noted that the Digital Transactions in the Irish Economy publication was a very innovative and valuable piece of work and the CSO were among the first in the EU to produce such a release. The Board noted that the Frontier publication type allows CSO to provide insight to the public without having all processes and methods perfected.
The Board noted that Joe Treacy will soon retire from the CSO and that he had made, through his huge commitment, a significant contribution to the CSO and Official Statistics in Ireland and abroad. The Board congratulated Joe on a long and successful career and wished him all the very best in the future.
Item 3: NSB Strategy (NSB 2022-5-4)
The Board noted that there are overlaps and underlaps between the NSB strategy update and the DG’s Progress report.
Making progress on Data Stewardship in practice is a key outcome. Evidence of progress is seeing people in the IGSS working in Departments and realising the benefits.
The Board noted the response from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications to their letter requesting an update on the NSB recommendation that the Department should explore feasibility of treating the Eircode as a public good. This is a key element required to increase the level of coverage of Eircodes on public sector data holdings. The Board consider that an exemption to public sector bodies should be examined at a minimum as full Eircode coverage on administrative data is critical to projects such as IPEADS.
The Board noted that in November 2022 ten statistical products of the Department of Education were awarded the ISS CoP certification along with six modules produced by the Department of Health. This brings the number of organisations with an ISS CoP certification to six, with another three organisations close to certification in the near future (HEA, SEAI, Department of Justice). The Board noted that the rigorous ISS CoP certification process is beneficial in itself, along with the benefits of having the certification.
The Board noted that work on social acceptability is one key area that CSO are breaking new ground on. There needs to be a clear definition of this concept and how it applies to the CSO. The Board would like to get a paper on the concept and the CSO’s planned work on this topic for discussion at a future NSB meeting.
The Board noted the increased use and frequency of CSO outputs which use PMOD data from the Revenue Commissioners. The Board noted that there are Government commitments around the living wage that are based on average hourly earnings. The availability of hours through PMOD datasets would improve the production of hourly earnings statistics and would help fulfil user’s data needs.
The Board noted the ongoing positive relationship between CSO and DPC.
Item 4: Uses of Environmental-Related Administrative Data (Gerry Brady, CSO) NSB 2022-5-5
Gerry Brady (Senior Statistician, CSO) presented to the Board on recent outputs from the Environment & Climate Divisions and the uses of environmental-related administrative data.
The Board commended Gerry and his team on the huge amount that has been achieved in recent times on very relevant topics. The Board discussed the need for appropriately detailed outputs that meet the needs of the policy system. The Board inquired about the economic impact project and work that that is being undertaken on topics such as: LULUCF (emissions from soil, benefits of rewetting bogs, restoration of peatlands); climate data rescue study; forestry; national water consumption; and environment-related microdata to meet climate change data needs.
The Board suggested greater publicity around outputs from the Division and the activities of the division such as highlighting CSO’s participation at the COP27 side event.
The Board acknowledged that this was a growth area and would likely require more staff resources over the coming years.
The Board proposed to organise a Census seminar in H1 2023.
It would possibly be an in person half day event.
The seminar would facilitate the following.
Themes for future 2023 meetings
January (in so far as available)
March Disability statistics
May Labour Market statistics
Later in 2023
Item 6: Presentation and tour of Social Data Collection (Fiona O’Riordan & Jessica Coyne, CSO)
Fiona O’Riordan and Jessica Coyne presented to the Board on the Safety of the Person Survey.
The Board congratulated Fiona, Jessica and the team on the successful development and implementation of a very complex and sensitive survey.
The presentation was followed by a tour of Social Data Collect section where the Board were shown the equipment and communications used in the field for the Safety of the Person Survey. The Board were very impressed with the professionalism of the staff involved and remarked on the commitment and pride they showed in their work.
Item 7: Tour of Communications and Dissemination (Elaine O’Mahoney & David Lester, CSO)
The Board were given a tour of the Communications and Dissemination Division where Elaine O’Mahoney and her team presented some of their work and innovations. The Board commended the work of the Division and noted that developments in the area have been integral to CSO’s ability to communicate the key insights from publications to a wider audience.
The Board were then given a tour of the Printing and Visual Supports area where Dave Lester and his team demonstrated the CSO’s printing, and audio-visual facilities. The Board congratulated Dave and his team on their great work and noted the increased use of video and sound bites to supplement publications, which increase reach and engage with a broader audience.