Minutes of the IASSIST Annual General Assembly

Friday, May 29, 1992, in the Concourse Hotel, Madison, Wisconsin

The meeting was called to order at 12:25. There were circa 90 persons present.

Chair: Chuck Humphrey, President

1. The 1992 Conference Committee

Laura Guy thanked all members of the Local Arrangements and Program Committees. She is very happy that IASSIST was finally able to come to Madison, Wisc. Cindy Lew officially passed on the IASSIST banner to Peter Burnhill representing the 1993 Local Arrangements Committee.

2. The 1993 Conference Committee

Peter Burnhill reported that the dates of the 1993 conference will likely be the 11-14th of May, 1993, and the venue will be Edinburgh, the locale of the 1976 IASSIST conference. The conference will be held jointly with IFDO (International Federation of Data Organizations).

The format of the conference will follow previous conferences: one day of workshops, a 3-day conference, followed by a weekend break in the Highlands of Scotland. The theme has not yet been finalized, but will have to do with openness, of data structures, systems, networking, and diversity, standards, multi-national collections, data exchange, etc.

The Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) have drafted a budget and fees. They will concentrate on providing information on housing and transportation as soon as possible, through the IASSIST listserver. The ESRC Data Archive will host a day before the IASSIST conference, and in conjunction with which is also planned a tour of Suffolk villages.

The Local Arrangements Committee will link with librarians, statisticians (Royal Statistical Society), etc. A pre- conference promotional workshop “Can I Assist You”, with international participation, will be held in conjunction with a library conference in Britain in September of 1992.

3. IASSIST Conferences 1994, and 1995

Chuck Humphrey reported that the 1994 conference will be held in northern California, and the 1995 in Quebec, possibly in Quebec City.

4. Reports of the Regional Secretariats

4.1 Canadian Secretariat

Wendy Watkins reported the following activity in Canada over the past year:

  • a number of new and improved data libraries in the planning stages. All 5 Quebec CARL Consortium member institutions have allocated someone to be responsible for data files. Ditto at the Universities of Calgary and Manitoba. University of Guelph now has joined ICPSR. At the University of Alberta, the Data Library has been taken over by the Library; similar developments are under consideration at the University of Waterloo.
  • Queens University has established a satellite link with the GIS Laboratory.
  • the CARL Consortium has expanded to include a second round of 3 General Social Surveys files, as well as the 1991 Census of population products.
  • no further progress has been made in the electronic depository service program. Treasury Board has agreed in principle with funding the program, and an understanding as to what will be included in the program. To start, the Statistics Canada electronic DSP will start with microdata files.
  • the CANSIM University Base has expanded to 175,000 [sic] time-series. Cooperative schemes for sharing on-line access to the database are hatching at the University of Toronto, and between University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.
  • CAPDU had its third annual meeting in London, Ont. May 22-23, 1992. In additional to a full-day business meeting, a CESSDA-style workshop was held, with 13 participants, on data identification and data access issues.
  • a project has been started within Statistics Canada to ‘liberate’ Statistics Canada produced microdata files, starting with the ‘Literacy survey’ which is being made available via ftp.

4.2 European Secretariat (Peter Burnhill)

The ESRC Data Archive now has a new director, Denise Lievesley.

The Danish Data Archives are about to become a division of the Danish National Archives.

Changes at the Steinmetzarchief are as yet not official.

4.3 U.S. Secretariat (Ann Gray)

Ann Gray presented highlights from the following report of the U.S. Secretariate, which is reproduced here in full:

Economic and social problems within the nation continue to occupy center stage and with a general election scheduled for November few of us expect any surprises from our government. State funded academic institutions have experienced another phase of cuts to their base budgets while private colleges and universities struggle to maintain financial support for students and programs. At the same time, action on the environment and global change are still waiting for the big conference in Rio de Janeiro. I realize that the economic difficulties of the U.S. are not as severe as those of our colleagues in other parts of the world and that racism, riots, and inequality are not unique to our society, but it is in the context of this economic and social uncertainty that I look back on the events of the past year. All in all we have come through in very good shape with a remarkable determination to continue to provide data and services to all.

The generation of data continues. The number of topically focused data archives increases. Archivists are confronted with the preservation of machine-readable administrative records, librarians reorganize space to accommodate hundreds of CD-ROMS and the equipment necessary to use them and researchers explore new or different computing platforms and software systems.

IASSIST members continue to expand their own knowledge and to share with others their experiences. The Fall 1992 Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research Meeting of Official Representatives was a display of the commitment and talent of our organization with U.S. Members Dodd, Einowski, Fitchen, Geraci, Gerken Green, Gray, Guy, Janda, Jacobs, Jones, Stephenson, and Rowe, all having roles either on the program committee or as speakers. Judith Rowe was presented with an award for “long and meritorious service to the Consortium.” Out-going Council member Jo Ann Dionne served on the Search Committee for a new Director of ICPSR which in June 1991 named Richard C. Rockwell to that post. Rowe was also appointed to a three year term on the Depository Library Council and is serving the last year of a three year appointment on the American Statistical Association’s Census Advisory Committee.

Margaret Adams of the National Archives played a major role in a two day workshop on Electronic Records at the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting which will be repeated at the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administration and the 1992 SAA Meeting. She also spoke at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference in Pittsburgh and co-chaired the program committee for the Fall 1991 Association of Public Data Users' Conference. The Fall APDU meeting was opened by IASSIST member and APDU Board President Pat Doyle and included Anne Cooper as one of the speakers. It has been noticed that many of our members have also provided assistance through their contributions to a number of list-servers.

In most academic environments there is intense pressure to move away from traditional mainframe computing into open, distributed systems with file servers, personal computers and workstations. In many cases this results in transfer of the capital cost for computing from a centralized center to the individual. That is to say, in places where computing was a shared expense or provided as part of the standard resourses of the university, in much the same manner as the university library, there seems to be a trend toward policies which will distribute the cost directly to the users. Data archives, libraries and computing centers which have traditionally served as data depositories and service centers for a diverse group of researchers are struggling with the concept of centralized services and uniform access in our new entrepreneurial environment.

There does not appear to be a pot of gold or large source of funds to solve our computing problems. In 1987 the Office of Science and Technology Policy proposed a five-year strategy for research and development on high performance computing. By the end of 1989 a program plan had been given to Congress. The legislation was approved by Congress and signed by President Bush last year. This legislation will bring us the National Research and Education Network (NREN), high performance computing systems, advanced software technology and basic research in computer science. The Office of Science and Technology Program identified twenty “grand challenges for which solution is likely to be possible using systems developed under this initiative.” A list of these challenges is provided in The Federal High Performance Computing Program published by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, September 8, 1989. All involve either biological, physical science, or engineering problems. There is little, if any, interest in high performance computing for social science research. NREN, which promises something for everyone, should include us but we should take care that at least one small bandwidth will be available for social scientists.

5. Treasurer’s report (Kay Worrell)

IASSIST is solvent. As of the beginning of May, the bank balance was approx. $20,000.00.

6. Reports of the Round Table lunches

Round table lunches have in the past generated both papers and whole sessions at IASSIST conferences.

6.1 Copyright (Sarah Cox-Byrne)

The major topic of discussion at this Round Table was a U.S. Supreme Court decision with respect to the telephone ‘yellow pages’ directory, and the copyrightability of factual information. This has implications for the copyright status of data files.

6.2 Archiving and conversion (Karsten Boye Rasmussen)

The main discussion concerned archival storage media, and especially the pros and cons of CD-ROM as a storage medium in data archives and data libraries.

6.3 Confidentiality and access (Vigdis Kvalheim)

On the issues of confidentiality and access, Europe and North America are two different worlds. In North America, the main responsibility for protecting individual privacy is on the data providers. In Europe, legislation puts the onus on the researchers. A major concern currently in Europe is the legislation which requires the destruction of all personal records after a project is over. Americans are more concerned about access to business records, access to government records, and linkeage issues.

6.4 IASSIST futures (Ilona Einowski)

Topics of discussion included what other associations IASSIST members belong to, and the advantages to new members of IASSIST. New conference attendees feel welcome at IASSIST, and get a chance to talk about local problems. Are we realizing the 5-year plan, now that we are 3 years into it? One idea by which to capitalize on the wealth of experience in IASSIST was the creation of an IASSIST ‘A-team’ to fix problems that individual members/institutions may have. Touched on the possibilities of institutionalizing the sharing of data and expertise. Also introduced the possibility of changing the format of the conference to 2 days of workshops, and 2 days of conference sessions, and the possibility of regional meetings.

6.5 ICPSR (Carolyn Geda)

Highlights of the discussion at this round table: ICPSR should place a higher priority on the acquisition and release of serial data files. Also, better information on release dates should be made available. E.g., the Current Population Survey data files are not acquired soon enough, and once acquired, should be released twice, once as a hierarchical file, and a second time in the final ‘flattened’ version. Scanned documentation is difficult to use, and difficult to print. And there is no documentation of the print control characters that occur in scanned documentation. There are problems with bibliographic citations - citations which differ from the title pages of the codebooks. Also, ICPSR staff should respond to OR-L listserv messages. There was also some discussion about federal government funding for specialized collections, such as the NSF funding for the census acquisition.

6.6 Text files (John Price-Wilkins)

Mr. Price-Wilkins was not present, thus no report was presented from this round table.

6.7 Training data librarians (George Sharrard)

This round table was very active - most of the participants were librarians. Discussion centered primarily around collection content issues, as well as resources (both data and personnel), and cooperation with other units such as the computing centre. Also discussed political issues, such as gaining support for data services, by approaching end-users, and knowing what university committees they are on. Also discussed the ICPSR Summer Institute as a good program for new Official Representatives, etc.

6.8 UNIX (Jim Jacobs)

The round table had held a lively discussion, mainly centering on systems administration, disk space allocation, the death of the mainframe, and UNIXs networking strengths.

7. Nominations and Elections Committee

The members of the Nominations and Elections Committee are: Karsten Boye Rasmussen (chair), Tom Brown, Walter Piovesan, Wendy Treadwell, and Laura Bartolo.

The Committee will present a slate of nominees for Administrative Committee to include 2 nominees from Canada, 2 from Europe, and 6 from the United States, from which are to be selected 1 member-at-large from Canada, 1 from Europe, and 3 from the United States, as well as a president and vice- president.

8. Constitutional amendment (Tom Brown)

A constitutional amendment, the intention of which is to separate the functions of archivist and secretary, will be presented to the membership in the mailing for nominees for the Administrative Committee. A ballot on the constitutional amendment will be mailed with the vote for Administrative Committee members and officers. The revised constitution will then be published in the IASSIST Quarterly.

9. Other business

9.1 CESSDA (Denise Lievesley)

Ms Lievesley reported on current activities in the Council of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA). CESSDA is becoming more organized and formal, so that they can collect dues and apply for funds for projects. Future planned activities include:

  • establishment of new data archives in Western Europe as well as transition countries,
  • address the need for comparative data, and better systems to access data from outside Europe,
  • resource sharing on a project-specific basis. Establishment of working groups to develop products (e.g. data generation software), facilities, standards,
  • SWAT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, and Threats analysis).
  • Address the problems of EC discussions of legislation prohibiting data collectors from asking questions on ‘significant social factors’ without written consent from interviewees. Also EC decision that all personal data be destroyed upon the conclusion of the current project.

9.2 World Fertility Surveys (Denise Lievesley)

The World Fertility Survey data files have been housed as the International Statistical Institution (ISI) in the Hague. ISI is terminating its research and education program, including the Demographic Database. Ms Lievesley had written a proposal to UNFBAS to fund the return of the data to owner countries as well as its deposit in other data archives, such as the ESRC Data Archive. The data are currently at ISI, but are no longer supported. The issue of archiving the data elsewhere is problematic in that the data are owned by participating countries, some of which have specified that the data may not be disseminated to the United States. ISI would prefer to find a data archive in the developing world, in which to house the data, rather than at the ESRC. This decision has major financial as well as training implications, as there is currently no data archive in a developing country capable of managing the data.

The suggestion was raised that perhaps CELADE might be persuaded to house the data.

9.3 IASSIST listserver (Judith Rowe)

The IASSIST listserver is now 1 year old. There would be no problem with storing other files in addition to log files to make them available through the listserver. There is also the possibility of ‘sub-lists’ for special discussions.

9.4 APDU (Peggy Adams)

The 1992 Association of Public Data Users annual meeting will be held November 2-4, 1992. It will be preceded by one-half day workshops on November 1st.

9.4 Resolution (Don Harrison)

Don Harrison presented a resolution urging that prompt action be taken by the U.S. government to salvage archival records from the Vietnam conflict.

There was some discussion as to IASSISTs proper role vis-a-vis such a purely national issue. Chuck Humphrey suggested that the U.S. Secretariat would administer a vote of the IASSIST members only on the resolution, that the text of the resolution should be published in the IASSIST Quarterly with the letter that the resolution requests be written, and that discussion of the issue be continued on the IASSIST listserver.

A committee comprised of Ann Gray, Judith Rowe, and Don Harrison were tasked to make a recommendation for action to the Administrative Committee.

Further, a committee comprised of Denise Lievesley, Richard Rockwell, and Laine Ruus, to make recommendations for action to the Administrative Committee on the issue of the future of the World Fertility Surveys.

The meeting was adjourned at approximately 2:00 pm.