The RSS writes to party leaders calling for statistical training for ministers and an end to pre-release access

As the general election approaches, we have written to the leaders of the main UK political parties, calling for ministers to receive training in interpreting data, as well as an end to pre-release access to statistics. 
The letters from RSS CEO Dr Sarah Cumbers and RSS president Dr Andrew Garrett highlight some of the recommendations from our recently published manifesto, including training for ministers in interpreting statistical and data-based evidence, which the RSS says it would be happy to provide.  
They also call for ministers to abide by the Code of Practice for Statistics and for this to be further incorporated into the Ministerial Code.  
The recent Lievesley review of the UK Statistics Authority noted that pre-release access to statistics, where ministers are able to prepare their own spin on the numbers ready for when they are released to the press and public, has a harmful impact on public trust. The letters echo the review’s call for the practice to end completely, something that has been a long-running RSS campaign.  
The letters also highlight the current barriers around data sharing between government departments and call for these to addressed as a matter of urgency, to improve the UK’s data infrastructure and the delivery of public services.  
Dr Andrew Garrett said: ‘The pandemic showed the real-life consequences of decision-makers not having the right data skills. We urge whoever is elected in July to make our call for statistical training a priority, as well as end pre-release access to statistics.’ 
Dr Sarah Cumbers added: ‘The UK is lucky to have one of the strongest statistical systems in the world, but a lack of data skills in our politicians can threaten to undermine this. Our next prime minister has a real opportunity to build public confidence in our data by ending any potential spin and ensuring their ministers use statistics responsibly.’ 
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