‘Essential’ Covid dashboard and ‘crucial’ infection survey scoop stats awards

Project estimating the prevalence of long Covid in the UK comes highly commended as RSS announces award winners
The Office for National Statistics’ Coronavirus (Covid-19) Infection Survey team receives the Campion Award for Excellence in Official Statistics. Photo: RSS

By Tevye Markson

18 Jul 2022

The teams behind two large-scale projects to map the prevalence of Covid infections across the UK during the pandemic have scooped prestigious statistics awards.

The Covid-19 Dashboard Team, which is part of the UK Health Security Agency, has won this year’s Statistical Excellence in Trustworthiness, Quality and Value Award. The Royal Statistical Society and Office for Statistics Regulation accolade, which is awarded in partnership with CSW, recognises organisations that have voluntarily adopted the regulator's code of practice.

The RSS has meanwhile presented the Campion Award for Excellence in Official Statistics, in partnership with CSW and the UK Statistics Authority, to the Office for National Statistics’ Coronavirus (Covid-19) Infection Survey.

The two awards were presented at a ceremony last week, where judges underlined the huge impact they had had on policymaking and public health during the pandemic.

The Covid-19 dashboard, which claimed the OSR award win, was created to publicise the number of Covid cases and vaccination rates across the UK, quickly becoming the main trusted source of data on the pandemic.

This team behind the dashboard “demonstrated a real commitment to trustworthiness, quality and value that stand at the heart of the code of practice for statistics”, RSS chief executive Stian Westlake said.

“The UKHSA are to be congratulated for their work during a difficult time, when the Covid-19 dashboard was essential for the entire population and their decision-making during the pandemic,” he added.

Clare Griffiths, head of Covid-19 Dashboard at UKHSA, said: “Honesty and transparency are core to the purpose of the dashboard. My team wanted to make Covid-19 data available to anyone that needs it.

“In the fast-changing context of the pandemic, we have worked hard to user test and develop the data as people’s needs change. We are truly delighted to win this award and continue to ensure the dashboard is a useful and relevant tool for all users.”

More than a million people used the dashboard per day at its peak, including ministers, officials and the general public.

The statistics are “high-profile, complicated to produce, receive daily scrutiny and much wider discussion, so must fully demonstrate trustworthiness, quality and value”, the OSR said.

The data “continues to remain incredibly important to people” as the UK moves into the living with Covid phase of the government’s strategy, the regulator added.

Ed Humpherson, director general for regulation at the OSR and lead judge, said the dashboard was a “very worthy winner that has helped the nation understand the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“This is a brilliant example of how to properly engage key audiences and the code of practice to ensure public confidence in critical statistics and data,” he added.

The Campion Award-winning ONS Covid-19 Infection Survey was also a “crucial resource during the pandemic and has had an important impact on policy”, the judges said.

The survey tracked community infection rates through modelling methodologies the panel described as being “sophisticated, innovative and communicated clearly”.

UKSA chair Sir Robert Chote said the infection survey team were “very worthy winners of this year’s Campion Award”.

“They have continued to set a world-class standard in pandemic analysis with their expertise, innovation, and diligence. Their survey has been a critical tool for policymakers and I am delighted to see them recognised, together with the ONS Health Modelling Hub and Health Methods and Analysis Hub for their brilliant work on long Covid,” he said.

The two ONS hubs came highly commended for their project on estimating the prevalence of long Covid in the UK.

The project, which has identified that close to two million people are living with long-lasting symptoms after being infected with the virus, is a “good example of statisticians working collaboratively and quickly to fill important data gaps”, according to the judging panel.

“The judges considered this a project of global significance, on a topic that has been a subject of public interest and concern, with an increasing number of accounts of people suffering from the impacts of long Covid,” the panel said. 

The Campion Award recognises outstanding innovations in official stats and developments that improve the user experience.

Commenting on this year’s winners, Dev Virdee, chair of the Campion Award committee, said: “The last few years have been tough for government statisticians in ensuring we have the range and quality of statistics needed to respond to the pandemic and also that their regular outputs are maintained. They have risen to the challenge superbly.

“This year’s winning and highly commended teams are to be congratulated for the positive impact they have had on policymaking, providing the data needed to make well-informed decisions."

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