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Improving Official Statistics

The Statistical Journal of the IAOS

The flagship of the IAOS is the ‘Statistical Journal of the IAOS’. The journal has four regular issues per year, each with an average of around 15-20 articles, focusing on current and emerging issues and challenges related to the management, production and use of official statistics and related public policy matters. The Journal is widely circulated and subscribed to by individuals and institutions in all parts of the world. The ‘Journal’  is available on-line and via a printed publication and is supported by a website www.officialstatistics.com. The website also offers a discussion platform, news, and interviews.

The discussion platform provides an opportunity for the official statistical community to discuss important topics in  official statistics. The discussions are based on articles in the Journal.

The Editor in Chief of the SJIAOS is Pietro Gennari, who can be contacted at gennari.sjiaos@gmail.com or you can follow him on LinkedIn. The SJIAOS has also a Twitter (X) account where posts on the Journal are published (see https://twitter.com/OfficialStat1).

Latest Version of the SJIAOS - Volume 40/2 June 2024

A glimpse into the issue’s content:


Editorial – The 55th session of the UN Statistical Commission: promoting inclusivity and protecting statistical systems from political interference by Editor in Chief – Pietro Gennari

The editorial offers a summary of the key outcomes and some reflections on the 55th session of the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC), held this year from February 27 to March 1, at the UN Headquarters in New York. This year’s event, which saw the participation of over 600 experts from 129 countries, 45 regional and international agencies, and 8 international NGO, produced a series of pivotal decisions that are expected to have profound implications for the future of the global statistical system. These decisions cover a wide variety of topics, from the expansion of country’s membership, to methodological enhancements in various statistical domains, to the establishment of working groups for the discussion and development of statistical standards in new areas.

First and foremost, however, the fifty-fifth session of the Commission was the occasion to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the endorsement of the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics (FPOS) by the Commission itself and the 10th anniversary of their approval at the highest political level, by the UN General Assembly. With the objective of strengthening their implementation at country level, the Commission discussed the proposals to establish an Independent Advisory Board on the FPOS (IAB) and to revise the FPOS Implementation Guidelines. After a lengthy debate, the Commission chose to put on hold the creation of the IAB, until revised terms of reference, membership and criteria for the selection of experts were decided ‘through a transparent and inclusive consultation process’.

The strong disagreement expressed during the session on the formulation of the ToR of the IAB on the FPOS and its proposed membership reflects the opposition of countries to the establishment of a perceived watchdog that would have interfered in their sovereignty and national prerogatives. While countries supported the IAB’s advocacy and guidance role, they were wary of its monitoring function. However, removing from the ToR of the Independent Advisory Board the whistleblower’s responsibility to address any episode of non-compliance with the FPOS, leaves a huge gap in its assurance framework as there would be no international mechanism that has the authority to call the attention of the global statistical community and their institutions to these infringements of the FPOS.

Political interference and, more generally, any form of political pressure in official statistics pose significant threats to the integrity, credibility, and utility of statistical data. The system currently implemented for monitoring and enforcement of the UN FPOS at global level, based on the survey carried out every ten years by UNSD, is inherently weak, episodic, and bound to provide a rosier perspective on their actual application. In fact, the survey is based on a self-assessment questionnaire, which relies completely on data provided by national statistical offices and political authorities. Self-assessment practices should be supplemented by external examination, verification, and follow-up monitoring conducted by an independent party to ensure a higher level of quality from a global perspective, given that official statistics are a global public good serving the needs of the entire global community, not only those of national policy-makers or national stakeholders. For these reasons, establishing an independent advisory body to the UN Statistical Commission has the potential to mitigate the risks of political interference and strengthen the integrity of official statistics. Certainly, careful consideration must be given to its mandate, membership, and operational mechanisms to ensure its effectiveness and legitimacy. Collaboration with member states will be essential in navigating the complexities and challenges of implementing such a body successfully.

Interview with Stefan Schweinfest

Now, turning our attention to the content of the Journal, the latest issue of the SJIAOS, starts with an insightful interview with Stefan Schweinfest, director of the UN Statistics Division, carried out by Pieter Everaers. In this interview, Stefan Schweinfest talks about his career and professional milestones, discussing the evolving responsibilities of the UN Statistics Division in response to the increased complexity of the data ecosystem landscape. He also elaborates on the contribution of the SDGs to the development of national statistical systems, the emergence of the Geographic Information System community, and the important role of the UN Fundamental Principles for Official Statistics for the global statistical system.

Special Section: The Future of Agricultural Statistics

The core of the June issue is dedicated to the Future of Agricultural Statistics. This section of the Journal, organized by Linda J. Young as Guest Editor, comprises twelve papers selected from those presented at the ninth International Conference on Agricultural Statistics (ICAS IX), which was held at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC, on May 17–19, 2023. The selected papers explore various themes and advancements shedding light on the latest innovations as well as on the changing needs and prospects that are going to shape the future of agricultural statistics. These twelve papers cover a wide array of topics: from discussions on modernization efforts within National Statistical Offices, to the incorporation of machine learning algorithms in agricultural surveys; from the analysis of household consumption data for food security, to the assessment of climate change impacts on water resources.

Surveys in Times of COVID-19 and in Difficult Settings

This section includes two papers: the first one examines the impact of the changes in the survey data collection methods adopted by Statistics Netherlands in response to the disruption of face-to-face interviews caused by the COVID pandemic; while the second paper is a simulation study aimed at addressing the challenges of sampling in difficult settings, particularly when little is known about the population being surveyed.

Time Series Analysis

This section comprises five papers that delve into various aspects of time series analysis and its applications in economic research and forecasting. The focus shifts to exploring innovative methodologies and data sources to enhance forecasting accuracy and gain fresh insights into economic dynamics.

Vol 39/2
Special theme:
Special theme: Statistics on Governance, Peace and Security (Praia Group)
Manuscript Author(s)
Editorial Pieter Everaers
Interview with George Sciadas, about his book ‘Number Savvy: From the Invention of Numbers to the Future of Data’ Walter Radermacher, George Sciadas
The impact of COVID-19 on Official statistics
Governments measure during the Covid crisis and statistical implications in national accounts: the case of tax deferrals Luisa Sciandra, Susanna Riccioni
Statistics on Governance, Peace and Security
Guest editorial Jean-LucLTavernier, Joao Cardoso
General introduction to the special issue Governance Statistics and the UN Praia City Group Thomas. Calvo, Jean-Pierre Cling, Mireille Razafindrakato, Francois Roubaud, A. Sougane
Now is the Time to Close Gaps in Governance Statistics – And the Praia Group is ready for the challenge Marie Laberge, Joao de Pina Cardoso, Francois Roubaud, Arvinn Gadgil
Public sector governance statistics in Brazil. Challenges and perspectives, and focus on transparency Leonardo Athias, Luanda Botelho
An annual multi-mode survey to measure victimisation in France T. Razafindranovona, Sandra Zilloniz, Helene Guedj
Measuring violence in war-torn countries: a political challenge for development, peace and security M.-A. Pérouse de Montclos
Perceptions and Experiences in Madagascar: Origins of Differences in Terms of Corruption, Criminal Violence and Discrimination Yvan Andriameva Assany, Faly Hery Rakotomanana
Overview of discrimination in Cameroon in 2014: between perception and experience, predominance of the phenomenon G.F. Ndeffo, R. Niekou, J. Tedou
Youth and civic participation in Côte d’Ivoire Agodio C.J. Boga
Sense of Insecurity and Profile of Crime Victims in Mali from 2014 to 2020 S. Cissé, A. Coulibaly, D.A. Fané, S. Haïïdara, A. Sougané
Measuring Governance, Democracy and Participation: Lessons from Two Decades of Experience in Peru Javier Herrera, Nancy Hidalgo, Francois Roubaud, Mireille Razafindrakato
Governance of Official Statistics
Statistical quality assurance and the new data ecosystem and implications of the difference between data and statistics Matthias Reister
AI Tools: A Powerful New Weapon to Combat the Misuse of Statistics Kate Wilkinson, Emily Barrington
Quality Framework for combining survey, administrative and big data for official statistics Yvonne A.P.M. Gootzen, Piet Days, Arnout van Delden
When Is There Enough Data to Create a Global Statistic? Daniel Mahler, Umar Serajuddin, Hiroko Made
Data sources, methodologies and techniques  
Data Reconciliation and Estimation in an Agricultural Survey Habtamu Kassa Benecha, Denise A Abreu, Rachael Jennings, Linda J Young
Integration of remote sensing data into national statistical office sampling designs for agriculture Luis Ambrosio, Luis Iglesias, Carmen Marin, Nicolas Deffense
Perception of insecurity in municipalities of Mexico. A Small Area Estimation approach Mario Santillana, José Antonio Gallegos, Alma Itzel Garcia, Elizabeth Diaz, Daniel Gutiérrez, Nancy Letticia Gonzalez
Developing and hosting web data apps in R programming for official statistics Stratos Moschidis, Athanasios Thanapoulos, Christina Karamichalakou
Automatizing model selection in an annual review of seasonal adjustment: a machine learning inspired approach Yingfu Xie
Discussion platform
16 th discussion P.C.J. Everaers

SJIAOS Discussions

Launch of the 20th discussion – “Good Data are Used Data”

Join us for our 20th discussion titled “Good Data are Used Data” at https://officialstatistics.com/discussion-platform. This discussion reflects on the importance of data utilization alongside production quality, as emphasized by Stefan Schweinfest in his interview that opens this issue of the Journal. To operationalize this concept of ‘good data’, the discussion poses questions on measuring data usage, which involves identifying potential user groups and assessing the magnitude or impact of data use.

Launch of the 19th discussion

With the release of this issue of the Journal, we have  launched the 19th discussion inspired by the article “Reflections on Statistical Leadership:
Summary of a Panel Discussion at the WSC.” Readers are encouraged to engage with statements and opinions from Stephen Penneck, John Bailer, Ed Humpherson, Mariana Kotzeva, and Denise Silva in this insightful exchange of ideas.

Launch of the 18th discussion – “Are Data Scientists Going to Replace Statisticians?”

With the release of this issue of the Journal, we have  launched the 18th discussion forum, “Are Data Scientists Going to Replace Statisticians?”. You are all invited to provide your opinion on the future ‘job’ profile and required skills of the professionals contributing to the production and dissemination of official statistics at the following link (SJIAOS website): www.officialstatistics.com

17th discussion: “Artificial intelligence: an opportunity, a challenge or a threat for official statistics?”

With the release of the September 2023 issue, we launched the discussion forum on “Artificial intelligence: an opportunity, a challenge or a threat for official statistics?”. This is a great opportunity to provide your opinion on the impact of AI on the production and, especially, on the use of official statistics.

16th discussion: “The impact of AI and the availability of data in the so-called Data ecosystem on the development of official statistics”’

The June 2023 issue saw the release of the 16th discussion on the topic of “The impact of AI and the availability of data in the so-called Data ecosystem on the development of official statistics”  This discussion focuses on the issues associated with the possible impact of AI on the data ecosystem, including the governance of official statistics will change thanks to these developments.  The discussion includes contributions on views on how statistical offices will function by the end of the decade.

You are invited to contribute to the discussions on: www.officialstatistics.com

Call for Papers

Assessing the Value of Official Statistics

We are inviting authors to submit manuscripts on “Assessing the Value of Official Statistics” for a forthcoming Special Issue of the SJIAOS.

With declining budgets, increasing demands and a proliferation of alternative players in the arena of statistics, producers of official statistics are under ever more pressure to stake their claim on public funds, by proving and even quantifying the value of their products. But recent work under the Conference of European Statisticians suggests that in order to prove that something has value, organizations need to properly understand what value means. Value means different things to different people, necessitating decisions about which needs, and whose needs, we are trying to fulfil, how, and why. Any indicators we use to quantify value must be clearly grounded in the concepts they’re supposed to measure. Contributions are sought on how the value of official statistics can be understood, as well as on national and international examples of attempts to assess value in practice, the challenges faced in doing so, and how the resulting information can be harnessed.

The key questions are: How are statistical organizations defining and assessing fulfilment of their goal to add value to society? How do statistical organizations determine the value they are providing to society? How is impact identified and quantified? How can a business case be built for justifying an investment in a major statistical operation?

Submit your articles to https://www.editorialmanager.com/sji/default2.aspx

SJIAOS Access for IAOS Members

IAOS members have unlimited online access to all the articles in the SJIAOS, including previous issues.

Members are asked to register themselves at IOS Press (go to the register tab) and once done, to send an email to Ms. Kim Willems (k.willemsn@iospress.nl). She will activate your complimentary access upon receiving your email.

For more information contact Margaret de Ruiter-Molloy at the ISI membership office at m.deruitermolloy@cbs.nl.

Earlier issues