SURV699: Introduction to Official Statistics - a reflective approach (Self-Paced Course)

Data Generating Process, Data Output/Access

The aim of the course is to introduce students to official statistics as a process in which the design, production and communication of information (statistics) are an integral part. As with other products (architecture, furniture, food, cars, smartphones, etc.), the aim is to optimise the design (form) in relation to the use (function) of the products (“form follows function”). In this respect it is about more than just the application of statistical methods. Rather, the focus must be on the questions that a society wants to have answered with solid statistics for its current, pressing and conflict-laden issues.

Seldom has the importance and urgency of the quality of statistics for public debate, decision-making and the acceptance of decisions and, generally, the functioning of a democratic society been as clear as in the (current) pandemic crisis situation.

Students will learn that a piece of information is factual and further what this finding means through the process of development. An (arte-)fact is developed, as the result of interactions between the statistical and the social system. Its quality and its meaning depend on the functionality it enables in the social system (i.e. for the users and uses of statistics). As a principle this translates into: "Quality is fitness for purpose".

Some quite fundamental questions will have to be asked, discussed and answered in the course: What are facts (also including related terms, such as data, information, evidence)? How can facts be produced with high quality? What is the role of official statistics as part of public administration? Is this role being changed due to new constraints and challenges in the era of digitisation and globalisation? How can civil society’s role be strengthened and deepened in all processes of statistical production? Which adaptations of statistical governance are needed in order to preserve and protect the functioning of official statistics in the new informational (and political) ecosystem?


Course objectives: 

By the end of the course, students will…

  • know the production process of official statistics as well as the institutional set-up of European statistics
  • know the types of products and services provided by official statistics, including their respective quality profiles
  • know the quality management of official statistics and understand how (civil) society participates in the making of statistics
  • understand the opportunities offered by new data sources as well as their risks; know the main principles for modern public statistics
  • be able to apply the knowledge to the design of evidence for decision making in more complex situations



No prerequisites.



Radermacher, W. (2020): Official Statistics 4.0 - Verified Facts for People in the 21st Century (Springer Nature Switzerland AG; imprint Springer: Heidelberg)


Units & assignments:

  • Unit 1: The Art of Statistics (Quiz 1)
  • Unit 2: Official statsitics. The Making of (Quiz 2)
  • Unit 3: The Era of Digitalisierung and Globalisation (Quiz 3)
  • Unit 4: (Quiz 4)

Course Dates


Summer Term (June – August)