• Government, statistics office will invest £17m in new centers
  • Measures follow report by Charlie Bean on improving statistics

The U.K. government and statistics office are investing millions of pounds as they take on board recommendations from former Bank of England Deputy Governor Charlie Bean on improving data quality.

The Office for National Statistics will create a new Data Science Campus based alongside its headquarters in Newport, Wales, and an Economics Center of Excellence in London as part of a 17 million-pound investment ($24 million), the office said in a statement.

In his budget speech Wednesday, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said the Treasury accepts all the suggestions made by Bean, who published a government-commissioned report on economic statistics last week. Bean suggested setting up two new centers and making better use of administrative data to help measure digital activity’s contribution to the economy.

Bean also recommended applying greater regulatory scrutiny to the statistics office. The Treasury said it will set up a new oversight body -- an Independent Regulation and Evaluation Office -- to monitor the trustworthiness of statistics and support governance of the ONS.

‘Ambitious Plans’

“Funding announced at budget will help ensure U.K. statistics are fit for the future,” Osborne said in a statement. “These ambitious plans will help the ONS rise to the challenge of an increasingly technological economy and make sure the U.K. is a global leader.”

The Newport center will use techniques such as web-scraping from public and private sources, the Treasury said in a statement. The Center of Excellence will help the ONS build up its presence in the capital and provide a venue for “cutting-edge research,” the ONS said.

“While I very much welcome the establishment of the data science hub and measurement center, they are a necessary but not sufficient condition for raising the quality of U.K. economic statistics,” Bean said in a response to the announcements. “Further complementary efforts must be taken to make fuller use of new and existing data sources, strengthen the existing governance arrangements and refocus ONS culture.”

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