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Conference Presentations 2005

  • IASSIST 2005-Evidence and Enlightenment, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
    Host Institution: EDINA National Data Cente and Edinburgh University Data Library

F1: Timeless Social Data: Past, Present & Future (Thu, 2005-05-26)
Chair:Roberts, Jane

  • Measuring 'the quantum of happiness': ensuring access to the first (& second) Statistical Account
    Peter Burnhill (EDINA National Data Centre & Edinburgh University Data Library)
    Ann Matheson (Hon. Editor, Statistical Accounts -- formerly Keeper of Books, National Library of Scotland)


    When setting out to assess 'the quantum of happiness' in the late 18th Century, Sir John Sinclair, child of the Scottish Enlightenment and the first Secretary of the (British) Board of Agriculture, was the first to use the term statistics in its modern sense. His survey of 166 queries to each of the church ministers in the 938 parishes resulted in two Statistical Accounts of Scotland. The first covered the 1790s and the second ('New') covered 1830s; together they represent the best contemporary 'repeat survey' of life at the beginning of the first industrial nation: topics include wealth, class and poverty, climate, agriculture, fishing and wildlife; population, schools, and the moral health of the people. With the formation of the British State underway, the contrast in the presentation of numerical information in text and as tables in the two Accounts serves as a reminder that Sinclair can be credited with the foundations of the 'Blue Book' and of the tradition of 'official statistics' adopted widely today.

    Just over two hundred years later, in 1996, Henry Heaney (former Librarian of the University of Glasgow) secured support to fund a digitisation plan to protect the relatively rare and fragile volumes of the Statistical Accounts, which had become regarded as a key resource, and agreement that EDINA set up means to access the scanned pages. There followed subsequent keying of text, experimentation with cross-sectoral 'ownership', with name entity extraction from text and use of GIS, as well as focus on maintaining and developing access to a 'national treasure'. A revision of the user interface to a service, accessed by scholars, genealogists and the Scottish Diaspora world-wide, will be available as part of the presentation.


F2: Metadata Enlightenment: Mark-up Standards and Issues (Thu, 2005-05-26)
Chair:Kleemola, Mari

  • DDI and data
    Hans Jørgen Marker (Dansk Data Arkiv)


    Essentially the DDI is about documentation. The name says that much. But when you have data documentation, you propably also some data somewhere. Documentation would not make much sense otherwise. It would usually be possible to place those data in an xml-structure. Having gone so far you might want to have data an codebook in the same xml-document. This again is certainly a possibility (and the reference to the CALS tables.dtd in the current DDI shows that it is not a new idea).

    This paper will present an analysis of some of the issues involved in integrating data with the DDI and propose solutions to some of the problems. Hopefully this will create some discussion as there are a number of possible solutions and the best solutions will only be found though cooperation.

  • DDI: does it have a life beyond IASSIST?
    Ernie Boyko (Nesstar)


    The Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) has been welcomed and even embraced by the IASSIST community. For those who sought a way of producing machine processable codebooks, it is a dream come true. For those who were searching for a data/survey preservation format, it seems to be an answer. But like all standards, it must have tools that support it and expanding user acceptance in order to survive and thrive. Some tools (such as NESSTAR) have been built to embrace DDI and others have been adapted to read DDI files. But is this enough for the DDI to survive, or better yet, thrive? Is there scope for applying these tools and standards beyond the data library/archives community? And what will be the impact of other (competing?) standards such as ISO 11179 and SDMX (Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange). This paper will explore these issues, attempt to clarify relations and speculate on possible future directions.

  • Smart qualitative data: methods and community tools for data mark-up
    Louise Corti (UKDA, University of Essex)
    Elizabeth Bishop (UKDA, University of Essex)


    This paper will describe the ESDS Qualidata demonstrator project that forms part of a wider new Uk Research Council funded initiative known as the Scheme for Qualitative Data Sharing and Research Archiving(QUADS). The Scheme's aim is to develop and promote innovative methodological approaches to the archiving, sharing, re-use and secondary analysis of qualitative research and data, and that means thinking beyond the traditional centralised data archive model (ie ESDS Qualidata). The ESDS Qualidata project is exploring methodological and technical solutions for exposing digital qualitative data to make them fully shareable and exploitable. The project deals with specifying and testing non-proprietary means of storing and marking-up data using universal (XML) standards and technologies, and proposes an XML community standard (schema) that will be applicable to most qualitative data. The second strand investigates optimal requirements for contextualising research data (e.g. interview setting or interviewer characteristics), aiming to develop standards for data documentation and ways of capturing this information. The third strand aims to use natural language processing technology to develop and implement user-friendly tools for semi-automating processes to prepare qualitative data for both traditional digital archiving and to enable more adventurous collaborative research and e-science type exploitation, like linking multiple data and information sources. The project aims to further research tools for publishing (e.g. for web interrogation) and archiving enriched marked-up data and associated research materials.


F3: Training for the Use of Data: Evidence from the Trenches (Thu, 2005-05-26)
Chair:Andrews, Marilyn

  • Introducing data history to students
    Michelle Edwards (University of Guelph)


    How many times have you heard “I’m an English major or I’m a History major, I don’t need to understand data!”? The use of data and its interpretation has not been exploited in today’s curriculum and has resulted in many students lacking the basic know-how when it comes to data use and interpretation. At the University of Guelph, the history and economics departments offer a course entitled “History by Numbers”, with the goal of introducing fourth year history students to quantitative data sources and to basic statistical concepts.

    This paper will discuss how students used the Nesstar WebView to access the 1871 Canadian Census data for an assignment, how they found navigating through the Census variables relatively easy and how some were easily frustrated when asked to create cross-tabulations and to interpret their findings. Despite the difficulties encountered by some, by the end of the semester there were several students who “discovered the world of data” and continue to use it to enhance their research papers and theses.

  • Training subject librarians to provide data services
    Katherine McNeill-Harman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


    Many academic data service librarians work among colleagues who specialize in particular subjects. These subject librarians are experts in their subject areas and maintain close relationships with users in their departments. Given the interdisciplinary nature of data, involving them in providing data services provides an opportunity to leverage their expertise and reach a broader base of potential users.

    Thus, the MIT Data Services Librarian initiated a project to train subject librarians on data services so that they could:
    - provide improved data reference service,
    - refer users to related campus resources,
    - improve coverage of data in their instruction sessions, and
    - discuss with their departmental faculty the Libraries' projects regarding data collections and services for data producers.

    The presenter will discuss the development and implementation of the program, plans for ongoing training, and suggestions for involving subject librarians at other universities.

  • Demystifying data reference
    Daniel Edelstein (Princeton University)
    Kristi Thompson (Princeton University)


    Librarians who do not specialize in data often seem to find data reference mystifying. Nonspecialists often simply don't understand what data is or how it works. Lacking this basic knowledge, they are also unable to distinguish between different types of data or know which is most appropriate to a particular situation.

    We developed a short workshop to explain data concepts needed to effectively conduct data reference. A major focus was on explaining terminology and discussing the differences between different broad types of data - macro and micro, time series, cross-sectional and panel, media opinion polls and academic social surveys. We discussed how to recognize which type of data a patron needs, and gave pointers to major sources for each kind.

    In our paper we will discuss our ideas on explaining data reference tononspecialists, describe the workshop we gave, and discuss some of the feedback we received.

Plenary II (Fri, 2005-05-27)
Chair:Wright, Melanie

  • Testing Social Change
    John Curtice (Politics and Director of the Social Statistics Lab at Strathclyde University, Co-Director, British General Election Study, Deputy Director ESRC Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends (CREST))

G1: Topical Data Collections: Cultural Gems (Fri, 2005-05-27)
Chair:Van der Meer, Cor

  • Upgrading ABC News/Washington Post data collections using DDI and legacy databases
    Mark Maynard (Roper Center for Public Opinion Research)


    During the past several years the Roper Center has been integrating its online question-level retrieval system (iPOLL) with its catalog of dataset holdings. While critical steps have been successfully implemented on the study and file levels, much more could be done on the variable level to fully realize the research potential of these data resources. As a step toward this end, the Roper Center is working with ABC News and the Washington Post to produce fully documented data files for many polls conducted from 1979 to 1997.

    The metadata and system file generation project will seek to build upon the iPOLL question-level database by extending it to better reflect elements of the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI). The resulting variable-level metadata can then be used to create DDI-based XML files, SPSS syntax and system files. This presentation will describe the scope and requirements of the project, mapping of iPOLL database fields to DDI variable elements (Section 4), and the user interface for project and metadata management. Finally, an update on progress and a review of the potential for generalized utility of the system and lessons learned will be addressed.

  • The integrated photo-documentary online database
    Zoltan Lux (The Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution)


    The photo-documentary database forms part of the contemporary history database at the 1956 Institute. It began to be compiled in 1997 after the Institute won competitive research and development funding from the Hungarian state. There is a constant need for photographic illustrations for the Institute’s printed and digital publications. Initially, digital photos were simply archived on cd-rom, with attached text files containing descriptions of them. Once a large number of photos connected with post-Second World War Hungarian history had accumulated, it was seen that storage in a database would facilitate repeated use of them.

    Only the descriptions were included in the database at first, while the digitalized, high-resolution files and associated thumbnails were stored in a separate cd-rom library. The photo descriptions began to be made available on the Internet in 1998. Although the user interface operated in a rather cumbersome way, there was quite a large demand from schools, public institutions and the press, mainly on the occasion of various national commemorations. ($.startup)

    For the Oral History Project presented at the 2004 IASSIST conference, the structure of the database was transformed and integrated into the contemporary history database, so that photo documents would be incorporated in a direct and uniform way into all the Internet projects the Institute is preparing. (

    On the structure of the photo archiving and photo database in the presentation, I would like to mention the following issues and problems:
    1. Technical issues concerning digitalization of the photo documents (resolution, file format, data storage).
    2. Problems relating to collection, archiving and provision of the photo documents and copyright issues. Expansion of the work of collecting photo documents.
    3. Description of the photo documents in the light of international standards and recommendations.
    4. A short presentation of the database (structure, how photos are linked to other documents, events, persons etc.) Making the database multilingual. Search facilities and other demands.
    5. Experience at the Institute with using the database.

  • IASSIST Quarterly

    Publications Special issue: A pioneer data librarian
    Welcome to the special volume of the IASSIST Quarterly (IQ (37):1-4, 2013). This special issue started as exchange of ideas between Libbie Stephenson and Margaret Adams to collect


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