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On Statistics: Paper and screens, the two pillars for good dissemination

Collecting and processing data are the two main functions of energy statisticians, but one should not forget dissemination

2 May 2014

“Do not collect statistics for the sake of collecting statistics but collect only those statistics for which there is a use.” This principle is true for all statistics; it applies to energy data especially in this time of resource problems due to the overall economic environment.

So, what data to collect? There is no single answer to this question because data are linked to needs, and needs depend on the combined economic and energy situation of each country.

However, energy balances could be considered the common basis for all countries in terms of data needs and collection. One could add that the growing role of energy efficiency in energy policy leads to new needs for end-use consumption as well as activity data.

Collecting and processing data are the two main functions of energy statisticians, but one should not forget dissemination. Having collected the best data available would indeed be meaningless if these statistics were not properly disseminated and used.

On pages 48-49 of its previous issue, IEA Energy included a presentation of the Sankey Flow graphic representation of energy balances, available on the IEA website, that complements the Agency’s various publications on energy statistics and balances. But Sankeys are not the only example where the IEA is complementing a paper document with electronic means of dissemination.

For many years, the IEA has disseminated its Key World Energy Statistics (KWES) on paper. This booklet is a short compilation of data released in IEA statistics publications. Since the early 2000s, the IEA has also made the KWES available on the www.iea.org statistics webpage and it quickly became the most downloaded document from the whole IEA website.

In line with the fast development of mobile phone applications, the IEA launched a KWES app in 2011, at first limited to iPhones, iPads and like devices. The application provides all of the booklet’s data, tables and graphs but in a more user-friendly environment. This is particularly true for country indicators, which can be ranked in ascendant or descendant order as well as formatted to ease cross-country comparison. The IEA has just introduced an Android version of the app.

In the age of electronic communication, it is obvious that dissemination through the Internet and mobile phones is key for providing the right data to the right user at the right time. Nevertheless, there is still room for paper documents and the dissemination of the annual and quarterly IEA statistics books, and the massive popularity of the KWES are clear evidence of the importance of keeping print versions.

Therefore, I might not have chosen the right title for this column: “From paper to screens” should in fact be changed to “Paper and screens: the two pillars for good dissemination”.


This column by Jean-Yves Garnier, Head of the IEA Energy Data Centre, appears in the new issue of IEA Energy: The Journal of the International Energy Agency.  The IEA produces IEA Energy, but analysis and views contained in the journal are those of individual IEA analysts and not necessarily those of the IEA Secretariat or IEA member countries, and are not to be construed as advice on any specific issue or situation. Click here to read the new and earlier issues of IEA Energy, and click here to send a request a free subscription.

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