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The Independence of Official Statistics

Norms, Arrangements, Instruments

  • Book
  • © 2023


  • Explores the highly relevant topic of the independence of official statistics
  • Compares the norms, arrangements, instruments, and practices of official statistics in the OECD countries
  • Identifies the paths and processes that enabled the ‘drive for independence’ led by the epistemic community

Part of the book series: Society, Environment and Statistics (SESTAT)

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Table of contents (6 chapters)


About this book

This book explores the independence of official statistics and describes the various legal and professional norms, institutional arrangements, instruments and practices that statisticians have developed over recent decades to protect their work from political interference. It argues that this ‘drive for independence’, which saw the replication of these norms, arrangements, and instruments across countries, was largely led by the international epistemic community of statisticians, and it identifies some of the paths and processes that enabled this drive.
The study conducts an overall, multi-dimensional, and detailed comparative examination of the thirty-eight OECD countries’ norms, arrangements, and practices regarding the institutional and professional independence of official statistics. For that purpose, several dimensions have been surveyed and an index has been built that allows patterns and clusters to be uncovered among the OECD countries, shedding light on the variationsthat can be observed from one subgroup of countries to another.

The issue of the independence of official statistics has been at the heart of several recent statistical controversies, including that of Greece’s debt, censuses in Canada and the United States, the Argentinian cost of living index, and some recent cases of resignation or dismissal of senior statisticians in various countries. Such independence has been a major topic of discussion in the epistemic community since the turn of the century, and concerns have also been addressed more widely, in the media. The subject of the book is particularly relevant as official statistics also play a significant role in monitoring the progress of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. 

This book will appeal to anyone interested in the topic of official statistics and to students of government in general.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of Political Science, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada

    Jean-Guy Prévost

About the author

Jean-Guy Prévost is Professor of Political Science at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada, and a member of the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRT). His areas of interest are the political and critical analysis of statistical data, statistical independence, statistical structures, norms and practices, and Italian political history. His publications include: A Total Science. Statistics in Liberal and Fascist Italy (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009), Statistics, Public Debate and the State (with Jean-Pierre Beaud; Pickering and Chatto, 2012), “The Battle over Greek Deficit Statistics”, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 39, 2, October 2021, 439-457, “Past, present and future of Canadian statistics”, Statistical Journal of the IAOS, 36 (2), June 2020, 355–363, and “The 1946 Allied Mission to Observe Greek Elections: An Experiment in Quantitative Political Science”, Histoire et mesure, 2018, 2, vol. XXXIII, p. 163-192.

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