Regional Report 2003-2004 Canada

IASSIST Regional Report 2003-2004

Bo Wandschneider
University of Guelph
May 2004

Being my first report for IASSIST I wasn’t sure where to begin. As usual, there seems to have been so many things on the go it is always difficult to keep track of all of them. I have tried to solicit feedback from the community and if I forgot to highlight something it is not that I didn’t deem it significant, just that I didn’t know about it or I just missed it.

This is in no particular order:

CAPDU - The Canadian Association of Public Data Users will be meeting immediately after IASSIST this year at the University of Manitoba. The meetings will be held together with the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives in conjunction with the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences Congress.

A preliminary program is available here:

Topics being discussed include such things as, Historical Census Data, RDC’ in your backyard, Manitoba Land Initiative, Data Education in the Classroom and On-line GIS - Web Applications for Geospatial data dissemination.

NDA - There is little to report on the National Data Archive. Bernard Shapiro, the ex-Principal of McGill University who was to head an implementation committee for SSHRC and the National Archivist, has been appointed as the Federal Ethics Commissioner. One wonders if he’ll also have time to work on a National Data Archive. The implementation committee may have ended before it even started. A new task force has been created to investigate open and long-term access to data coming from the natural and health sciences. David Strong, a geologist and past President of the University of Victoria, is heading this study. Chuck Humphrey represents the data community on this task force.

DDI - A National ad hoc working group has been set up to look at issues surrounding the creation of DDI materials for Canadian data. CANDDI is an on-line discussion forum, but several members have met at regional training sessions in Montreal and Kingston. The group will meet again in Winnipeg. One of the major tasks the group would like to see is the defining of a subset of the DDI tags that could be used as a standard to create DDI markup for holdings at Canadian data centres.

Nesstar - There is a slow but steady uptake of using the Nesstar server and its publishing tools. Statistics Canada has purchased 3 copies of the Nesstar software and is focusing on using it in the Ottawa area RDC and the DLI. There was also a 3-day training session held in Ottawa where six of Statistics Canada’s authoring divisions were in attendance. We can only hope that the idea of DDI catches on and we begin to see the producers of data creating good quality, re-usable metadata.

As well, the University of Alberta has mounted several local data sets on a Nesstar server and the University of Guelph is in the process of moving 600+ data sets from their home grown retrieval system to Nesstar. Staff have been playing with the Nesstar Publisher to mark up many of the major Canadian surveys in order to get a better sense of our needs and the potential. This information is helping feed the CANDDI group. Carleton University has written a grant proposal that, if successful, will result in a database of surveys with a focus on youth.

RDC’s - Research Data Centres will be expanding to 12 next year. Sites like Manitoba, Western and Carleton/Ottawa U are either already established or in the process of being established. However, there are still large areas under serviced. There is early discussion of developing “satellite” centres, for Universities who are partners in an RDC, but don’t have an RDC on their campus. Things are also looking more promising in terms of finding RDC’s a place within the data community, as opposed to being external. Individuals like Chuck Humphrey and Wendy Watkins have attended national meetings of the RDC’s and have worked to highlight the issues and encourage collaboration between the RDC’s and the DLI community.

Personnel - The last year has seen some significant retirements and this is always an issue. Two long serving members from Quebec, Jerry Bull and Gaetan Drolet have called it a day at their respective institutions. This certainly has a significant impact on the community in Quebec, if not in Canada. Fortunately, Gaetan has taken on a part-time role with DLI, at Statistics Canada.

In addition Ernie Boyko will retire from Statistics Canada in June. Ernie’s insights, enthusiasm and the history that he possesses will be very difficult to replace. This only highlights the importance of organizations like IASSIST that allow us to get together to share and disseminate our knowledge.

New Data Sources - We are still receiving information from the 2001 census. The major components still to come are the PUMFS, which should begin rolling out in the fourth quarter of 2004. Work has begun on testing the 2006 census, which will be an internet enabled survey, with many changes in the way information is gathered. A consultation on the Census will be part of the CAPDU programme.

Several recent surveys continue to be enhanced as additional years are added to their panels. Longitudinal surveys include such things as: Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, Youth in Transition, National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, Workplace and Employment Survey and National Population Health Survey. Issues of disclosure are becoming more prevalent and as such less and less information is being released from these surveys into the publicly accessible domain. This certainly presents a challenge for many of us and increases the relevance of the RDC’s. However, one encouraging aspect is that there seems to be an understanding of the need to create synthetic files. Several of the longitudinal synthetic files have been made accessible through DLI and some divisions back this up with Remote Job Submissions, which in some instances, may work better than the RDC, or at the very least complement the RDC’s. There is also discussion of bringing synthetic Census files into the RDC’s.

Training - This last year has seen a great deal of training, delivered under the umbrella of DLI. In the early spring there was a “Train the Trainers” session held in Montreal. This was a chance to continue developing a core group of people who were subsequently able to attend regional training sessions and disseminate their skills. This is turning out to be an excellent way to develop expertise in the country and expand our base of data professionals.

Regional training was held in four parts of the country, ACCOLLEDS (Calgary), Ontario (Kingston), CREPUQ (Montreal) and in Atlantic Canada (Acadia). Attendance was very strong in all regions with very broad participation in the programs. These were excellent opportunities to learn new things about GIS, SPSS, new Statistic Canada Surveys as well connecting and sharing information with colleagues across the country. The discussions at these sessions are always lively and open.

A group of individuals is working on gathering all our training material from the past several years and placing it on-line. This should be a fantastic resource that all members of IASSIST could share in.

Another outshoot of the Kingston meetings, was the establishment of a formal data group within the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL). This should provide opportunities for collaboration and site licencing of data and software. Similar groups already exist in other parts of the country

That is about it - aside from the fact that for the first time in since 1994 there will be a Canadian team in the Stanley Cup finals (Hockey). That is big news here and everyone will be cheering for Calgary - just seeing if you were paying attention. :)