April 2008

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I was reading some of the web accessible INDU submissions by Canadian groups and individuals posted on Michael Geist’s Blog, and a common theme is open & free access to data and scientific research! Very Niiiiice!

You can access them and M. Geist’s here: Industry Committee on Canada’s Science and Technology Strategy

Science 2.0 — Is Open Access Science the Future?
Is posting raw results online, for all to see, a great tool or a great risk?
By M. Mitchell Waldrop, Scientific American

The first generation of World Wide Web capabilities rapidly transformed retailing and information search. More recent attributes such as blogging, tagging and social networking, dubbed Web 2.0, have just as quickly expanded people’s ability not just to consume online information but to publish it, edit it and collaborate about it—forcing such old-line institutions as journalism, marketing and even politicking to adopt whole new ways of thinking and operating.

Science could be next. A small but growing number of researchers (and not just the younger ones) have begun to carry out their work via the wide-open tools of Web 2.0. And although their efforts are still too scattered to be called a movement—yet—their experiences to date suggest that this kind of Web-based “Science 2.0” is not only more collegial than traditional science but considerably more productive…

read the rest of the article…

Via Zzzoot

I submitted a brief to the Study on Canadian Science and Technology of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

I include items on data access, preservation, dissemination, the lack of a data and information infrastructure or vision, the lack of a Science Foundation for Canada and a small mention of community wireless networks.  I also briefly discuss the importance of public participation on these issues.

Responses to October 2007 Draft Strategy

Arising from the 2006 National Summit, the Draft Canadian Digital Information Strategy (CDIS) was issued for review in 2007 from any interested person or organization. The review period is closed; however, the Draft Strategy remains available. All responses to the 2007 Draft Strategy are posted online.

Submissions received, including the name of the person or organization making the submission, have been posted in the official language in which they were submitted. Content of the submissions has been posted as received; however, minor reformatting may have occurred during HTML conversion. Personal address information has been removed.

Unfortunately, there were no folks from the free and open access movement (Except for Russel), there were no new media artists, there were no open source organizations, no media activists, there were no free data advocates, no podcasters, no organizations doing interesting work with media, no geomatics groups, no businesses, no volunteer organizations or civil sector organizations that submitted comments and feedback.

This lack of presensence is perhaps attributed to: short time to respond, exposure, who got sent the notice, the government speak of the document, the belief that it will not make a difference, cultural disconnect with the process and so on.

Too bad though!  As this document could have been greatly improved with inputs from those groups.  The consultation process was boring and lacked interactivity and so on, but alas it remains a consultation on an issue that may affect your/our works access into the future and your/our access to other works.

If someone has ideas on how to make participatory democracy sexier than this process then put it forward, otherwise this is what we wind up living with.

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/

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.