IASSIST Regional Report 2000-2001 Canada
The first year of the new millennium marked several exciting events in Canada. This report will focus on those which are of national interest, rather than on individual efforts, although the hard work of many individuals went into each of these accomplishments and projects.
The 2001 Canadian Census of Population and Agriculture will take place on May 15, during the IASSIST meetings. This census will see the addition of same-sex couples to the marital-status choices but will otherwise be similar to 1996. The 2006 census planning team is already in place in order that an Internet-enabled census can be offered to Canadians.
Data Liberation Initiative (DLI)
After a very successful five-year pilot, the DLI is now a permanent partnership between Statistics Canada and sixty-six Canadian universities. During the five years, it has grown in both scope and maturity. Recently, it has acquired a new manager, Mike Sivyer, and has moved from its location in the Dissemination Division to the Library and Information Centre of Statistics Canada. Ernie Boyko retains senior management responsibility for the project, and an External Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Chuck Humphrey and Wendy Watkins, provides broad oversight.
Because we began this enterprise with such a small base of existing data services (nine, across the country), training has always been a major focus of the DLI. A national/regional training plan has been in place since 1997 and is in the process of being revamped, taking into account both the desire to meet nationally from time to time, as well as the need to cater to regional differences in both language and focus.
This is truly a success story, and we would like to thank our IASSIST colleagues for their encouragement and support over the years.
Born at the 1988 IASSIST meetings in Washington, CAPDU has grown into a mature organization. We have just held a successful 2001 annual meeting in conjunction with the Ontario and Quebec DLI training sessions in Montreal. We lobby for access to public data, the creation of a National Data Archive and standards for documentation among other pursuits. Laine Ruus is the current president of the organization. Other IASSIST members continue to play leading roles in the organization.
Research Data Centres (RDCs)
This project is a direct spin-off from the DLI. Once the data were made available, both Statistics Canada (STC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) became aware that more had to be done to encourage the use of the files. They formed the Canadian Institute for Social Statistics (CISS). Although the focus is narrow, covering only Statistics Canada data, they have an ambitious program. Part of this involves setting up RDCs in several locations across the country. These are secure sites, located at Canadian universities and patterned after their United States’ counterparts. Unlike the US, however, our RDCs, will not have enterprise data. Rather, they will concentrate on a bevy of new, longitudinal files. Researchers must write a peer-reviewed proposal which will be vetted by STC and SSHRC as well as pass a security check. If successful, they will become deemed Statistics Canada employees and given access to the data. By September of this year, a number of RDCs will have opened. Staff have been identified and the infrastructure is being refined. Activities at the one open centre are brisk; a number of projectx are being undertaken, including some work was formerly carried out in STC regional offices. It would appear that interest in RDC services will be high. The relationship between the RDC’s and DLI will start to be defined over the next year.
National Data Archive (NDA) Consultation
After the 1999 SSHRC-OECD Social Sciences Infrastructure Conference, the lack of a Canadian National Data Archive was seen as a barrier to international activities. A joint SSHRC-National Archive group was struck to determine whether it was feasible to go ahead with a study to assess the need, model and scope of such and institution. A working group was appointed and a resource group named to help them in their deliberations. Two past IASSIST presidents (Chuck Humphrey and Sue Bryant) are part of this working group. Their work was divided into two phases. Phase 1 assessed the need while Phase 2, should the project continue, will propose a model and scope. The results of Phase 1 a recommendation to continue to Phase 2 will be presented to the SSHRC Board on June 8 of this year.
A landmark agreement between AtLIS and the University of Calgary will see a wealth of Alberta geo-spatial data made available to Alberta post-secondary institutions for teaching and research purposes. This is the first agreement of its kind in Canada and will serve as a model for others to follow.
Health Canada and Nesstar
Bill Bradley’s unit at Health Canada has undertaken the redevelopment of its DDMS and DIAS softwares for creating codebooks and browseable data. The new system will be built by a group consisting of an Ottawa based software development firm and the NESSTAR group from Essex and Norway.
Privacy legislation is becoming a major concern to the Canadian research community. Legislation currently before the House would forbid the use of data for purposes not originally intended. While its design is to preclude the selling of private information, its outcome could be to severely limit secondary analyses of data from sources such as Statistics Canada, polling companies and the like. Canadian researchers are currently studying the European model to see if it offers any suitable alternatives to that which has been proposed.