National Statistics Board Minutes
Wednesday, 11 September 2013
The following members attended: Dr. Pat O’Hara, (Chairperson), Professor Philip Lane, Mr. Fergal O’Brien, Mr. Ciaran Dolan, Mr. John Callinan, Mr. Paul Sweeney and Mr. Pádraig Dalton.
Apologies were received from: Mr. Michael McGrath.
Mr. Aidan Punch, Mr. Steve MacFeeley and Mr. Kieran Walsh were also in attendance. Mr. Donal Kelly acted as Secretary.
Item 1: Minutes of June 20th, 2013 (NSB 2013/4/2)
The minutes of the previous meeting were accepted without amendment.
Item 2: Director General’s progress report (NSB 2013/4/3)
The Director General briefed the Board on a number of recent developments within CSO.
The Board discussed at length the draft regulation around the MIP scoreboard. It was explained that the main issue for the CSO is the increased power given to Eurostat to impose sanctions and amend national data without a clear basis for these amendments. It was pointed out that most of the quality indicators are already covered by regulation, that strict quality standards and international surveillance of national data is already in place, and that there is almost universal opposition to the regulation amongst NSIs. The Department of Finance (via email) shared the concerns of CSO “in particular the provision to Eurostat of the power to amend a Member State’s data which would appear to represent a significant step”. The Department considered“that detail on the basis on which this would be done should be provided to national authorities before such a procedure is agreed”. The Board also expressed support for the CSO’s position in relation to this regulation.
Concern was expressed by the Board about the issues that have arisen in the mobile phone data project. The Board reiterated the importance of administrative data sources to the national data strategy and in particular the strategic value of mining ‘big data’ for statistical purposes. The Board urged the CSO to develop a formal understanding with the DPC that would inform projects of this nature into the future and avoid the recurrence of these concerns for individual projects.
In the context of a discussion around CSO resources, it was pointed out that resource-intensive projects such as Census, the Household Budget Survey and the National Employment Survey were due in 2014 and 2015. There was a wide-ranging discussion of the importance of exploiting and linking administrative data sources to gain efficiencies. There was also some discussion around alternative Census options and in particular the experience of other countries. It was concluded that the experience of other countries in moving away from the traditional Census has been mixed, with data quality and substantial cost issues arising for some alternative modes. The Board suggested that a paper might be prepared for the Board outlining the pros and cons of the various alternatives.
Item 3: Irish Statistics System update (NSB 2013/4/4)
The new Code of Practice (CoP) for the Irish Statistical System will be launched by Walter Radermacher (DG, Eurostat) on November 21st. It is hoped that the CoP will be instrumental in extending good statistical practice across the public sector.
Some recent progress on a postcode system was noted and welcomed by the Board.
Item 4: Update on financial resources
Discussed under Item 1 above.
Item 5: Any other business
The Board recognised the significant contribution made by Mr. Aidan Punch to the Board over a period spanning almost 30 years and the Chairperson thanked him and wished him well in his retirement.
The Chairperson noted that this was the final meeting of the current Board as its term expires on October 12 2013. She thanked the Board members for their time and contribution over the last three years, and in particular noted that Mr. Ciaran Dolan has been a Board member since it was first established on a non-statutory basis in 1986.
The Chairperson noted the challenges for the new Board and the Irish Statistical System in general would be in the areas of resources, big data, access to microdata, the legal context around data, the code of practice and potentially the establishment of a quality mark for official statistics.
The next meeting of the National Statistics Board will be held once a new Board is appointed.