Regional Report 1996-1997 Canada

IASSIST Report of the Canadian Regional Secretary

by

Wendy Watkins
The Data Centre
Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario

May 1997

Canada has had a very busy year. The 1996 Census results have begun to trickle out and will continue to gain momentum over the coming months. In addition, three major longitudinal surveys, covering labour and income, children, and health were launched by Statistics Canada. And with a federal election less than a month away, we’ll be deluged by polling data from a variety of sources.

As well as Statistics Canada’s Census output and new surveys, the agency has recently embarked on an ambitious metadata project. This project aims to provide finding aids for searching Statistics Canada’s web site as well as documentation for evaluating and using data files. The first year of the project will be aimed at providing ‘proof of concept’. In the longer run, it will complement the IASSIST/ICPSR Data Documentation Initiative.

But the biggest news is that Data Liberation has taken off beyond our wildest expectations.

At the outset of the project, we thought that we would likely have about twenty institutions in the first year, perhaps thirty by the second and optimistically forecast forty by the third. Here, at the beginning of year two, we have fifty-five institutions who are already participating and another few who are likely to join. These new Canadian ‘dataphiles’ should provide a good source of potential IASSIST members.

Because data represent a new ‘frontier’ for the vast majority of these institutions, two issues have risen to almost emergency proportions. The first is training. Each of the new data service points is located in the university’s library, and the onus for providing access is often added as another duty to other full-time responsibilities. It quickly became evident that something must be done, and soon.

To that end, four regional workshops will be held across the country. One person from each institution will be subsidized to attend, although an institution may send as many as it wishes. To date there are 122 registrants. Members of IASSIST are heavily- involved as instructors.

Topics to be covered include content, ordering and verifying files, using Statistics Canada software and establishing a level of service. The two-and-one-half day workshop will include classroom instruction, round-table discussions and hands-on sessions. All the training will be completed by mid-June.

A second priority is the designing of a user-friendly front end. CREPUQ, the Quebec university libraries’ umbrella group, decided on a cooperative project to design a web-based, user- interface patterned on the University of Calgary’s successful Landru system (for which Calgary was the fortunatel recipient of a substantial grant). Other institutions have ventured out on separate endeavours, and we hope that, in the near future, Statistics Canada will be able to organize these efforts in a central system.

And I cannot submit a report without mentioning the hard work of not only the participants, but of the dedicated staff from Statistics Canada who have laboured on our behalf. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their efforts.

Although Data Liberation was a major 1996-97 story, it wasn’t the only big news. CAPDU ‘96 attracted a very good turnout and provided the groundwork for the training that is now about to take place. Plans for CAPDU ‘97 are nearly finalized. It will include workshops on Canadian longitudinal files and the 1996 Census. Canada’s newest contribution to the IASSIST Administrative Committee will also be presenting a session and Anastassia Khouri will give a synopsis of the CREPUQ initiative.

The ACCOLEDS meeting in Victoria last August resulted in an expansion of data activities for this group. They’ve moved beyond their initial mandate of an ICPSR federation to encompass the coordination of wider data interests. The OCUL/CREPUQ federation’s mandate, on the other hand, seems to remain foremost as an ICPSR federation, although workshops and training include the wider group.

The Metropolis project, and international research program investigating immigration and integration issues, saw its Canadian contribution initiated with the creation of four centres of excellence located in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. Fifteen universities are partners in these four centres. Researchers at these institutions will be producing new data titles as well as analyzing existing data. A national data committee is being formed for this project and members of the data library community will play some role here.

As I said, it’s been a busy year in Canadian data circles. And we hope that will mean we will see several new Canadian IASSIST members at the meeting in 1999.