DPLS News, October 2004

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: Joanne Juhnke, Special Librarian
Contributors: Lu Chou, Senior Special Librarian, & Cindy Severt, Senior Special Librarian


October 2004


Table of Contents
Polled Apart
Datastream Advance 4.0
MyData at ICPSR
DPLS Staff News
Two New from U.S. Census
Community Tracking Studies
IASSIST Strategic Plan Publication Award

Internet Corner

E-STAT
FreeLunch
HigherEdInfo.Org
Center for the Study of Innovation and Productivity (CSIP)



Polled Apart

You don't need us to tell you this is an election year. No doubt wherever you are, the 2004 Presidential election is heating up litigiously -- especially so in Wisconsin, a crucial swing state. We are inundated daily with poll results that are both ubiquitous and suspect, or so we suspect.
Is all this data -- ranging from whether or not the price of gasoline is a key tracking issue, to who is ahead in the polls -- collected for the benefit of the consumer? The campaign managers? The media? The lobbyists? For trend-spotting sociologists and political scientists? Is it collected for the purpose of influencing the public? Setting policy? If so, how is that accomplished?

One trend of thought is that most of this data is collected because the question of what the public collectively thinks about the issues of the day is an important story in its own right, that it gives us the ability to make some conditional forecasts about elections. And because this data has been collected since the 1930s and 1940s it allows us to make comparisons over time to understand how public opinion changes.

(The following information was excerpted from 20 Questions Journalists Should Ask About Poll Results, http://www.publicagenda.org/polling/polling_20q.cfm)
How public opinion polls are conducted is as important as why they are conducted. "The major distinguishing difference between scientific and unscientific polls is who picks the respondents for the survey. In a scientific poll, the pollster identifies and seeks out the people to be interviewed. In an unscientific poll, the respondents usually 'volunteer' their opinions, selecting themselves for the poll. The results of the well-conducted scientific poll can provide a reliable guide to the opinions of many people…the results of an unscientific poll tell you nothing more than simply what those respondents say."

Who did the poll?
If the person providing poll results can’t or won’t tell you who did it, serious questions must be raised about the reliability and truthfulness of the results being presented.

Who paid for the poll and why was it done?
Polls usually are not conducted for the good of the world. They are conducted for a reason -- either to gain helpful information or to advance a particular cause. It may be that the news organization wants to develop a good story. It may be that the politician wants to be re-elected. It may be that the corporation is trying to push sales of its new product. Or a special interest group may be trying to prove that its views are the views of the entire country.

What area: nation, state, or region -- or what group: teachers, lawyers, Democratic voters, etc. -- were these people chosen from?
In pre-primary and pre-election polls, how the people are chosen as the base for poll results is critical. A poll of all adults, for example, is not very useful on a primary race where only 25 percent of the registered voters actually turn out. So look for polls based on registered voters, "likely voters," previous primary voters, and such.

When was the poll done?
Events have a dramatic impact on poll results. Your interpretation of a poll should depend on when it was conducted relative to key events. Even the freshest poll results can be overtaken by subsequent events.

With all these potential problems, should we ever report poll results?
Yes. Because reputable polling organizations consistently do good work. In spite of the difficulties, the public opinion survey, correctly conducted, is still the best objective measure of the state of the views of the public.

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Datastream Advance 4.0

Since 1997, DPLS has subscribed to Datastream, a Thompson Financial product. This database provides historical financial information from both developed and emerging markets. It includes equity prices, volumes, market capitalization, earnings and dividend data for approximately 80,000 equities worldwide as well as global equity indices, international macroeconomic time series, foreign exchange rates, interest rates, bond and convertibles, bond indices, warrants, futures, options, and commodities.

This summer DPLS staff upgraded the Datastream user interface from Advance 3.5 to 4.0. The most notable change of this upgrade is the Datastream Navigator, which is a code navigation and selection system. For Economics data, Interest and Exchange rates, the Navigator works like File Explorer. It uses a hierarchical structure to group the data series. Thus key series can be quickly identified by country or by economic category.

Navigator is an integrated, browser-based tool and it requires no local codes database. All codes are hosted on the Navigator web servers where they are kept fully up to date. All available criteria for a data category are listed on the Navigator search page for a quick and efficient retrieval of the series. There are plenty of online documents to help you learn how to use Navigator.

Please feel free to come to DPLS and give Advance 4.0 a try.

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MyData at ICPSR

When you go to download data from ICPSR for the first time this semester, expect to see something a little bit different.

ICPSR has instituted new software that is similar to the shopping-cart software on many commercial sites. Instead of entering just an e-mail address, the system now requires both an address and a password. If you have not set a password before, you will have to click a “create account” button and fill out a form identifying yourself and setting your password.

The new system allows you to modify settings for your own account. It also speeds up the display of download pages and enhances operations for downloading large studies.

One thing has not changed: you still need to be at a UW campus computer or use the proxy server, even with the new login process.

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DPLS Staff News

Congratulations to DPLS librarian Joanne Juhnke and her husband Mike Oakleaf on the arrival of baby Miriam Joy Oakleaf. Miriam was born May 27, 2004, on the second full day of the IASSIST conference! After taking the summer off for maternity leave, Joanne returned to DPLS starting September 1.

According to the Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH) web site, the number of births in Madison increased each year from 1999 to 2002, the latest year available. In 2001 there were exactly 3,000 births reported in Madison, jumping slightly to 3,015 in 2002, the latest year available. Generate your own tables for birth, death, population or injury at http://dhfs.wisconsin.gov/wish.

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Two New from the U.S. Census

Since the last issue of DPLS News, the Census Bureau has rolled out two new noteworthy offerings on its web site: Local Employment Dy-namics/Quarterly Workforce Indicators (LED/ QWI), and the Quarterly Services Survey (QSS).

The LED program, announced in June, is a partnership between 29 state agencies and the Census Bureau to provide information on the job climate in states and local areas. The program takes existing data from a variety of sources such as state administrative records and basic demographic information, and combines them with a drop-down menu interface. The following Quarterly Workforce Indicators are available: total employment, net job flows, job creation, new hires, separations, turnover, average monthly earnings, and average monthly earnings for new hires. The indicators can be displayed by county or metro area, broken down by NAICS or SIC sector, by gender and by age range. Twenty-two states are online as of this writing, with figures as recent as Q3 for 2003, though some states are more current than others. The Quarterly Workforce Indicators program is online at http://lehd.dsd.census.gov/led/01/004/index.html.

The Quarterly Services Survey is a new economic indicator for the service sector, first released this month. This is the first new economic indicator from the Census Bureau since the 1960s, attempting to remedy a long-standing gap in data-gathering as the service sector has blossomed in recent decades. The QSS estimates quarterly revenue for employer firms by class of customer. The survey will initially cover information services; professional, scientific and technical services; and administrative and support services. Hospitals, residential and nursing care facilities will be added in 2005, with further plans to cover other service sectors in the future as funding allows. Coverage begins with the fourth quarter of 2003. The QSS web site can be found at http://www.census.gov/indicator/qss/QSS.html.

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Community Tracking Studies
1996-1997, 1998-1999 and 2000-2001

The Community Tracking Study (CTS) is a large-scale longitudinal investigation of health system change and its effects, carried out by the Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington, D.C. It was started in 1996 to track a cohort of sixty American communities at two-year intervals through surveys of physicians, households, and employers. The CTS collects data on how health care providers are restructuring their systems, and the forces driving the organizational change. It also tracks respondents’ health insurance coverage, access to care, use of health services, health care costs, and perceived quality of health care.

DPLS has received a CD-ROM containing CTS data and other related studies from ICPSR. For more information about CTS data, visit http://www.hschange.org/ and click on “Data Files” under “CTS Data.” CTS data can also be downloaded from ICPSR, or accessed via CTSonline at http://ctsonline.s-3.com/.

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IASSIST Strategic Plan Publication Award

IASSIST Strategic Plan Publication Award
The International Association for Social Science, Information, Service & Technology (IASSIST) seeks papers for publication in the IASSIST Quarterly that address issues, principles, and strategies for engagement in the following subject areas:

  • Issues of Access to Data
  • Issues of Documentation of Data
  • Issues of Digital Preservation

Submissions are due January 14, 2005. The winner, to be announced March 1, 2005, will received an award of $250.00 and a one year membership in IASSIST. Competition is not limited to current IASSIST members.

Full competition details are posted at http://www.iassistdata.org/publications/pubaward.html.

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Internet Corner

E-STAT

Statistics Canada has recently released E-STAT, providing free access to a major collection of Canadian statistics for registered educational institutions, including UW-Madison.

E-STAT features summary Canadian census data down to the tract level, plus an annual snapshot of the immense CANSIM database, with time series socioeconomic data across topics such as labor, health, income, trade, education, manufacturing, investment and more. This is an immense resource, formerly available only by subscription. Take note, though: the most up-to-date version of CANSIM is still fee-based, and the census offerings do not include microdata.

E-STAT can be found online at http://estat.statcan.ca.

FreeLunch

Economy.com, home of the fee-based Dismal Scientist, has created a section of its site dedicated to free U.S. economic and financial time series. Arbitrarily billing itself as “The Web's Largest Data Library,” FreeLunch republishes data from primarily U.S. government sources (including the Census Bureau, Federal Reserve, Bureau of Economic Analysis). Users select data frequency (annual, quarterly, monthly, sometimes daily) and whether a line chart or table is desired. The time series can go back several decades, depending on the subject matter, and are quite current as well. Check out the daily foreign currency exchange series!

FreeLunch does require a free registration from a valid e-mail address. Visit FreeLunch at http://www.economy.com/freelunch/.

HigherEdInfo.Org

Here’s a timely site for the beginning of a new semester on campus! The HigherEdInfo site, from the National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis, gathers data from various sources on higher education and presents it as maps, charts or downloadable tables (Excel or tab-delimited) on a state-by-state basis, sometimes by county. The data is grouped into nine categories: preparation, participation, affordability, student learning, completion, benefits, employment and finance. Drop-down menus identify measures within each category, and then one can select submeasures and years and how to display the information. The page for each measure also includes a section on definitions and a brief write-up on the policy implications of the measure.

In addition to the pre-programmed maps and tables, try the "Data & Maps" feature (upper right of the screen). "Generate Your Own Data" lets you create and download custom tables from the data on the site, while "Generate Your Own Map" works in the opposite direction: you input your own state-by-state data, the site generates a map for you.

See this impressive site for yourself at http://www.higheredinfo.org/.

Center for the Study of Innovation and Productivity (CSIP)

The CSIP is a new research center of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, with a web site at http://www.frbsf.org/csip/index.php. The site includes summary analysis of CSIP research and PDF files of their estimates for output growth and productivity growth by state. The "Data and Charting" section of the site carries downloadable economic time series from various sources related to innovation, technology, productivity, growth, and employment. In addition to downloading, you can also make comparisons across geographical regions or industry sectors using an interactive online charting tool.

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