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Sep 22 / Kimberly

Health officials starved of census data pay for local info of their own

As reported by Global News in August 2014:

Public health bodies across Canada, starved of census data, are paying for pricey surveys to collect their own local info but say they’re still flying blind on decisions that affect public health and taxpayer dollars.

As predicted, the national household survey that replaced Statistics Canada’s long-form census has flawed data that becomes more flawed the more granular you get.

“As you start looking at some of these results for smaller populations, the smaller areas, you might see a little bit more volatility in the information. So we are cautioning users,” Marc Hamel, Director General of Statistics Canada’s Census Management Office, told Global News in an interview last year.

“We don’t have [comparative] sources at the small level, very small towns. So we can’t say if the information is in line with reality in these locations.”

That leaves local governments and health officials in the lurch. In many cases they’re still relying on eight-year-old data from the 2006 census, because that’s the most recent, reliable data they have.

They need these numbers to evaluate existing programs and plan new ones; to determine how to reach marginalized populations and decide who needs targeting for which services. Where are immigrants settling? How about young people? Who’s getting their shots, and did an experimental neonatal health program pay off as affected babies grew up? What’s the best way to roll out vaccinations when the next epidemic hits?

Without population data, they say, they don’t know.

Sep 22 / Kimberly

Libraries may digitize books without permission, EU top court rules

As recently reported in PCWorld:

European libraries may digitize books and make them available at electronic reading points without first gaining consent of the copyright holder, the highest European Union court ruled Thursday.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in a case in which the Technical University of Darmstadt digitized a book published by German publishing house Eugen Ulmer in order to make it available at its electronic reading posts, but refused to license the publisher’s electronic textbooks.

Aug 22 / Kimberly

Maclean’s: The case of the disappearing Statistics Canada data

Please read this fantastic article by Jason Kirby, which appeared on Macleans.ca on August 13, 2014.

The Great Statistics Canada 200-Jobs Mystery is generating loads of headlines, as it should. The botched labour report for July, which, initially, and erroneously, claimed Canada produced just 200 jobs that month, has once again sparked questions about the quality of Canada’s statistical data. (Revised figures are due Friday).

But this is far from the only thing troubling regular StatsCan users. I made the following chart to illustrate one of the great frustrations that journalists, economists and academics have with StatsCan. One minute, the agency, tasked with measuring the tick tock of the economy and society, tracks seemingly vital data (such as detailed breakdowns of public sector employment and wages by all levels of government, or the total value of government transfer payments to persons by province and type of transfer), the next, *poof*, they’re terminated.

Good thing StatsCan still tracks the square footage of fungi production.