Quality management of methodology

To achieve and to communicate quality of official statistics, it is essential that national statistical institutes adopt some system of quality by design, i.e. formal quality certification, e.g. ISO or EFQM.

Methodology and process development are cornerstones of official statistics and belong to the major factors that contribute to their quality. This is reflected in the European Statistics Code of Practice, which mentions that "Sound methodology underpins quality statistics" and “Appropriate statistical procedures, implemented from data collection to data validation, underpin quality statistics”. However, methodology and processes are hard to explain to the average user, and so we must find other ways to ensure trust in statistical methodology and processes, and to convince users of the quality of official statistical methodology and processes. Important elements of such an approach are independence of the methodological and development units, transparency of methods and process designs, peer reviews, internal reviews and evaluations, and internal quality management.

In this paper we look in particular at quality management. We show how quality management of methodological and development units may be based on the Code of Practice. We show how the various elements work together, and how the whole of these elements may lead to certification of the units, for example by EFQM or ISO. In 2017 the department for process development and methodology at Statistics Netherlands was certified according to ISO 9001. As an example, we discuss the various steps that have been taken to achieve this certification. In particular we focus on;

  • the quality procedures for internal and external reports, recommendations and briefs;
  • the quality assurance of statistical development projects in which methodologists and business analysts participate;
  • the quality assurance of methodological courses taught to statisticians;
  • the internal management of the department.