Venue: Department Taoiseach
Date: March 7th, 2011 at 10:30
The following members attended: Dr Patricia O’Hara (Chairperson), Mr Ciaran Dolan, Professor Philip Lane, Mr Fergal O’Brien, Mr Paul Sweeney, Mr Gerry O’Hanlon
Mr Gerry Brady acted as Secretary. CSO Assistant Director General Mr Aidan Punch also attended. Mr Martin Fraser attended on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach, pending the appointment of a representative from the Department. Apologies were received from Mr Michael McGrath.
The minutes were accepted with a small amendment. A number of issues arose under Matters Arising.
It was agreed that board papers should be available to members a minimum of three working days before meetings, but preferably one week before the meeting date.
It was agreed that there was a need for the Board to monitor, on an ongoing basis, the CSO’s achievement of resource efficiency, e.g. by capitalising on IT developments and re-profiling staffing towards higher levels of professional staff. While recognising that it is very difficult to benchmark national statistical offices against one another, the Board should be kept informed of relevant new practices in other NSIs.
The NSB and CSO should continue to promote the need for one personal identifier rather than sectoral identifiers such as that being developed for health statistics. The lack of agreed unique personal and business identifiers, as well as a national postcode, can impede the creation of relevant data and statistics to underpin policy analysis and development. The existence of separate identifiers creates a need for mechanisms to link them and this is both inefficient and costly.
The NSB will arrange to meet with the new Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach with responsibility for the CSO at an early date, preferably in conjunction with the holding of the May Board meeting.
Discussions are ongoing between Eurostat, the NSIs and DG ECFIN in relation to the selection of indicators for inclusion in the scoreboard for monitoring macroeconomic imbalances. The main objective is to ensure that well established and methodologically sound indicators are chosen. Users will need to be fully informed that statistical data should not be regarded in the same manner as audited accounts, and that macroeconomic data are subject to revisions over time as more final data become available or new data sources are developed.
The CSO met with the EPA on 2nd March, 2011 in connection with furthering co-operation on the collection of waste statistics. The data for most environmental statistics are produced by environmental agencies rather than by NSIs. Reviews of the methodologies for calculating greenhouse gases etc. would mainly require input from those agencies.
The Census will be launched on Thursday 10th March. Enumerators will be in the field the following day making contact with the public and delivering census forms for completion on Census Day – Sunday 10th April. Preliminary census results will be published by the end of June. As well as establishing the definitive inter-censal net migration picture, they will also highlight the situation in regard to vacant properties at the time of the census. The first definitive results are planned to be published in March 2012.
Preparations for the ISI World Congress, which will take place between August 21st and August 26th, are well advanced. Approximately 1,200 papers will be presented - verbally or as posters - during the week.
The main discussion on this working paper, which involved a re-drafting of a previous version considered at the January meeting, centred on the point about “adherence to best international standards in relation to the development, production, dissemination and quality reporting of various statistics.” For purposes of the paper, official statistics were classified into three categories: European, National, and Other. The Board discussed the implications of getting all producers of European and National statistics to adhere to an agreed Code of Practice and whether this would require changes in the Statistics Act, 1993 to fully recognise the role of other organisations, besides the CSO, in the production of official statistics.
The Statistics Act and EU Regulation 223/2009 already assign a broad co-ordination role to the CSO in relation to the production of official statistics. However, there are developments in European statistical legislation which may extend the responsibilities of the CSO further. For example, NSIs may be required to certify the quality of statistics derived from administrative sources. Similarly in the context of the EDP reporting, Eurostat has been empowered if necessary to examine the source administrative data held by Public Authorities that are used by NSIs and Ministries of Finance for the compilation of macroeconomic statistics. These changes may at some stage probably require an update of the Statistics Act, 1993. It was agreed that it may be better to wait until they have been finalised so as to incorporate them all in one comprehensive update.
A further issue that could be covered by an update to the Statistics Act, 1993 is the situation of CSO statisticians on secondment to government departments. Currently such statisticians do not remain officers of statistics with entitlement of access to CSO microdata. Hence if they wish to undertake special analyses of CSO micro research files then they must apply in the same manner as any other researcher.
It was also considered whether the role of the Board should be expanded to include an advocacy/supervisory role in relation to adherence to the European Code of Practice by all producers within the ISS.
It was agreed on the basis of the discussion that a consolidated position paper should be prepared for sign off by the Board at its next meeting in May. The paper should cover the following:
• An analysis of where we are at present;
• An outline of the evolving challenges;
• A vision of what the long-term objectives should be;
• Proposed next steps.
An overview of potential changes to the Statistics Act should be included as part of the paper. CSO agreed to prepare a draft by the end of March for circulation to and input from Board members in advance of the next meeting.
The Irish Social Science Data Archive (ISSDA) and the CSO system of research micro files (RMFs) are the two main mechanisms by which researchers can access data files for very detailed research. There is increased usage of the RMF process whereby researchers are required to conduct their research using a standalone on site PC in the CSO. There was discussion about the uncertainly regarding funding for the ISSDA from autumn 2011 onwards. The Board supported the idea of a more coordinated cross-university management approach that could be more proactive in relation to promotion and use of the ISSDA holdings.
Progress on the various recommendations was briefly discussed particularly the recommendations on environmental and short-term indicators. A Eurostat group will shortly report on proposals to better incorporate concepts such as quality of life and well-being into the statistical indicator sets.
The next meeting will be on May 6th, 2011 at 10:30 in the Department of the Taoiseach.