Need to Know

14 December 2016 | Full Fact Team

If you could ask one question about the UK today, and get a straight answer, what would it be?

Sometimes it’s surprising how hard it can be to find answers to simple questions. 

Is the NHS running out of money? Does immigration bring crime to the UK? Is Brexit good or bad for the economy?

What is Need to Know?

Full Fact is launching a project with the people who fund and produce public information in the UK to make a plan for filling the gaps in data and analysis.

We're working with three other organisations. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. The UK Statistics Authority is the regulator which safeguards and promotes official statistics that serve the public good. The House of Commons Library provides impartial, publicly available research and briefings for MPs. And Full Fact is the UK's independent factchecking organisation.

Why are we doing it?

We’re lucky to have access to great public information here in the UK. Our statistics are independent and increasingly well-communicated. We have a thriving social and economic research network, and a strong community of people who care about making sure public decisions are based on the best information available.

But still, we don’t always have good answers to basic questions like the ones above.

Too often when we factcheck a claim, the most honest answer is ‘we don’t know’. That’s frustrating for us and our readers. 

Sometimes we also find that claims are wrong because the original data or analysis they're based on has been misunderstood. So we want to work out where data and analysis can be better communicated.

When we don’t have reliable, well-communicated information to answer decision makers’ questions, public debate gets overwhelmed by misinterpretation and dodgy figures. At worst, numbers get pulled out of thin air.

Sometimes factchecking can seem like it’s all stick and no carrot. We hope that by improving the original sources, we’re helping people avoid making claims that will need to be corrected later on.

Here's what the House of Commons Library and the UK Statistics Authority said:

“Good quality data and analysis is essential to supporting a thriving parliamentary democracy. Research from the Commons Library helps MPs make well informed decisions, so the better the information base for our research, the better informed these decisions will be.” —Penny Young, Librarian and Director General of Participation, Research and Information at the House of Commons 

“Statistics provide a firm evidence base for decision making and debate, the Need to Know conference will help us identify areas where we can further mobilise the power of data to help Britain make better decisions.

“The UK Statistics Authority is pleased to be working with the ESRC, House of Commons Library and Full Fact to bring subject experts together to identify what information the decision makers of tomorrow will require to provide them with insight.” —John Pullinger, National Statistician

What topics are you looking at?

We're looking at eight topics. If you've got examples of data and analysis gaps in any of these which you'd like to tell us about, please email

  • Crime
  • Education
  • Health and social care
  • Housing
  • Immigration
  • Security and global challenges
  • Trade and globalisation
  • Work and welfare

Case Studies

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.