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Article written by: Amanda Hunter & Tracey P. Lauriault

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently published a policy response to COVID-19 in which they suggest that open science, and the policies & standards that support it, can accelerate the health, social, and economic responses to the virus as barriers to information access are eliminated.

As the first in a series of blog posts about Open Science (OS) and FAIR principles in Canada, here we highlight the key role open science plays in communicating and disseminating official COVID-19 research and public health data before assessing if official COVID-19 reporting in Canada adheres to OS principles.

In a next post, we will analyze official COVID-19 reporting in Canada to assess whether or not these follow Open Science, FAIR principles, and the Open Data Charter in the sharing of COVID-19 data.

What is Open Science?

The OECD Open Science program states that the benefits of open science is that it promotes a more accurate verification of scientific results, reduces duplication, increases productivity, and promotes trust in science.

https://www.oecd.org/science/inno/open-science.htm

Open science (OS) is a movement, a practice and a policy toward transparent, accessible, reliable, trusted and reproducible science. This is achieved by sharing how research and data collection are done so as to make research results accessible and standardized, created once and reused by many. This includes techniques, tools, technologies, and platforms should also be open source wherever possible.

In OS the outputs of the scientific process are considered to be a public good, thus wherever possible articles are published in open access (OA) journals, and research data are shared with the public and other scientists who may want to re-purpose those data in new work, or by people who want to verify the veracity of research results. Reporting COVID-19 Cases by normalizing an open by default approaches means that health scientists, population health experts and government officials make this part of their workflow (maintaining individual privacy of course), and by doing so decision makers beyond government, can scrutinize the results, leading to trust the results while also increasing data sharing.

What role does open science play in combating COVID-19?

In the early stages of the pandemic, knowing the genome provided crucial information to help scientists and researchers identify the origin of the outbreak, treat the infection, develop a diagnostic test and work on the vaccine. In other words, the easier—and quicker—researchers can produce, share and access scientific data, the quicker and the more informed is the collaborative response to the virus.

During the 2002-03 SARS outbreak it took five months to publish a full genome of the virus largely due to information blackouts and lack of data sharing. In contrast, the full genome of COVID-19 was published to an open-access platform nearly a month after the first patient was admitted to the hospital in Wuhan. This provided researchers around the world with a head start. Since OS policies have been operationalized during the pandemic, the resulting free flow of ideas in terms of biomedical research has accelerated (OECD).

The implementation of OS standards during COVID-19 has indeed been largely successful. OECD described how collaborative research and  thee global sharing of information reached unprecedented levels, for example:

  • In March 2020, 12 countries (including Canada) launched the Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Initiative at the level of Chief Science advisors, calling for open access to publications and machine-readable access to data related to COVID-19.
  • Open online platform Vivli offers an easy way to request anonymized data from clinical trials.
  • A COVID-19 Open Research Dataset [CORD-19] was developed that hosts 157,000 + scholarly articles about COVID-19 and related coronaviruses; 75,000 of which are full-text machine-readable data that can be used for AI and natural language processing.

These online, open-source platforms have supported rapid scientific COVID-19 research. OS, facilitated by standards, shared infrastructure and techniques, policies and licences, has been instrumental in the global fight against the pandemic.

Yet, despite the numerous successes, many challenges remain. For example, not all COVID-19 related health research and data adhere to the FAIR principles. FAIR principles are a standards approach which support the application of open science by making data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. Failure to adhere to FAIR principles has led to an overall lack of communication and coordination during the pandemic. In Canada, data should also adhere to CARE principles, which address issues of Indigenous data governance with respect to Indigenous knowledge along with the OCAP Principles of the First Nation Information Governance Centre (FNIGC). More on this in the following section.

The reporting COVID-19 demographic data and reports in Canada to date falls short on standardized classifications in terms of demographics, as we discussed in an earlier blog post, which makes doing a comparative analysis difficult or impossible: for example, many countries define “recoveries” differently, and in Canada, since health is the jurisdictional responsibility of the provinces and territories, each report in their own way. Even though numerous official organizations publish COVID-19 and health related data, as open data databases or in open data portals, there remains an overall lack of interoperability, comparability and standards.

Where does Canada stand on Open Science?

Canada was implementing an open science framework before the pandemic as follows.

National Action Plan on Open Government

The Government of Canada recently published Canada’s 2018-2020 National Action Plan on Open Government, listing ten commitments to furthering the open government initiative. The plan asserts five commitments to implementing OS in Canada by the end of 2020, as seen below:

A screenshot showing a portion of Canada's 2018-2020 National Action Plan on  Open Government. The main issue addressed here is the difficulty for Canadians to access scientific research outputs: thus the commitments focus on making federal science, scientific data, and scientists themselves more accessible.

The OS portion of Canada’s 2018-2020 National Action Plan on Open Government. It aims to address the difficulty for Canadians to access scientific research: thus the commitments on making federal science, scientific data, and scientists themselves more accessible (Government of Canada, 2018).

The Action Plan addresses issues of accessibility and transparency of scientific research and outlines 5 commitments to amending these issues. These commitments include:

  1. Development of an OS roadmap,
  2. Providing an open access platform for publications,
  3. Raising awareness of federal scientists’ work,
  4. Promoting OS and soliciting feedback on stakeholder needs, and
  5. Measuring progress & benefits of the OS implementation.

Despite the comprehensiveness of the Roadmap (see below), Canada has not yet moved past the Action Plan’s second commitment—to provide a platform for Canadians to find and access open access (OA) publications from federal scientists—despite the projected March 2020 deadline. Also, at the time of writing, there is no federal open science platform or portal for users to access open science data in Canada even though there is an open data portal. The New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (NDRIO) does show promise.

There are however some open data initiatives, such as the Federal Open Government and COVID-19 section on the Open Government Canada Portal.  Here Epidemiological and economic research data, with mathematical modeling reports, a map of cases and deaths by province, daily and weekly detailed epidemiological reports, and an ongoing dataset of COVID-19 cases, deaths, recoveries, and testing rates in Canada’s provinces and territories are made available. This is a significant improvement from the early days of reporting, as data journalist Kenyon Wallace discovered that on a daily basis, the Province of Ontario published new data but each time they did they overrode the previous day’s reports. His article and some work by Lauriault with the Ontario Open Government team resulted in changing that practice and raw data are now updated daily and reported. Open data is but one part of the OS process as we will see when we look at the FAIR principles.

Open Science Roadmap

The plan’s first commitment, to “develop a Canada Open Science Roadmap…” was completed and published in February 2020. The document provides ten recommendations made by Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, to advance Canada’s OS initiatives. Like the policy brief by OECD, the roadmap is driven by the importance of trust among collaborators, inclusiveness of varying perspectives, and transparent processes throughout.

A screenshot of the cover of Canada’s Roadmap for Open Science (Government of Canada, 2020)

Canada’s Roadmap for Open Science (Government of Canada, 2020)

Most importantly, the Roadmap describes a commitment to developing an OS framework, including adopting the FAIR principles and “open by design and by default” specifications. The roadmap asserts Canada’s commitment to upholding these standards and policies via 10 recommendations:

10 recommendations made in the Roadmap for Open Science. Key points include the adoption of an OS framework in Canada, making federal scientific research outputs ‘open by default’, and implementing FAIR principles. (Government of Canada, 2020).

10 recommendations in the Roadmap for Open Science. Key points include the adoption of an OS framework, making federal scientific research outputs ‘open by default’, and implementing FAIR principles (Government of Canada, 2020).

Model Science Integrity Policy

Canada also has a Model Science Integrity Policy (MSIP) for the public service. The MSIP represents an internal commitment to integrity and accountability in science. Various mandates in the MSIP state that their purpose is to increase public trust in the credibility and reliability of government research and scientific activities, and ensure that research and scientific information are made available in keeping with the Government of Canada’s Directive on Open Government. The MSIP echoes Canada’s commitment to OS.

Indigenous Data Governance 

Finally, Canada has some commitment to supporting Indigenous rights to self-determination and data governance, but does not incorporate standards such as CARE principles which support OS  nor the OCAP Principles when it comes to Indigenous data governance. These extend the FAIR principles.

The Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) introduced the CARE principles to complement the FAIR principles in 2019. The CARE principles for Indigenous data governance were developed to address a lack of engagement between the open science movement and Indigenous rights and interests (GIDA, 2019).

The FAIR principles focus on data accessibility of data and sharing but fail to address power differences and the impact of colonialism experienced by Indigenous peoples and their right to exercise control and ownership of data about them and local and traditional knowledge. The CARE principles are crucial for the recognition and advancement of these rights as they encourage open science (and other ‘open’ movements) to “consider both people and purpose in their advocacy and pursuits” (GIDA, 2019). The CARE principles are contrasted with the FAIR principles in the below image from the GIDA website:

The CARE principles, which are “collective benefit, authority to control, responsibility, and ethics”, contrasted with the FAIR principles, which are “findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable” (GIDA, 2019)

The CARE principles are “collective benefit, authority to control, responsibility, and ethics”, contrasted with the FAIR principles, which are “findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable” (GIDA, 2019)

The OCAP Principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession are another set of important principles, that are a better fit in the Canadian Context.  Members of our project currently taking the Fundamentals of OCAP course and we hope to better incorporate these approaches in our work and in how we assess official reporting. Though Indigenous data governance and handling of Indigenous knowledge are not addressed in the Open Science Roadmap, the Data Strategy Roadmap for the Federal Public Service does demonstrate a federal approach to supporting Indigenous data strategies (see below):

Recommendation #8 from the Data Strategy Roadmap for the Federal Public Service which states Canada’s recognition of the Indigenous right to self-determination and data governance (Government of Canada, 2019)

Recommendation #8 from the Data Strategy Roadmap for the Federal Public Service which states Canada’s recognition of the Indigenous right to self-determination and data governance (Government of Canada, 2019)

Next Steps

Much progress has been made in terms of publishing, reporting and communicating data in the short time since COVID-19 began (though not without pressure from the media!). Open access to scientific research and public health reports have been helpful to facilitate the rapid response to the virus and keeping the public informed on how science informs governments actions. There is, however, much left to be done.

  1. Open Science should consider bias in data as well as invisibilities for example interdisciplinary work that helps paint the fuller picture of the impact of the virus. For example, interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches to data categories, including research based in critical race theory (CRT), Indigenous perspectives, socio-demographics and gig labour groups for example.
  2. Second, as suggested by the OECD, making COVID-19 data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable is critical for a more effective rapid response. Lack of adherence to FAIR principles currently presents challenges to open science research.
  3. Finally, a meaningful Canadian OS framework should also incorporate standards for Indigenous Data Governance such as CARE Principles and OCAP Principles ensure respectful data practices are followed.

The Tracing COVID-19 Data team is in the process of developing a framework to assess official COVID-19 reporting in Canada to see if they comply with OS, FAIR, CARE, OCAP, and open-by-default at all levels of government. We will draw on Canada’s commitments OS and FAIR in – Canada’s 2018-2020 National Action Plan on Open Government, Open Science Roadmap, the Model Science Integrity Policy and the Open Data Charter.

Is Canada FAIR?

Stay tuned!

Recommendation

All official Federal, Provincial/Territorial and City public COVID-19 data reporting should be open data, open by design and by default, research should be published in open access (OA) Journals and should adhere to open science (OS) such as the FAIR principles , CARE Principles, OCAP Principles and the Open Data Charter.

References

Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. Open Data, Open Citizens? https://cippic.ca/en/open_governance/open_data_and_privacy

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). SARS- Associated Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) Sequencing. https://www.cdc.gov/sars/lab/sequence.html

CTVNews. (2020). Project Pandemic: Reporting on COVID-19 in Canada. 
https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/project-pandemic

Federated Research Data Repository. (2018). FAIR Principles. 
https://www.frdr-dfdr.ca/docs/en/fair_principles/

Global Indigenous Data Alliance. (2019). CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. 
https://www.gida-global.org/care

Government of Canada. (2014). Directive on open government. 
https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=28108

Government of Canada. (May, 2016). Open by default and modern, easy to use formats. 
https://open.canada.ca/en/content/open-default-and-modern-easy-use-formats

Government of Canada. (2017). Model policy on scientific integrity.
https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/063.nsf/eng/h_97643.html

Government of Canada. (2018). Canada’s 2018-2020 National Action Plan on Open Government. https://open.canada.ca/en/content/canadas-2018-2020-national-action-plan-open-government#toc8

Government of Canada. (2018). Report to the Clerk of the Privy Council: A Data Strategy Roadmap for the Federal Public Service. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/pco-bcp/documents/clk/Data_Strategy_Roadmap_ENG.pdf

Government of Canada. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update.
https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html?utm_campaign=not-applicable&utm_medium=vanity-url&utm_source=canada-ca_coronavirus

Government of Canada. (2020). Office of the Chief Science Advisorhttps://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/063.nsf/eng/h_97646.html

Government of Canada. (2020). Open Government Portal.
https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset

Lauriault, T. (2020, April 17). Tracing COVID-19 Data: COVID-19 Demographic Reporting. Datalibre.
http://datalibre.ca/2020/04/17/covid-19-demographic-reporting/

National Centre for Biotechnology Information. (2020). Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Initiative.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/about/covid-19/?cmp=1

Open Data Charter. (n.d.). The International Open Data Charter.
https://opendatacharter.net

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2020, May 12). OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Why open science is critical to combatting COVID-19.
http://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/why-open-science-is-critical-to-combatting-covid-19-cd6ab2f9/

Ford & Airhihenbuwa. (2010). The public health critical race methodology: Praxis for antiracism research. Science Direct.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953610005800#!

Semantic Scholar. (2020). CORD-19: COVID-19 Open Research Dataset.
shorturl.at/wETZ5 

The Lancet. (January, 2020). Genomic characterization and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding.
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30251-8/fulltext

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, Medicine. (2018). Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research. Chapter 1, Front Matter. 
https://www.nap.edu/read/25116/chapter/1

The Star. (2020). Coronavirus & COVID-19 Data. https://www.thestar.com/coronavirus/data.html

Vivli. (2020).
https://vivli.org/about/overview-2/

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I was taking snack break and while doing so perused the #census in twitter and found this little gem. It is a bit long, but I like the idea nonetheless.  This is simply animating a power point with images if how many’s in a 100 in Ottawa.  We can do so much with data, and why not this type of reporting of the findings, and some engaging visualizations like they do in the NY Times while we are at it!  Looks like the Peel Region did something similar with their data!

Ottawa as a 100 person village

I am really excited to get information about Canada’s National Statistical Council.  Up and until recently all I knew about it was these 2 lines found in the deep lurkium about us section of the Statistics Canada Website.

Some time ago I called the StatCan general information line on numerous occasions, and asked officials about it.  All to no avail.  So I eventually submitted an ATIP request that StatCan has been working on for 2+ months. I still do not have the documents.  For some reason, the work of this Council is secret, as is its membership, as is what they are about.  I did however find some great papers that were submitted to it in the StatCan library.  The Library is a wonderful source of information as are their knowledgeable librarians.  Alas, they have come out of the closet as a result of this censuslessness.

If StatCan were more obvious with what it does and communicated its work more obviously, much of this whole censuslessness would have been much easier to counter.  For instance, other government agencies publish the legislation that govern them and/or mandates what they do.  StatCan does not have that information on their site.

In addition, all the justification about the questions they ask on the Census, how those questions came about, their public consultations are also available.  However one has to know the Agency really well to know where to find these, such as the names of the reports, and which sections of that report and so on.

Eccetera

Here is information about the National Statistical Council of Canada:

Council Role — Overview

The National Statistics Council advises the Chief Statistician of Canada on the full range of Statistics Canada’s activities, particularly on overall priorities. The government appoints Council members and its approximately 40 volunteer members represent sophisticated and diverse data users, researchers and those whose experience enables them to advise on priorities for the country’s statistical system.

A longer description, taken from the United Nation’s description of the Canadian statistical system, is included as another attachment (National Statistics Background.doc and here).

For those who may want to discuss statistical advisory bodies like the Statistics Council and, more generally, the relation between statistical agencies and governments, this is the subject of current research by Prof. Cosmo Howard in the Political Science department of the University of Victoria. howardc at uvic dot ca and has agreed to serve as a media contact on that subject.

It should be noted that Professor Howard is not associated with the Council, nor does he speak for it. He is, however, an expert on bodies like the National Statistics Council.

Also, here is a document that speaks about the Council in more detail:

Establishment of the National Statistics Council

In the early 1980s Statistics Canada embarked on a conscious program of strengthening its active consultative mechanisms with key clients and broadly based representatives of the national interest. Among the major new initiatives were the establishment of a series of bilateral senior committees with key federal departments – both clients and sources of data derived from administrative records (this supplemented already existing strong consultative mechanisms with the provinces); and some 10-15 professional advisory committees were set up. The latter involved experts (typically from outside government) in such areas as demography, labour, national accounting, price measurement, service industries, etc.

In 1985, the government established, at the apex of the Agency’s consultative mechanisms, the National Statistics Council. Its formal mandate is very brief: it is to “advise the Chief Statistician in setting priorities and rationalizing Statistics Canada programs”. In line with other aspects of Canadian policy in relation to statistical activities, a careful balance was attempted between policy relevance and professional independence.

Appointment process and membership

Members of the Council are appointed for a period of three years but subject to renewal. There are about 40 members. While there are no rules for representation, the following practice has generally been adhered to:

1. All members serve in their individual capacities – there are no formal representational appointments;
2. Most members are interested and prestigious analysts of some aspect of Canadian life, but few are professional statisticians;
3. Some members from Statistics Canada’s various professional advisory committees serve on the Council. This ensures the availability of a wide range of subject matter knowledge within the Council, as well as linkage with the Agency’s other advisory bodies;
4. A senior member from the Statistical Society of Canada sometimes serves;
5. At least one senior journalist on social or economic affairs is a member;
6. Membership is selected in such a fashion as to ensure appropriate knowledge of the different provinces and territories of Canada ;
7. No federal official is a member of the Council. This enhances the de facto independence of Council to “speak up” should it be necessary;
8. The Chief Statistician is an ex officio member;
9. An Assistant Chief Statistician serves as secretary.

A large proportion of the initial members, were appointed by the Minister from a list of persons recommended by the Chief Statistician. Subsequent appointments have been proposed to the Minister by the Chief Statistician following discussions with the Chairman of the Council.

As a result of these measures, the Council is a very knowledgeable, influential and broadly representative group. Indeed, its influence derives from the individual prestige of its members.

Agenda and Modus Operandi

The Council normally meets twice a year, each time for a day and a half. Regular agenda items are “Statements by Members” in which Council members may raise questions or concerns either for immediate response or subsequent discussion, and an in-depth report by the Chief Statistician on recent developments at Statistics Canada (including new substantive initiatives, forward planning, budgetary expectations). Other agenda items usually deal with major statistical or policy issues – such as: Census content, Environment statistics, Longitudinal data, Issues in social statistics, National accounts, Dissemination practices, Pricing policy, Privacy and record linkage, Contingency planning in the face of expected budget cuts, the Provincial component of the national statistical system, Significant statistical information gaps, etc.

Agenda items are selected from items raised by members and issues identified by Statistics Canada in discussions with the Chairman. From time to time a subgroup of the Council is formed to deal with particular issues (e.g. access to historical censuses) between Council meetings.

The Council generally provides feedback to the Chief Statistician through a discussion among its members. Consensus is usually (though not always) achieved.

Conclusion

There can be no doubt that members of the Council take their function seriously. The Chief Statistician regards their advice as being of very substantial benefit. In addition, through the prestige of its members and through precedent, Council has evolved into an additional and – should the need arise undoubtedly very influential – bulwark in the defence of the objectivity, integrity and long-term soundness of Canada’s national statistical system.

This, I love:

The Open Dinosaur Project was founded to involve scientists and the public alike in developing a comprehensive database of dinosaur limb bone measurements, to investigate questions of dinosaur function and evolution. We have three major goals:1) do good science; 2) do this science in the most open way possible; and 3) allow anyone who is interested to participate. And by anyone, we mean anyone! We do not care about your education, geographic location, age, or previous background with paleontology. The only requirement for joining us is that you share the goals of our project and are willing to help out in the efforts.

Want to sign up? Email project head Andy Farke (andrew.farke@gmail.com), and welcome aboard!

[via datalibre]

It is quite surprising that this was not the norm, to manage the public good!

the Federal Court of Canada released late yesterday that it will force the federal government to stop withholding data on one of Canada’s largest sources of pollution – millions of tonnes of toxic mine tailings and waste rock from mining operations throughout the country.

The Federal Court sided with the groups and issued an Order demanding that the federal government immediately begin publicly reporting mining pollution data from 2006 onward to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). The strongly worded decision describes the government’s pace as “glacial” and chastises the government for turning a “blind eye” to the issue and dragging its feet for “more than 16 years”.

I look forward to reading the court order. According to Ecojustice (Formerly the Sierra Legal Defence Fund) the ruling includes the following strong wording:

* It calls the federal government’s pace “glacial”[paragraph 145];
* It says the government’s approach has been simply to turn a “blind eye”[207];
* It notes that the frustration felt by advocates trying to uncover this information “after more than 16 years of consultation” is “perfectly understandable” [124];
* It states that not reporting “denies the Canadian public its rights to know how it is threatened by a major source of pollution”[127];
* It highlights that the minister has chosen not to publish the pollution data “in deference to” the mining industry[220];
* It used unusually simple language even I understand when it said that the government was simply “wrong”[177].

The advocates were: Justin Duncan and Marlene Cashin and their dedicated clients at Great Lakes United and Mining Watch Canada who launched the case in 2007.

It is uncertain how these data will be released. Currently, these types of pollutant data are released on the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) which is:

The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) is Canada’s legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases (to air, water and land), disposals and transfers for recycling. (Mining Watch)

The NPRI is fairly usable & accessible, includes georeferencing and some mapping services. I tried to use their library and it was however not working!

The Mining Association of Canada wants to read the ruling “carefully” to assess how Environment Canada should release these data. I find this confusing, since I thought the Government got to decide how these data are to be released and what is to be included, and that decision was based on ensuring the public good and the public right to know. The fight is not yet quite over. It will be important to ensure the data are not watered down for public consumption.

It is another wonderful example of creating an infrastructure – NPRI + law – to distribute public data. This also teaches us something about gouvernementalité, and who the government thinks with, in this case the mineral and mining industry and not citizens. Citizens should not have to lobby for 16 years and expend incredible resources to get the courts to get the government to ensure the public good!

Articles:

  • Court orders pollution data from mining made public, By Juliet O’Neill, Canwest News ServiceApril 24, 2009
  • Environment Canada forced to reveal full extent of pollution from mines
    Court ruling considered major victory for green organizations
    , MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT, Saturday’s Globe and Mail, April 24, 2009
  • Great Lakes United Press Release, Court victory forces Canada to report pollution data for mines, April 24, 2009 – 11:16am — Brent Gibson
  • Mining Watch Press Release: Court Victory Forces Canada to Report Pollution Data for Mines, Friday April 24, 2009 11:31 AM

    I was looking for some cross city comparison data yesterday and recalled the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Quality of Life Reporting System (QoLRS).

    Conçu par la FCM, le Système de rapports sur la qualité de vie mesure, surveille et fait état de la qualité de vie dans les villes canadiennes en utilisant les données provenant de diverses sources nationales et municipales. / Developed by FCM, the Quality of Life Reporting System (QOLRS) measures, monitors and reports on the quality of life in Canadian urban municipalities using data from a variety of national and municipal sources.

    Regroupant initialement 16 municipalités à ses débuts en 1999, le SRQDV compte maintenant 22 municipalités, dont certains des plus grands centres urbains du Canada et beaucoup de municipalités de banlieue qui les entourent. / Starting with 16 municipalities in 1999, the QOLRS has grown to include 22 municipalities, comprising some of Canada’s largest urban centres and many of the suburban municipalities surrounding them.

    The FCM’s QoLRS site includes all the documentation, data, metadata and methodologies related to the development of their indicators and the system they have developed.

    :: Reports
    :: Annexes
    :: Indicators

    Their data are most impressive.  You can download a spreadsheet of the data for each indicator for 1991, 1996, 2001 and I expect 2006 QoLRS will be coming soon.   Each variable was also adjusted to the current geographies of amalgamated cities which makes cross comparison across time and space possible (see the guide to geographies).  This was not easy to do at the time. Each spreadsheet includes the data source, the variable, and a tab that provides the metadata.  Which means that you can verify what was done, reuse those data or if you had some money & loads of time you could purchase & acquire the data pertaining to your city and add to the indicator system.  Unfortunately the FCM had to purchase these datasets and it cost them many many thousands of dollars.

    There are 11 themes and 72 indicators over 3 census periods for 20 cities (Sudbury, Regina, Winnipeg, Niagara, CMQ, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Hamilton, Halifax, Windsor, Toronto, Kingston, London, Ottawa, Vancouver, Waterloo, Halton, Calgary, Peel, York).  Datasets come from:

    • Statistics Canada
    • Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation
    • Environment Canada
    • the 22 cities themselves
    • Elections Canada
    • Audit Bureau of Circulation
    • Tax Filer Data
    • Human Resources and Development Services Canada,
    • FCM Special Surveys
    • Industry Canada
    • Anielsky Management (Ecological Footprint)
    • Canadian Centre for Justice

    Putting something like this together is no small feat, so please go check out what is available, play with the data a little, and if you cannot find data for your city, call up your local councilor and ask them to become a member of the QoLRS team!  Also let the FCM know they are doing a good job, as this is one way for us Canadians to see what is going on in our cities overtime.

    Science in the open: An openwetware blog on the challenges of open and connected science… about:

    This blog contains the thoughts of Cameron Neylon on the technical and social issues involved with ‘Open Science’. Most people would agree Open Science includes freely accesible literature or perhaps making raw data available. Others might think it also involves people working on collaborative documents such as Wikis or the freedom to re-use the published literature or data. At its logical extreme Open Science includes making all the science we do freely available as it happens. Many people find this scarey. Some, perhaps a growing number, find it tremendously exciting.

    This blog is a place for me to think through the technical problems and issues involved in electronically recording our work for publication on the web and the other social and logistical issues that are raised by making the science we do more immediately available and more connected to the world outside the laboratory.

    The Socio-Economic Impact of the Spatial Data Infrastructure of Catalonia

    Pilar Garcia Almirall, Montse Moix Bergadà, Pau Queraltó Ros
    Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
    Centre of Land Policy and Valuations

    M. Craglia (Editor)
    European Commission
    Joint Research Centre
    Institute for Environment and Sustainability

    This study gathered information and data from:

    a sample of 20 local authorities participating in the Catalan SDI (IDEC) together with 3 control local authorities not participating in the SDI, and 15 end-user organisations, of which 12 are private companies operating in the Geographic Information (GI) sector, and 3 are large institutional users of GI. The findings of the interviews were presented in two separate workshops to the participating local authorities and end-user organisations, to validate the findings and discuss the outcomes.

    Here are some of the findings:

    • main benefits of the IDEC accrue at the level of local public administration through internal efficiency benefits (time saved in internal queries by technical staff, time saved in attending queries by the public, time saved in internal processes) and effectiveness benefits (time saved by the public and by companies in dealing with public administration).
    • Extrapolating the detailed findings from 20 local authorities to the 100 that participate in the IDEC, the study estimated that the internal efficiency benefits account for over 500 hours per month. Using an hourly rate of €30 for technical staff in local government, these savings exceed €2.6 million per year.
    • Effectiveness savings are just as large at another 500 hours per month. Even considering only the efficiency benefits for 2006 (i.e. ignoring those that may have accrued in 2004-05, as well as the effectiveness benefits), the study indicates that the total investment to set up the IDEC and develop it over a four year period (2002-05) is recovered in just over 6 months.
    • Wider socio-economic benefits have also been identified but not quantified. In particular, the study indicates that web-based spatial services allow smaller local authorities to narrow the digital divide with larger ones in the provision of services to citizens and companies.

    The study is methodologically heavy toward quantification of cost savings with some information pertaining to access to information and civicness associated to an increase in access to data.  It is mild on the latter, primarily because this is hardest and most subjective of measures.  But then again so is justice, equality and the good life.  I appreciate the quantification of costs, it makes the bean counters happy, I would however like to see more civicness measures and philosophical reasons for more access. I think that would lead to the creation of civic access measures.

    btw – I have been a big fan of the editor of this report for years.

    Ted at the Social Planning Council of Ontario and GANIS circulated a report from the Ontario’s urban and suburban schools 2008: a discussion paper on the schools we need in the 21st century produced by People for Education this morning.

    I have not read the paper nor thought about what they are saying carefully, but I did navigate their site, perused some of their research papers and reports in search for data sources.

    They are a parent led organization, their reports can be downloaded for free, their researcher is paid for by Canadian Council on Learning and the Atkinson Foundation and their research is done in collaboration with universities on special research projects. They also collect school data in by way of a survey starting in 1997. They are a charitable organization with the following mission:

    Public education is the foundation of a civil society. People for Education is dedicated to the ideal of a fully publicly-funded education system that guarantees every child access to the education that meets his or her needs.

    We work toward this ideal by:

     

    • doing research;

    • providing clear, accessible information to the public;

    • engaging people to become actively involved in education issues in their own community.

     

    It is precisely this kind of stakeholder led civil society group that acts a kind of third party observer on a massive government expenditure, in this case Ontario public education, that requires access to free public data. Whether or not we philosophically agree on the merits of school evaluation, benchmarking, universal delivery of the same curriculum or the direction their research is not the point, the fact that there is a parent / stakeholder led organization looking at the issue of education at a large scale and also looking at some interesting education models at the small scale is useful in a democracy and ensures some sort of accountability.

    They also sell research and data services which is a way to rationalize the workplan of their researcher:

    We have a rich data base of information. We are able to provide research data or results for a fee. Elementary school data has been collected since 1997, and secondary school data has been collected since 2000.

    Our research is sited and used by Statistics Canada, the Auditor General, the Globe, the Toronto Star and others.

    I am doing some work looking at broadband maps and atlases. I started off with a trip to the Carleton Map library, I followed some very knowledgeable map librarians around and picked up a huge roll of paper maps to begin exploring this new subject. I discovered an excellent little folding paper map on Digital Inclusion. As I was looking at its sources I discovered that this map was part of a broader and very exciting online Atlas project that includes numerous map themes on social justice, environment, health, etc.

    I like these maps because they are aesthetically pleasing, are accompanied by a table of content explaining the themes and indicators represented, and with data sources (aka metadata) that are made obvious and easy to understand. Each map w/its associated information is an overview of an issue. There are membership requirements to access additional data related to the maps. http://maps.maplecroft.com/

    http://maps.maplecroft.com/
    Finally, this company has an interesting business model. The publication of the paper map was sponsored by Alcatel and is a superb information marketing tool at conferences, the UN, WDB, ADB, OECD etc. It is also excellent swag. Maplecroft is also

    a successful specialist research and advisory company focused on the non-financial performance of large multinationals. It has a strong corporate client base and research partnerships with leading international organisations, such as those within the auspices of the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and prominent independent non-governmental organisations.

    Maplecroft has developed particular expertise in strategy, management systems, indicators, cross sector partnership building, stakeholder engagement, audit, and risk management. It has a specific interest in cross sector engagement.

    Primarily a commercial organisation, Maplecroft has formed and facilitated several strong multi-lateral partnerships with business, lobby groups and aid organisations for mutual benefit. It fundamentally operates as a social enterprise, whereby non-profit partner organisations gain from commercial engagements it may form. Maplecroft undertakes a great deal of pro-bono work, and seeks opportunities to contribute to the initiatives with which it becomes involved.

    The cost of producing the high quality maps and associated information seen here is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the technology is the easy part, it is the cost of the minds and data associated with knowledge production and the maintenance of a reliable and trustworthy product that is really high. Few organizations beyond government can take on this sort of project on. It is most certainly an interesting and ethically driven business model.

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