DPLS News, March 1999

Please note: Older issues of the newsletter are likely to contain
broken links -- the newsletter is presented here "as published."

DPLS News contains articles about local, national, and international data issues.
It is published twice a semester by the library staff.

Editor: Kim Tully, Associate Special Librarian
Contributors: Lu Chou, Special Librarian &
Cindy Severt, Senior Special Librarian

March 1999

Table of Contents

A Bird's Eye View of Data Libraries - by Robin Rice

Cross-national Comparisons on Social Issues

1948-1997 Election Studies CD-ROM

Finding Data Isn't Easy...Unless You Know Who to Ask!

ICPSR Summer Program

2000 Census and the Debate Over Statistical Sampling

Internet Corner


A Bird's Eye View of Data Libraries - by Robin Rice

As some of you may know, I was given the opportunity to be ‘seconded’ to the Edinburgh University Data Library (http://datalib.ed.ac.uk) in Scotland as Data Librarian for the 1998-99 academic year. Nearly halfway through, I have been asked to share some of my experiences.

Robin Rice PictureUnlike DPLS, a special library located near the offices and classrooms of the Social Science departments, Edinburgh University Data Library is a division of the University’s Computing Services and is located in the Main Library. In 1995 a spin-off organization called Edinburgh Data and INformation Access (EDINA) was formed to host a number of bibliographic databases for UK higher education. EDINA accounts for most of the Data Library’s comparatively large staff (27 and growing). This makes for lots of experts on hand, including programmers, a webmaster, a GIS (Geographic Information System) specialist, a demographer and a statistician. Nevertheless, the bulk of the local data services are delivered by myself and a library assistant.

Perhaps because of generous national funding available for research, social scientists here commonly collect their own data rather than conducting secondary analysis on existing large-scale surveys. The service implications of this are: 1) we reach out to potential users beyond the Social Science disciplines; 2) we define data more broadly, including not only numeric but spatial data, i.e. ‘encoded’, or ‘research’ data; 3) we provide in-depth services including data extraction and consultancy on methods. Although we have repeat ‘customers,’ I am busy promoting the data library through presentations and publications to broaden the user base.

Like other European countries, the UK has a national Data Archive, which functions like the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) located at the University of Michigan. I serve as the site representative to this and to MIDAS, an online data service located at the University of Manchester. Because of the Data Protection Act of 1984 and a recent European Union directive, each user must register in writing to use each dataset. We try not to let this inhibit access, but it is strange to have so much paperwork in a ‘digital’ library.

At DPLS I observed that people like to study their own country; my knowledge of U.S. data has not really been tapped. Although the acronyms are different, there is generally a British counterpart to every major U.S. survey and Census. But at an “ancient” university in the capital of Scotland, uniquely Scottish (vs. British) data are in demand. With the first Scottish Parliament to meet in 300 years this spring, this need will only increase.

Robin Rice has been a librarian at DPLS since 1992 and will return to Madison in September.

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Cross-national Comparisons on Social Issues

The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) was initiated in 1982 by the Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden, und Analysen (ZUMA) in Mannheim, Germany and the GlobeNational Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. Both of these organizations devoted a small segment of the Allgemeinen Bevolkerungsumfragen der Socialwissenschaften (ALLBUS) survey and the General Social Survey (GSS) to a common set of questions on job values, important areas of life, abortion, and feminism.

Over the years the ISSP has evolved into a collaboration of 31 countries which gather information from different societies for cross-national comparison on various social issues. The topics covered by the ISSP time series include: role of government, social networks, social inequality, family and changing gender roles, work orientations, religion, environment, and national identity. The ISSP is a rich resource for social science researchers who are interested in comparing social indicators among different countries around the globe. A bibliography of ISSP papers and current ISSP research projects can be found on the ISSP web site located at: http://www.issp.org/homepage.htm. DPLS currently has some of the ISSP datasets and can obtain additional files from ICPSR for our users.

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1948-1997 Election Studies CD-ROM

The new 1948-1997 National Election Studies (NES) CD-ROM provides an extremely comprehensive resource for data on elections, electoral campaigns and electoral behaviors. This CD-ROM consists of 45 datasets with over 50,000 survey questions in the last 50 years of American politics and public opinion. More specifically, the NES CD-ROM includes presidential and midterm time-series studies from 1948 to 1996, pilot studies from 1979 to 1997, panel studies, other NES special studies, as well as the 1948-1996 cumulative data file which merges over 600 variables and 41,627 respondents.

NES LogoThe NES Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior is also available on this CD-ROM for those interested in summary reports from NES data. This tool provides immediate access to over 120 pre-run tables and graphs of public opinion and electoral behavior and choice since 1952. Each table is presented in a summary format and contains ten sets of demographic variables. A web browser is required to view the Guide’s pre-run tables.

Various NES questionnaires are stored in Adobe Acrobat format. ASCII data files and codebooks along with SAS and SPSS data definition files are included for every study. A Windows 95-based software called NESstat allows users to browse and search all variables in any study. It can also run simple descriptive statistics and cross-tabulations (with filters and weights applied, if desired). Users can even create a specific subset of ASCII data, with associated codebook files, and SAS or SPSS data definition files.

Visit the NES web site located at http://www.umich.edu/~nes for more information.

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Finding Data Isn't Easy...Unless You Know Who to Ask!

Over the years, the librarians at DPLS have been teaching classes about data to students in economics, political science, library science, and the La Follette Institute of Public Affairs. Each session is tailored specifically to the interests of the students in the particular class. Common themes include defining what is data, sources of data on the web or from CD-ROMs, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using data available from the Internet. These classes enable students to obtain a better understanding of data, in addition to providing them with good sources of information for research topics. For more information about this service please contact Cindy Severt, Senior Special Librarian at DPLS.

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ICPSR Summer Program

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) Summer Program provides a comprehensive, integrated program of studies in research design, statistics, data analysis, and social methodology. Its instructional environment stresses integration of methods of quantitative analysis within a broader context of substantive social research.

The Summer Program is structured around two four-week sessions beginning June 21st through August 13th, as well as a variety of one-week workshops. The fees for ICPSR members run from $850 for a workshop to $1100 for an eight-week session. DPLS has been awarded a stipend from ICPSR, which is available to UW-Madison affiliates. Detailed information about the stipend will be posted on our web site (http://dpls.dacc.wisc.edu/). The application deadline is April 20, 1999, and each interested applicant should contact DPLS to obtain an ICPSR application form. For more information about the Summer Program visit ICPSR’s web site: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/.

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2000 Census and the Debate Over Statistical Sampling

Census Bureau IconThe heated debate between the Clinton administration and the Republican controlled Congress over statistical sampling in the 2000 Census seems to have taken a new twist. On February 24th, Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley announced in a press release that the Census Bureau, as ordered by the Supreme Court, will use traditional methods, not statistical sampling, to reapportion the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among the 50 states. However, “Based on the lessons of the dress rehearsal, which confirmed the need to use those methods to reduce the undercount, the plan will also use statistical sampling to provide a more accurate count for all other purposes for which the Census is taken. This includes redistricting and the allocation of federal funds.”

The results of the dress rehearsal, released at the end of February, were significant. The figures showed the undercount rates by major race/origin groups in Sacramento, California; Menominee County, Wisconsin; and 11 counties around Columbia, South Carolina. For example, Menominee County, populated primarily with Native Americans, was undercounted by 143 people or 3.1 percent of the population when compared with proven statistical estimates.

The Census not only has the potential to affect politics from the House of Representatives to local school boards, it has evolved into an important social and economic tool as well. The decennial Census helps guide the distribution of billions of dollars in federal aid for education, public health, transportation and housing, in addition to providing demographic data used by businesses and local leaders. For more information about the 2000 Census visit the Census Bureau web site at http://www.census.gov/.

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Internet Corner

Online Political Resource Guide

Dr. Michael York Dartnell, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal, has compiled an impressive list of Internet resources. Topics include American politics, British politics, Canadian politics, Central and East European politics, defense and security studies, environmental politics, feminism, human rights, world governments, terrorism, Irish politics, international political economy, as well as international organizations. Each of these broad categories have been broken down into subcategories, enabling users to find information on the topic of their choice quickly and easily. The web address for this site is: http://alcor.concordia.ca/~dartnel/.

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Geospatial Data from the USGS

National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse (http://nsdi.usgs.gov/) provides information about geospatial or spatially referenced data available from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The information is organized around four principal data themes: biological resources, geologic information, national mapping information, and water resources. This site also lists products by category, “Best Sellers” and themes. The information provided by the clearinghouse is in the form of metadata which describes such characteristics as the content, quality, condition, and how to obtain the data. Some of the datasets are available online for free. USGS digital data products are designed to be read and used by geographic information systems, image processing systems, or similar computer applications. To use any geospatial data purchased or downloaded from the USGS, the appropriate software will need to be obtained from commercial or other sources.

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Teen Sexuality Data

The Alan Guttmacher Institute (http://www.agi-usa.org/home.html) provides statistics, charts and factual data on teenage pregnancy, contraceptive use, abortion, teen sex, sexually transmitted diseases, childbearing, and teen mothers and their children. The institute began in 1968 and is now an independent, not-for-profit corporation, although it is a special affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Much of the data provided on this web site is from research conducted by The Alan Guttmacher Institute, as well as the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Guide for Archiving Archaeological Data

Guide ImageThe GIS (Geographic Information System) Guide to Good Practice is an online document designed to assist individuals or organizations involved in the creation, maintenance, use and long-term preservation of GIS-based digital resources. This document emphasizes archaeological data and GIS derived from excavation, regional survey, archival research, intra-site analysis, or any other type of archaeological endeavor. This site is organized into the following seven sections: aims and objectives, introduction to GIS and archaeology, spatial data types, structuring, organizing and maintaining information, documenting the GIS dataset, depositing information, and useful definitions and references. The web address for this site is: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/goodguides/gis/.

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End of March 1999 Newsletter.