Canada not in latest World Values Survey

This somehow escaped my attention – Canada is not included in the 2014 round of the World Values Survey. We’ve been included in every round since 2000. The assorted government departments that have previously provided funding were not able to do so this time due to cutbacks. (About $64,000.) This is quite a blow to those of us who teach with – and learn from! – data. More here and here.


Job vacancy data a mess; Statistics Canada needs more money

According to a Globe and Mail article, the Conservative government has had to sharply revise its job vacancy numbers after dropping data based on  anonymous postings on sites such as Kijiji. The Kijiji posts included overcounting due to the same job being reposted in multiple areas of the site. After the revision, the official vacancy rate fell from 4% to 1.5%.

The Globe and Mail noted that “the solution would be to give Statistics Canada more money to improve its research on job vacancies, which are based on surveys of employers.”

Thanks to Wendy Watkins for posting this to the CAPDU list!

Chance to comment on Federal science, technology and innovation strategy

Belated note : Industry Canada currently has a consultation paper up for comment – the paper’s outlining the update to the 2007 strategy outline, Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage.  The last day to send your submission in is tomorrow.

There are… potential issues with the strategy this outlines, including a complete neglect of the public sector and the role of evidence (data!) in public policy. Evidence for Democracy has a good take on the issue, and a sample letter. Have a look and consider sending in a quick comment!


Data Casualties of the U.S. Shutdown

As this New York Times article points out, the U.S. jobs report for September is one immediate casualty of the government shutdown. The September report is merely delayed, however; the data has been collected and will be crunched and released eventually. More problematically for the long term, data is not being collected during the shutdown. If the shutdown lasts long enough, there may never be unemployment data for October, putting a permanent kink into the annual data for 2013 and into long-term adjustments.

A Times op-ed, The ShutDown’s Data Blackout (by a former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics), looks at these effects and asks whether collection of government data should really be considered “nonessential”. It’s good to see the question being asked in a major news outlet. Data is not a frill. Perhaps the single most fundamental thing that governments do is make decisions. They need information to base those decisions on. That’s what it’s all about.

Sites I regularly use as a data librarian that are down:

Things that are available but not being updated:

The University of Wisconsin Data Library Service has a post with a more detailed list, and this post from has some suggested alternatives.


IASSIST, the Census, and a lot of imaginary Germans

The 2013 IASSIST conference was held a couple of weeks ago in Cologne, Germany, with a number of CAPDU members in attendance. The Canadian census situation was a  theme running through all of last year’s conference in Washington – the opening plenary was devoted to it, and it came up repeatedly in talks, in comments on sessions, during coffee breaks – like a sore point that we data people just couldn’t stop poking. This year talk had of course died down, though I noticed a few pointed comments on governments that interfere with data collection.

However, the closing plenary was of surprising relevance – perhaps more so than the speaker intended. The talk was on record linkage in the social sciences, and the speaker made some comments suggesting that censuses are obsolete (or soon will be), with administrative data collection and linkage being the future of social science analysis. (This was suggested last year as a possible direction for Canada to consider.) He pointed out that our host country Germany relied largely on administrative data – in 2011 they had conducted their first census since reunification. (Privacy issues can be a political minefield in Germany, for reasons which it should not be too difficult to extrapolate.)

Coincidentally, that same day the results of the 2011 German census were released. They found that administrative data had over-counted the country’s population by 1.5 million, or around 1.5 percent. They over-counted the population of foreign residents by 15 percent. The foreign residents accounted for a large share of the population drop, but there were still close to 500,000 mysteriously nonexistant German citizens.

I’ll admit I’m surprised by this myself – I’d assumed that administrative data would be at least as accurate as Census survey data.

Closing of NRCan Libraries, or how we’re losing knowledge even as we open data

CAPDU member Tracey Lauriault of submitted this to the CAPDU mailing list.  I’m reposting with permission, as I think it helps illuminate the overall picture, of which the cuts at Statistics Canada that I’ve been focusing on are just a part. Please also have a look at her post Silencing the Archivists? Who does that? Canada does!

I never knew I would grow up to discover that the rock stars of my world would be librarians and archivists.  They have been the knowledge democratisers of the past couple of centuries and continue to be under the radar in terms of assuring that the public gets access to information resources.  They are however under attack from all sides, at a time when we need them more than ever.  Sure, their form and methods have to change, and they are, and media are shifting.  Irrespective, we need these data and info diggers more than ever, as it is still institutions that produce trusted, ‘official’ or peer reviewed knowledge, and their products are not always found or accessible via google search engines, no matter what all the new undergrads think.
Today I am working in a library, 615 Booth in Ottawa, one of my favourites, and it will most likely close in the next couple of years as did its other NRCan cousins:
  • Pacific Forestry Centre, Victoria BC
  • Northern Forestry Centre, Edmonton AB
  • CanmetENERGY, Varennes QC
  • CanmetENERGY, Bells Corner Complex, Ottawa ON
  • Mines and Minerals. 555 Booth St., Ottawa ON
The one I am in at the moment is under incredibly reduced public hours, and because I am doing some special work with older items in the collection, I have been given a kind of priviledged access.  The Mines and Minerals section for instance, contains our Canadian heritage in terms of mineral exploration in Canada, from 1842 onward when the Geological Survey of Canada began.  The history of resource discovery, documentation, and exploitation, is in fact the history of Canada and continues to be our economic driver, yet the information about it is becoming less and less accessible to us.
Sure, we are opening data, but data need context, classification systems emerged overtime even though we think the data we collect according to them are facts – they are – except, they are socially constructed scientific facts, the outcome of categorizing things a certain way according to a certain norm.  How those came to be are stored here, in the libraries.
Open data is mere technocracy if context associated with the data disappear.  The libraries hold that context and it is librarians who are the key to uraveling it.