The announcement that Jil Matheson is to be appointed as the new National Statistician has been welcomed by the Royal Statistical Society.
She has had a distinguished statistical career working in a variety of roles in official statistics, most recently as Director General for Statistics Delivery in the Office for National Statistics.
Commenting on the announcement, Society Vice President, Jill Leyland, says:
“Jil Matheson takes over at a pivotal time in official statistics. Recent legislation has the potential to put the system on more independent footing but the complexity of the UK’s statistical organisation means that much depends on the way the Act is implemented and the structures and procedures put in place. Working alongside the UK Statistics Authority, the new National Statistician will need to be able to build successfully on the excellent foundations laid by her predecessor, Dame Karen Dunnell, in order to preserve the many strengths of UK official statistics and remedy the weaker aspects.
“As the professional head of the Government Statistical Service (GSS) she has a crucial leadership role. UK official statistics are both decentralised and devolved. As well as ensuring that professional skills are valued, maintained and developed, she will need to provide inspiration and guidance in a diverse and geographically dispersed organisation.
“Planning to ensure that the UK has the statistics it needs for the coming decade is a daunting task. Particularly at this time of deep economic uncertainty, Jil Matheson will have to ensure that the UK’s economic and financial statistics are both comprehensive and of the quality needed. At the same time, the National Statistician will have a crucial role in delivering the UK’s biggest single statistical exercise, the 2011 Census. All this comes at a time of retrenchment in public spending, from which the statistical system is unlikely to be immune.
“Statistics are, of course, produced to be used. The use of official statistics outside of central government is growing rapidly. Not only is the community of professional users diverse, but there is increasing focus on ‘citizen users’, members of the public using data to inform their own lives. Jil Matheson will need to ensure that all users, whether in government or not, are listened to.
“With statistical use growing, it becomes even more important that they are communicated well. They must be easy to find, in formats that are readily useable, and in language that is easy to understand. There are real problems to be solved in this area.
“The Royal Statistical Society is confident that Jil Matheson has the qualities to take on these challenges and ensure that the UK official statistical system remains one of the best in the world. We offer her our support and wish her every success”