NSS Key Principles
The wide availability of statistical information to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion within Governments and the community is fundamental to open government and the democracy which we enjoy in Australia. The National Statistical Service (NSS) initiative is a recognition of the fact that much of the statistical information required to inform policy makers is contained in the administrative systems of government organisations. The NSS includes important statistics that can be, and should be, generated as a by-product of the administrative processes of government, and the outputs of direct statistical collections conducted to support government activities.
The Vision of the National Statistical Service (NSS) is all government agencies working together to deliver the statistics required by Australia. This will be achieved through increasing the availability, accessibility and usability of information derived from key administrative and survey data sets, applying sound statistical and data management principles and practices, and forging statistical partnerships to share knowledge and expertise.
Maximising the usefulness, availability and comparability of these data will ensure improved policy formulation through access to better, broader and more comparable information, better monitoring of the effectiveness and efficiency of program services, improved access to and use made of the data by the wider community, and reduced overall costs for the provision of government information services.
The Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics were adopted in 1994 by the United Nations and have been accepted internationally as representing sound and workable principles for the operation of an official statistical agency. In recent years, international statistical organisations have developed frameworks for describing the quality of data. The NSS Key Principles recognises the importance of both the fundamental principles and quality frameworks and encompasses both of these developments.
The objectives of the NSS Key Principles (first released in June 2004) are to assist government organisations, at Commonwealth, State/Territory and local levels, to produce and publish Australia's National Statistics, and promote 'best practice' to guide the achievement of high standards in the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics.
1. Be objective in data definition, analysis, interpretation and release of statistics.
2. Be open about all aspects of the statistical process:
• set, and publicise in advance, the dates for and nature of statistical releases;
• publish methodologies used in producing statistics; and
• invite and respond promptly to comment.
3. Consult widely with government, business and the community to ensure the statistical information produced supports debate about current and emerging issues, within available resources.
4. Use standard classifications, standards and frameworks. Explain deviations from the relevant international/national standards.
5. Ensure that the statistical methodology and data remain internally consistent over time. Explain reasons for any changes that occur between collection periods.
6. Allow enough time to check the data for a reasonable level of accuracy and plan to release the statistics as soon as possible after their collection.
7. Where a publication date has been advertised, ensure that the statistics are released on this date.
8. Ensure that important statistics are compiled from key administrative and survey data sets relating to government programs and activities.
9. Provide all Australians with ready access to quality statistics.
10. Provide analyses and explanations where they help the interpretation of statistics.
11. Be open about the quality of the statistics, so that users can better understand and interpret them.
12. Ensure sound statistical practices are followed for collecting, processing, storing and presenting statistical data.
13. Ensure necessary professional statistical skills are developed or acquired and used in the production of statistics.
Trust of Data Providers
14. Place only the minimum reporting load necessary on data providers, commensurate with administrative requirements, priority statistical objectives and sound statistical practice.
15. Explain clearly to data providers how the information provided may be used.
16. Ensure compliance with privacy principles, confidentiality guarantees and other undertakings to data providers.
Brackstone G., Managing Data Quality in a Statistical Agency , (1999) Survey Methodology, Vol 25, No. 2, Statistics Canada.
Carson, C., Toward a Framework for Assessing Data Quality , IMF Working Paper, WP/01/25 , International Monetary Fund, Washington, 2001.