National Statistics Board Minutes
Thursday, 20 June 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 April 9th, 2013 (NSB 2013/3/2)
The minutes of the previous meeting were accepted without amendment.
Item 2: Update on Environmental Statistics (NSB 2013/3/3)
Aidan Punch presented an overview of a comprehensive paper prepared for the Board by CSO which reviewed the current provision of, and demand for, environmental statistics nationally and internationally. A number of key strategic issues were outlined:
The immediate focus of CSO in the area of environmental statistics is as follows:
It was noted that staff resourcing remains a major constraint in meeting the emerging demands in this area.
The Board welcomed the paper from CSO, emphasising the importance of environmental statistics from a policy perspective and the need to develop a sustainability focus. Although environmental issues have been somewhat eclipsed by the economic crises in recent years, they are likely to return to prominence and this underlines the need for adequate statistics.
There was a discussion around the merits of adopting a more economic approach to environmental statistics and the possibility of realigning existing CSO resources to target an integration of environmental statistics with national accounts. While the conceptual merits of this approach were acknowledged by CSO it was pointed out that this was a complex issue with considerable resource implications.
The Board queried the availability of administrative data in this area. CSO has access to administrative data from government agencies operating in this area, and is committed to using administrative data where possible rather than collecting new data. However, resources remain an issue in fully exploiting the available data.
In the overall context of a discussion around the availability of environmental statistics in Ireland the lack of a postal code system was raised. The Board expressed concern about the apparent slow progress being made in introducing a postcode system despite a Government decision on the matter in 2005.
It was agreed that environmental statistics should be included on the Board’s agenda again in the near future.
Item 3: Director General’s progress report (NSB 2013/3/4)
The Director General briefed the Board on a number of recent developments within CSO.
The Board recognised the work and dedication of the CSO team during Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. The Board welcomed the Prison Recidivism release and noted the value of administrative data in this area.
Item 4: CSO 2020
The Director General presented the draft CSO 2020 strategy documents to the Board for input and review. The strategy is the culmination of a long and considered process designed to position CSO to achieve a number of important long-term strategic goals:
- Advance the role of the CSO across the Irish Statistical System as coordinator of official statistics and advocate for best statistical practice in line with the role envisaged for CSO in the Statistics Act, and in accordance with both the EU Statistics Code of Practice and the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics;
- Formalise systems and best practice in the areas of data quality and accessibility;
- Further enhance the role and contribution of CSO within the European Statistics System;
- Maximise the use and availability of data to researchers within a framework based on the Statistics Act 1993.
The focus of the strategy is on adapting and changing CSO focus in line with changing needs of data users and in doing so creating a modern, proactive and flexible organisation.
There was a detailed discussion of the different areas covered by the strategy document. It was suggested that there is a general lack of awareness amongst the general public and within the public service, of the breadth and value of the data currently available and that this is something that CSO should address. A number of suggestions were made about the best way for CSO to secure engagement with the wider goals of the strategy across government departments.
The Board welcomed the ambition and vision of the strategy document while recognising that significant challenges of implementation exist, particularly in light of resource constraints. The Board pointed out that the strategy will require a cultural change within the CSO and this must be embedded within the structure of the organisation. External input may be required to support the programme of organisational transformation involved and a detailed implementation plan prepared. The Board would welcome an opportunity to review the implementation plan.
The Board were invited to submit further written comments on the strategy before its planned launch in September 2013.
Item 5: ISS Code of Practice (NSB 2013/3/5)
The ISS Code of Practice (COP) has now been finalised and is likely to be launched by Walter Radermacher (DG EUROSTAT) at a SISSI (Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland) meeting in November 2013.
CSO is developing a logo that will be available to all public sector producers of statistics that are in compliance with the principles of the COP.
CSO is hopeful of getting a number of departments to sign-up to the COP in the short-term and that this will help build momentum for the ISS across the public sector.
The next meeting of the Board will take place on September 11th at 10am. This meeting is likely to be the final meeting of the current Board as its three-year term ends in mid-October.