Academic journal article Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland

The European Statistics Code of Practice as a Pillar to Strengthen Public Trust and Enhance Quality in Official Statistics

Academic journal article Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland

The European Statistics Code of Practice as a Pillar to Strengthen Public Trust and Enhance Quality in Official Statistics

Article excerpt


Creating and maintaining public trust in official statistics is a complex process, involving a wide range of issues going from aspects related to leadership and clarity of communication to aspects linked with deontological and ethical principles. Public trust has also an international dimension in the sense that individual conducts of some countries may affect other's credibility and that of international organisations. Public trust is also closely linked to quality. A perception that the quality of the outputs disseminated is adequate for the uses envisaged is a key element to support trust in official statistics.

But is high output quality a sufficient criterion to ensure trust in official statistics? Obviously not. High output quality is a pre-condition that cannot be dissociated from other dimensions. Being independent in the selection of statistical methods, the dissemination practices and their timing, treating users equitably without any prevalence to any political wind and ensuring confidentiality of respondents are essential aspects to maintain public trust in official statistics. Missing some of these aspects would produce a sense of partiality or lack of protection undermining public confidence and credibility in official statistics.

In fact there is a virtuous circle: enhancing quality strengthens public trust and increase public trust improves quality. The higher is the trust of respondents on official statistics the more they will be willing to cooperate and provide accurate and timely information, improving in this way the quality in statistics.


At European level, European statistics are relevant statistics necessary for the performance of the activities of the European Union. They are included in the European statistical programmes.

In 1999 a high level task force on quality, the Leadership Group (LEG) on Quality, was created to attain improved quality in the European Statistical System. The LEG on quality produced 11 background papers on different topics related to quality and 22 recommendations. One of the most visible recommendations is the establishment of a biennial Conference on quality. Until now 6 conferences have been organised. The next one will be held in Austria in 2014.

To ensure the public trust in European statistics and enhance their quality, the European Statistical System has pursued a twofold approach: a comprehensive legal framework based on a specific provision in the Treaty and a statistical law are complemented with a self-regulatory approach for the European Statistics Code of Practice. Eurostat developed a legislative policy in line with the principle of professional independence.

Communication 211/2011 "Towards robust quality management" set out a strategy to further reinforce the quality framework in European statistics. The communication proposed advancing in the overall governance of the European Statistical System by:

* Targeted amendments to Regulation 223/2009 to ensure the credibility of and the public trust in European statistics. This reform is based on four main building blocks: a) the coordination role of NSIs at national level; b) the role and position of the heads of NSIs; c) the commitment of national governments to ensuring the implementation of the CoP; and d) the access to data from administrative sources for statistical purposes. Discussions are still on-going among the Commission, the Parliament and the Council. While an agreement is nearly reached in the last item (access to administrative data), more consultations are needed in the other points.

* The revision of the CoP. The revision was approved in November 2011.

* The signature with Members States of Commitments on Confidence in Statistics. This is one of the points discussed within the amendments of Regulation 223/2009. …

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