Affiliations: University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
Corresponding author: Felix Ritchie, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, UK. E-mail: [email protected].
Abstract: Statistical agencies and other government bodies increasingly use secure remote research facilities to provide access to sensitive data for research and analysis by internal staff and third parties. Such facilities depend on human intervention to ensure that the research outputs do not breach statistical disclosure control (SDC) rules. Output SDC can be principles-based, rules-based, or something in between. Principles-based is often seen as the gold standard statistically, as it improves both confidentiality protection and utility of outputs. However, some agencies are concerned that the operational requirements are too onerous for practical implementation, despite these statistical advantages. This paper argues that the choice of output checking procedure should be seen through an operational lens, rather than a statistical one. We take a popular conceptualisation of customer demand from the operations management literature and apply it to the problem of output checking. We demonstrate that principles-based output SDC addresses user and agency requirements more effectively than other approaches, and in a way which encourages user buy-in to the process. We also demonstrate how the principles-based approach aligns better with the statistical and staffing needs of the agency.