Have you ever had a difficult time gathering government data together on a single topic in a single place?  This can sometimes be challenging.  For example, mandatory disclosure documents: each government department is required to disclose  information such as travel & hospitality expenses; contracts; position reclassifications; grant & contribution awards; and proven workplace wrong-doing.  Until recently, you would have had to go to each website and click on each mandatory disclosure link separately to research this information.  The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat does provide a list of mandatory disclosure pages for each federal government website but this is just a directory – there is no search interface that would allow you to search the content of those pages all at once.

Fortunately you now have a “one-stop” search option thanks to the efforts of VisibleGovernment.ca – an advocacy group devoted to “improv(ing) civic participation and government accountability in Canada by promoting online tools for government transparency.” VisibleGovernment.ca has  a great database called disclosed.ca which you can search for federal government contract information by keyword.

“Disclosed.ca keeps track of 247253 contracts available since 2004 under the Government of Canada Proactive Disclosure mandate.”  Each entry includes:

  • the name of the government agency and the vendor used
  • a brief description of the work undertaken or service provided
  • contract date and duration
  • value – i.e., cost of the contract in dollars.

Another tricky type of information to access from a single search point is MP voting records.  The Parliament of Canada’s website does provide a vote tab in the profile for each MP, but you might prefer doing your research on the How’d They Vote website instead.   This “non-partisan website” was launched by an individual in 2005 and offers an impressive array of features.  You can:

  • View a list of all the MPs for the current Parliament and session – with figures for categories of information such as number of dissensions, absences, bills proposed, words spoken and number of times they were quoted and you can re-sort the list by any of these categories.
  • You can browse the voting history of bills for the current Parliament and session
  • You can browse a list of all the bills under consideration for the current Parliament and session
  • You can download a list of the sitting MPs and their voting records for the previous sessions of the current Parliament AND both sessions of the 39th Parliament as well.

Another area of difficulty surrounds Freedom of Information requests.  It can be very expensive and time consuming to make Freedom of Information requests.  You can learn about the Federal process by consulting the website for the Office of the Information Commission of Canada and the BC Provincial process by consulting the website for the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for BC.   What’s lacking however, is a database of Freedom of Information requests that would allow you to search and view requests – and even better – a database of released documents that you could download.  While numerous advocacy groups in the US have put up databases of FOIA requests and documents (see our Feb 10, 2010 post for details) very little of a similar nature exists in Canada.   Fortunately we can now alert you to one promising project:

  • Open Government Records is software for creating freedom of information (FOI) and Access to Information (ATI) repositories. These FOI or ATI repositories offer many options to researchers who use freedom of information. OGR has features for making, tracking, storing, and publishing the text of freedom of information requests and similar features for the actual disclosed record.”
  • The categories of documents that will be collected are: public servant curricula; scholarships & grants; “amber light” requests; and documents from Ministries of Education.
    • To date we have not been able to locate any uploaded documents, but there are several Freedom of Information requests deposited and available for viewing.  If  this site ultimately does begin to be populated with  “freed” documents it will be a dynamite research resource!

Last semester students from the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies class ARST 515 updated a number of archival finding aids to be compliant with the current Rules for Archival Description. They did a great job and hopefully found it to be a useful real life experience.  The updated finding aids are:

Archaeological Society of British Columbia fonds, by Joanna Hammerschmidt, Judy Hu, and Asiyih Modarai

Labour History Association fonds, by Sara Church, Carolyn Downs, and Myron Groover

Patricia Blondal fonds, by Adam Gold and Sarah Rathjen

Frank Charnley fonds, by Shalene Williams, Jen Busch, and Marisa Tutt

E.M. Delafield fonds, by Ellie Kim, Kelly E. Lau, and Patrick Ansah

John Emerson fonds, by Andrew Berger, Peter Houston, Jayson Kennedy, Tony Power

George Gee fonds, by Yolanda Bustos, Tristan Campbell, and Jessie London

Irene Howard fonds, by Sergey Kovynev, Lisa Snider, and Lindsay Szymanski

International Order of the Good Templars fonds, by Massimiliano Grandi, Myles Legacy, Jamie Sanford, Amanda Tomé

Thanks to all of the students for their hard work, and to adjunct professor Jennifer Douglas for coordinating.

The Foundation Center, a U.S. nonprofit service organization, has developed the Catalog of Nonprofit Literature, a searchable database of the literature of philanthropy. Updated daily, this bibliography of works in the field of philanthropy contains citations to materials collected by the Center’s five libraries as well as selected literature from other sources.  It covers the foundation world, the nonprofit sector — particularly works on such topics as fundraising and proposal development — and works related to charitable giving, including project reports, studies, and statistical analyses.  You can search all citations, or you can limit your search to material that is available in fulltext form.

America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009:  “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce
the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.”

Read the New York Times story regarding the US groundbreaking legislation here

See the actual 1017 page Bill that was introduced in the House here – From the Library of Congress site – H.R. 3200 I.H. and the final report of the bill (H.R.  3200 R.I.H) here (Takes a while to download – 2454 pages)


Introduced in House:  “This phrase indicates that a bill has been introduced in either the House or the Senate. In the Senate, any number of senators may introduce a single bill; in the House, a limit of 25 representatives may cosponsor a bill. Many bills are actually committee bills and therefore are introduced under the name of the (sub)committee’s chairperson as a formality”. – GPO site

Reported in House:  “This phrase accompanies a committee’s report of its findings and recommendations to the parent house after it has examined a bill. The version of the bill as reported includes changes, if any, that have been recommended by the committee.” GPO site

Photo by bionicteaching Extended Exam Hours – April 3-29, 2010 Mon. – Fri. 8:30 am – 10:00 pm Sat. & Sun. 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
Photo by Robert S. Donovan Friday, April 2, 2010 9:00 am –  5:00 pm Saturday, April 3, 2010: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm Sunday, April 4, 2010: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm Monday, April 5, 2010: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

The systematic search process can be pretty daunting, especially if it’s your first time. There are so many different databases, and potentially thousands of article records to gather and assess, never mind documenting it all or looking through lesser known sources, i.e. “grey literature”.

If you’re currently working on searching for a systematic review, or preparing for one, then I invite you to share share your trials and tribulations (or simply unload some of the anxiety!) by joining like-minded colleagues for an online class on how to get started.

This class takes place tomorrow morning, Tuesday, March 23 from 11 – 12:30.

Registration is available at:

See you online!

Ever wondered how MPs and Senators research issues?  Did you know that the Library of Parliament has a research service for parliamentarians – the Parliamentary Information & Research Service (PIRS)?  Or that  PIRS provides free public access to its publications?  Click here to view the list of available research publications.

“PIRS (responds) to questions that require research and analysis on legal, economic, scientific, or social science matters. Researchers obtain and analyze material, and write letters, short notes and longer research papers at the request of Senators and Members of the House of Commons.”

HathiTrust Logo There’s an elephant in the library. This slogan refers to HathiTrust, a shared repository of digitized books. Over 5 million books are in the repository and it is growing everyday.  The books are both scanned and machine transcribed (optical character recognition) so it is possible to search every word in every book – all in one search.  That’s a lot of words.   Say 200 billion.

HawaiianTreesSometimes I find it more useful to search a limited collection of books. This week I created a collection called Trees of Hawaii. First I created a guest account at the University of Michigan. Very easy. Then I started searching the HathiTrust catalog for books of possible interest. As I found them, I put them into my collection. A collection can be either private or public. Finally I searched my collection for the word Reynoldsia. Now I know which of the books in my collection mention Reynoldsia and on which pages. Sometimes the full text of the book is available and I can read all about it online. Sometimes not. But I certainly know which books to pursue. Thanks Elephant!

This book is at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015048991361
If you would like help creating an account, please contact Lee Ann at 822-3609.

HJ4661 .E758 2009 Law Reserve Robert N. Neale & Murray Pearson eds., Ernst and Young’s Guide to Tax Research and Writing (Toronto: Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants & Ernst & Young, 2009). JC323 .K655 2009 Avery Kolers, Land, Conflict, and Justice: A Political Theory of Territory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). K236 .D447 2009 (LC) Mireille [...]

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