This discussion on the SJIAOS discussion platform (www.officialstatistics.com) is based on the following statement.
Now epidemiology is most important, in the next phase other statistics will become relevant again!
The enormous importance of statistics in the preparation of difficult political decisions has seldom been as clear as it is now in the current phase of the pandemic crisis.
While in the current, first phase of crisis management, where essentially the health risks of this epidemic vis-à-vis the absorption capacities of national health systems were sufficient to justify the measures taken, this will be completely different in the next phases. In order to decide when and how quarantine and isolation can and should be ended and transferred to other forms, important other aspects will have to be considered, such as domestic violence, unemployment, collateral illnesses (depression, suicide), economic consequences (despite or because of the financial support measures), ecological facilitations. At the same time, all the topics that were given lower priority in the short-term crisis mode will be on the agenda again. Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, overcoming poverty and inequality, protecting the climate and biodiversity and other goals set out in the global strategy until 2030 will not be easier to achieve after the COVID-19 crisis, quite the contrary. We (politics, societies at large) will be faced over the coming years with multiple and extremely complex decisions that require an unprecedented level of speed, quality and reliability of new metrics in more or less all fields: economy, distributive justice, unemployment, agriculture, transport, energy, health, education, to name but a few.
Not just the current, but many new statistics are needed
The fallout from the current crisis will be found in all areas and variables observed by statistics. As if that wasn't enough; there will be an urgent need for new statistics, more urgent than ever before. New statistics in this case also means new services, new forms of communication, new software, new networks, new forms of statistical education and last but not least: new data sources (i.e. new surveys and other means for observing phenomena of interest).
SDG’s information as the all-encompassing framework
Now would be the moment to take the UN SDGs seriously and interpret them as what they should be and could achieve. They could enable a great transformation (in terms of change of behaviour and long term societal development). However, first of all, SDG-relevant information (indicators, accounts, statistics) needs to be seen as the all-encompassing and defining methodological framework into which all statistics should fit. Secondly, the existing statistical information would now need to be rapidly supplemented with very short-term solutions and, in part, inputs from external sources. Thirdly, open data, publications and evidence-based networks and collaborations should be actively promoted. Fourthly, the Codes of Practice should urgently be adapted to this new and considerably modified situation (for example, also by means of appropriate information and communication of the quality profiles, i.e. labelling). All in all, official statistics should actively contribute to mastering the current short-term crisis and the development of a SDG compatible exit strategy, which is directly linked to the fact that the SDGs (all of them) are regularly monitored by statistics.
Official statistics should be on board to help in crisis management
In the near future, politicians will be confronted with extremely complex decision problems. The technical consulting teams for crisis management will therefore be multidisciplinary. It would be of major importance for statisticians to be on board here to contribute their various potential strengths, such as wealth of methods, experience in various applications, comprehensive information infrastructure, long time series, solidity and trust.
A new role for official statistics in the public statistical infrastructure
All of this will require innovation and an openness to solutions that will not necessarily fit into the forms and frameworks established in quieter times. And all this presupposes that the statistical institutions are set up in such a way that they can meet these new requirements. This would require a public statistical infrastructure that is at the same time professionally independent, high-performing and innovative.
‘Official statistics’ has to adapt quickly to the changing circumstances
What will be the reservations about such a bold strategic positioning? A characteristic argument will be linked to the question of what official statistics actually is and how far one can diversify without endangering the brand core. For this discussion it is crucial to remember official statistics’ DNA and that there is no such thing as the quasi fateful definition of what official statistics means. The status we know today is the result of an evolution over many years, decades, in terms of institutions (who), programmes (what) and methods (how). This development was and is influenced by political events, scientific progress and new data sources. Most of the time, this evolution is very slow and steady, so we are hardly aware of it. Nevertheless, it does happen, which we can make clear to ourselves, for example, by the fact that a statistician before the economic crisis of the 1930s and before Keynes could hardly have imagined that we now have GDP as an important indicator in our portfolio. Alain Desrosières has worked out in detail the interrelation between the state and statistics; with him one could even speak of statistics for ‘the making of the state’.
Statistics will play an active role in shaping the world of tomorrow
What the world will look like after the current crisis and whether or not we move towards sustainable development (or to life as it was) is completely open today. What is clear, however, is the need for statistics to play an active role in this making of the world of tomorrow. In doing so, it is important to open up widely to new possibilities and necessities. Is it possible to create new forms of cooperation with other players, located outside the traditional city walls, which could benefit from the know-how or the reputation of statistics (e.g. by assigning appropriate labels, such as "operated by Official Statistics")? Should consideration be given to strengthening the service branch of the official statistics industry (e.g. by providing software, awarding quality certificates, acting as data steward or helping to set up and conduct statistical surveys)? Could it for example be a task for official statistics to establish a reporting system for biodiversity comparable to the system of population statistics?
Rapid action and substantial investment are needed
All these innovations presuppose that one has the required capacities to launch and realize them. After decades of austerity policy, however, statistical institutes hardly have the reserves and the necessary research and development capacities that are so urgently needed right now. In the health care system, the comparable deficiency has now entered the public debate, although this cannot yet be observed with regard to similar problems in statistics. Taken together, it can be concluded that a call for rapid action must be made right now. It must not take months and years for coordination processes. Rather, a wide variety of ideas and initiatives should sprout in a decentralized way and at the same time international networks and cooperation should be promoted. Above all, however, official statistics must draw the attention of the public to their importance and their miserable situation, so that an appropriate share of the enormous financial sums currently being spent on crisis management is also invested in improving adequate statistical evidence.
 The text of this statement has been prepared by Walter J. Radermacher and subscribed by the president of the IAOS, John Pullinger.
 See W.J. Radermacher „Official Statistics 4.0” https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-030-31492-7