The Real Data Liberation Initiative - InformationWeek

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1/15/2009
02:20 PM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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The Real Data Liberation Initiative

The Data Liberation Initiative is a worthy project that aims to provide academic researchers with affordable and equitable access to Canadian current governmental statistics and other data. It benefits the spectrum of public data users. DLI and similar undertakings such as the US government's Fedstats, the Open Data Foundation, and IBM's Many Eyes are what real data liberation is all about...

The Data Liberation Initiative is a worthy project that aims to provide academic researchers with affordable and equitable access to Canadian current governmental statistics and other data. I had a chance to meet with three DLI team members back in 2003, and I'm glad to see that the initiative, approved by the Canadian government as a pilot in 1996, has grown into a robust effort with subprojects that benefit the spectrum of public data users. DLI and similar undertakings such as the US government's Fedstats, the Open Data Foundation, and IBM's Many Eyes are what real data liberation is all about.For the DLI, "liberation" means freedom. Borrowing from another context, "to understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer." Government paid for the data; government employees (and like minded individuals working in industry) feel a responsibility to make sure it's widely and effectively used.

In the case of the DLI, that means backing and participating in the development of the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI), "an effort to establish an international XML-based standard for the content, presentation, delivery, and preservation of metadata for datasets in the social and behavioral sciences." (I'm a member of IASSIST, the International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology, which stewards DDI development.)

For the DLI, data liberation means providing direct access to datasets and SAS and SPSS code snippets — those packages are most commonly used for analysis of survey data — to facilitate dataset use. It means maintaining a metadata browser using an interesting tool, Nesstar Webview, developed in Norway and the UK by and for data archivists and their worldwide community of social-science data users they support. Visit the DLI Web site to learn more.

I have no objection to clever IT-vendor marketing, especially when it's imaginative and well executed and especially when it suggests an opportunity to tell folks about a genuine liberation manifesto, the DLI's, that's about far more than IT-vendor competition, that brings real benefits to a broad set of data users.The Data Liberation Initiative is a worthy project that aims to provide academic researchers with affordable and equitable access to Canadian current governmental statistics and other data. It benefits the spectrum of public data users. DLI and similar undertakings such as the US government's Fedstats, the Open Data Foundation, and IBM's Many Eyes are what real data liberation is all about...

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