Venue: Virtual Meeting
Date: Wednesday September 9, 2020 at 10.00am
National Statistics Board
The meeting took place remotely using video conferencing software.
Date: Wednesday 9th September 2020
Members present: Ms. Anne Vaughan (Chairperson), Ms. Eithne Fitzgerald, Mr. John Martin, Dr. Eimear Cotter, Mr. Gerard Brady, Mr. John Shaw, Mr. John McCarthy and Mr. Pádraig Dalton.
Non-members in attendance: Mr. Paul Morrin, Mr. Richie McMahon, Ms. Jennifer Banim (CSO Senior Management) and Ms. Claire Hanley (Secretary).
The Chair welcomed Eithne Fitzgerald who was appointed to the Board at the end of August 2020. The Chair also welcomed the reappointment of John Martin, Eimear Cotter, Gerard Brady to the Board and welcomed all the standing members back - John Shaw, John McCarthy and Pádraig Dalton.
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.
The Director General briefed the Board on a number of recent developments within CSO. Specific issues were selected for further discussion, these included:
Statistical System Coordination Unit
The Board were updated on developments in the SSCU specifically in relation to the advancement of the National Data Infrastructure (NDI), the increase in requests for seconded statisticians in Public Sector Bodies, the work of the NDI Champions group and the progress on Eircode capture on public sector data holdings. The Board discussed the importance of having full Eircode coverage on administrative data for the purposes of extracting geographical insight from data and embedding the NDI; and agreed to explore what could be done at Board level to improve the situation. The Board asked the CSO to prepare a paper on the issues impacting on Eircode adoption by PSBs which will be discussed further at the December meeting. It was also agreed that the challenges would be highlighted in the next NSB Statement of Strategy.
The Board welcomed the expansion of services to the Irish Government Statistical Service (IGSS) and discussed the importance of the seconded statisticians in government departments for the progression of the NDI. The Board raised issues around the capacity of the programme and agreed that the criteria for supporting applications for seconded statisticians should focus on the value added for official statistics.
Environment & Climate Statistics
The Board were updated on some of the new statistical releases from this area and sought clarification on the takeover of responsibility for forestry statistics by the CSO from the Department of Agriculture. The CSO are compiling 2019 data for Eurostat using a mixture of CSO Trade and PRODCOM data and a planned new survey on roundwood removals.
The Board were apprised of the importance of maintaining data supply to the Large Cases Unit and response to Balance of Payments surveys for macroeconomic statistics. Eurostat are working to support Member States on methodological issues during the crisis.
Social and Demographic Statistics
The Board were updated on the possible postponement of Census 2021 due to COVID-19 and the potential impact on public health if the project were to go ahead. The CSO, following consultation with NPHET and the Census Advisory Board, informed the Board that they were recommending a postponement of Census 2021 to April 2022 and that a decision from Government was imminent. The Board expressed their understanding of the need to postpone the Census but highlighted the importance of the granularity of data which is provided by the Census outputs every five years and asked if the CSO would explore areas where other CSO surveys could be used to pick up the detail in 2021. The CSO clarified some of the difficulties in adding questions to existing surveys, particularly in the current environment of COVID-19. The Board agreed that the possible postponement of the Census underlined the importance of the ability to carry out a Census based on administrative data and reiterated how crucial the NDI is to this process, including the capturing of Eircodes on public sector data holdings. It was agreed that the Board will revisit this discussion at its December meeting.
The Board were updated on the Census of Agriculture project which, following its initial postponement, is now being collected. The Board noted that response rates to business surveys have recovered from lockdown levels but generally remain about 3 percentage points below normal for key monthly surveys such as the Retail Sales Index.
The Board were briefed on the work which is ongoing at CSO to support the response to COVID-19 and the impact this crisis has had on the CSO work programme in terms of:
The Board expressed their appreciation and congratulated the CSO on the timely and innovative work carried out to meet the additional data requirements of researchers and Government to date in the response to COVID-19. It was suggested that a document be published on the CSO website to highlight to users the COVID-related challenges for the CSO and the work being carried out to address such challenges.
The Board discussed the possibility of real-time data outputs by the CSO particularly in relation to economic indicators and the possible introduction of further experimental analysis such as that recently published on Measuring Mortality Using Public Data Sources.
The Board were updated on CSO’s remote working arrangements as a result of COVID-19 and the ongoing approach to manage staff morale.
The Board were presented with an update on the consultation process for the NSB Strategy 2021-2026 which is due to be launched in 2021. In addition to an electronic survey which was issued in July, there are ongoing meetings with key stakeholders aimed at gathering feedback on key priorities, opportunities and challenges for official statistics over the next five years.
The Board discussed a preliminary outline draft of the strategy document and initial observations included:
The Board agreed on a proposal from the Chair to hold a joint NSB/CSO seminar on ‘The Future of Census Taking in Ireland’ to take place on-line in Q1 2021.
A brief discussion took place on the digitisation of the 1926 Census forms, which is in the planning stages at the National Archives who are responsible for the digitisation process.
The next meeting of the Board will take place on December 2, 2020 most probably using video conferencing software. The schedule of meetings for 2021 will be compiled and circulated to Board members over the coming weeks.
Due to time restrictions the discussion for non-CSO Board members was postponed and these members were encouraged to give feedback to the Chair directly.