Covid 'Lessons learned' memo

Ten statistical lessons the government can learn from the past year 

Data Manifesto

Statistics have played an important role both in our understanding of the coronavirus pandemic, and our attempts to fight it. The RSS sets out ten lessons the government can learn, and a series of recommendations for what they should do now, to ensure that the country's data infrastructure is prepared for the next crisis - whatever form it takes.

Read the document in full (PDF)

The ten lessons are:

  1. Invest in public health data – which should be regarded as critical national infrastructure and a full review of health data should be conducted 
  2. Publish evidence – all evidence considered by governments and their advisers must be published in a timely and accessible manner
  3. Be clear and open about data – government should invest in a central portal, from which the different sources of official data, analysis protocols and up-to-date results can be found
  4. Challenge the misuse of statistics – the Office for Statistics Regulation should have its funding augmented so it can better hold the government to account
  5. The media needs to step up its responsibilities – government should support media institutions that invest in specialist scientific and medical reporting
  6. Build decision makers’ statistical skills – politicians and senior officials should seek out statistical training
  7. Build an effective infectious disease surveillance system to monitor the spread of disease – the government should ensure that a real-time surveillance system is ready for future pandemics 
  8. Increase scrutiny and openness for new diagnostic tests – similar steps to those adopted for vaccine and pharmaceutical evaluation should be followed for diagnostic tests 
  9. Health data is incomplete without social care data – improving social care data should be a central part of any review of UK health data
  10. Evaluation should be put at the heart of policy – efficient evaluations or experiments should be incorporated into any intervention from the start.