About the ONS
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is an impartial department and exercises its functions free of political control. We produce the numbers that matter most – on the economy and business, people, population and communities.
We provide reliable, quality, independent information on a wide range of issues from understanding changes to the labour market through to Covid-19 and its impacts. We act quickly, setting up new surveys and analytical programmes to help inform policy decisions, such as tracking the spread of the Coronavirus and its effects on people’s lives and the UK economy. We provide high quality statistics, data and analysis, vital public assets, that are central to democratic society.
We are driven by four core principles:
Radical – in taking opportunities to innovate in the creation and ethical use of data for public benefit while safely protecting its anonymity
Ambitious – in setting out to answer the critical questions on the economy and society the public needs answers to, and informing the key decisions taken by citizens, businesses and civil society.
Inclusive – in ensuring our statistics reflect the lives and experiences of every member of our society so that everybody counts.
Sustainable – in delivering a unique service to the highest international standards while providing value for money. We seek to collaborate with partners, working together to deliver quality stats in a timely manner.
The ONS and the Turing
In June 2021 the ONS and The Alan Turing Institute launched a new strategic partnership to produce close to real time economic statistics to help track changes in the networks underpinning the economy while preserving privacy.
The collaboration, which will initially run for two years, between the UK’s National Statistics Institute and the National Institute for data science and artificial intelligence will see ONS economists, analysts and data scientists working closely with a team of Turing researchers.
The first three projects set for delivery are:
Understanding economic networks
This project will utilise a variety of cutting-edge data science techniques to provide new insights about transactions between firms in near real time, allowing the ONS to better understand the impact of seasonal patterns and major events such as the COVID-19 pandemic or Brexit on the UK economy.
By rapidly bringing together a range of new data, we aim to create economic models in close to real time that track changes in retail prices, household spending and income at a detailed local level, allowing us to measure the pulse of the economy.
Synthetic data and privacy preservation
This project will develop tools to allow the sharing of private datasets with a wider range of stakeholders, while preserving privacy. This can be done using synthetic data generators which offer a private way to generate data, whilst preserving statistical features in the original data set. Applying this methodology to sensitive data held by ONS would allow greater flexibility for collaboration between ONS and researchers in the wider community and government.