Agricultural Statistics Transformation Programme Begins

October 29, 2021 by No Comments | Category Environment and climate change, Farming and rural, Land use

Beginning next month, my unit is stepping up work on our ‘Agricultural Statistics Transformation Programme’. I previously spoke about the last December Survey and now we are looking at our other data products. By engaging with internal staff and a wide range of stakeholders across Scotland and the UK, we will improve the data we collect, process and analyse. Thank you to everyone who has participated in the various events and helped us to shape our review.

Transformation Programme

We aim to deliver better land-use analysis on the agricultural sector through the transformation programme. Aligning to emerging issues will be challenging and exciting. But the changes to agricultural support and an increasing focus on environment and nature requires our systems to adapt. No mean feat when we are replacing a nearly continuous 100 years of data collection through the June Census.

Therefore, to make these changes, we will pause most of our normal work to give our staff the space to develop a high quality system fit for the future. I will also keep you up to date with progress through my blog posts. We will also host regular events where our staff will provide updates. Those that attend can help to shape and influence the direction of the work.

We agreed the pause with the Office for Statistical Regulation and our data users. Commenting on our strategy, the Chief Statistician, Roger Halliday said “This is an exciting opportunity to improve our analysis to deliver on the Scottish Government’s objectives set out in the National Performance Indicators. Over the last year and a half our statisticians have faced an extraordinary situation in relation to COVID-19 and they have been at the heart of our response. I am pleased to see that our statisticians will again be at the heart of our response to the challenges we face on environment, biodiversity loss and climate change”

Interim Support for Agricultural Statistics

Designing our new systems, writing computer codes, and developing new analysis requires a lot of work.

This will also have an impact on the unit being able to process data requests and new analyses. We will prioritise requests as staff concentrate on the transformation programme. Speak to the managers within the unit and they will try to help with requests where they can but some stats services may be disrupted. But we will try to avoid this where we can.

The Farm Business Survey continues in 2022 through our partners SAC Consulting. Also, the Sheep and Goat Inventory has started for 2021 and carries on next year too. Both will report full results, but accompanying documentation may be paused.

Our Approach

Our ‘Digital First’ approach puts modern techniques and ways of working at the front of our new system. The speed of our analysis will improve as we streamline our data collections. Changes on this scale are complex. But our Agricultural Statistics Transformation Programme will carefully plan to handle that complexity.

Also, central to the new system is ‘Open Data’ products and adhering to ‘FAIR’ principles. Researchers and data users will find it easier to access the data. And we will balance those needs with better data privacy for farmer’s too, through new data sharing agreements.

Agricultural Statistics Reviews

There will be three product reviews conducted over the next year. First, our June Agricultural Census will convert to a modular form. It will focus on specific agricultural topics of interest and full Census may be conducted around every three or four years.

Meanwhile we will also give the Total Income From Farming a full overhaul. Here, by assessing inputs to the data we will provide more robust estimates.

Finally, the Farm Business Survey has become a vital tool in providing a continual series of data, and our team will be working with the contractors to make access to the data easier for further research and insights, especially in areas such as carbon management estimates.

Further reviews will take place on minor surveys and publications in subsequent years of the programme.

What we have done so far

To complete our initial pre-programme stage, we spoke to many stakeholders who provide or use our data. These engagements will continue through the programme of work. The insights from these events are shaping our initial projects. Some of the main issues that they raised were:
– a general positive response to our initial proposals
– users would like more analysis on climate change, land-use and biodiversity
– more evidence on issues such as agricultural practices, equalities and trade were also highly rated
– users would like more access to detailed tables and interactive mapping and charts

Next Steps

The first phase will review the methods, data inputs and infrastructure behind the data collections. Training on new techniques and practices will also begin to ensure we deliver new products to the usual high degree of quality that is expected.

If you would like more information on the Agricultural Statistics Transformation Programme, please contact me by email or the team using the group mailbox. Watch out for regular updates through my blog site too.


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