A great new open access resource will allow users to access all World Development Reports since 1978.  You can read the press release below:

“A new online, open access, collection of all World Development Reports since 1978 was launched today by the World Bank. The Complete World Development Report Online, which allows users to easily access and search across these World Bank annual flagship publications, is free and open to the public and may be accessed at http://wdronline.worldbank.org

For over thirty years, the annual WDR has provided a window on development economics to a broad international readership. The report has served as one of the principal vehicles for encapsulating the World Bank’s knowledge of and policy recommendations on key global development trends. From agriculture and the environment to economic growth and international trade, the WDR has tracked theoretical and empirical findings as well as policies in the field of international development.

The robust search engine of The Complete World Development Report Online optimizes search both across and within all WDRs with the click of a button. In addition, the background papers upon which the most recent reports were drawn are also available.

A free optional individual user account allows users to take advantage of tools such as bookmarking and saving selected chapters or reports, saving searches, and taking notes. A custom eBook feature lets users select chapters from multiple reports for future reference, sharing with colleagues, or creating course packets. The custom eBooks may also be downloaded, printed, or easily shared through social networking sites. In addition, the site features quick links to World Bank open databases, RSS feeds, new content alerts, and COUNTER-compliant usage statistics for librarians.

“We are pleased to offer the custom eBook tool in The Complete World Development Report Online,“ said Carlos Rossel, Publisher of the World Bank. “We hope that by offering this new, free resource with added features, we will facilitate research and help our users more easily collect, save, and share the World Bank knowledge captured in the collection of World Development Reports.”

A bonus title, Shahid Yusuf’s Development Economics through the Decades: A Critical Look at 30 Years of the World Development Report, is also included. “The World Development Report provides a unique perspective on the evolution of thinking, policy making, and practice in the field of development. Now for the first time, those interested in development have a convenient way to access all the WDRs at the same time, in the same place, to compare how key areas in development have changed over the years,” said Yusuf.”

Since it’s launch a year ago,  Data.gov, which has a mandate to globally democratize data,  has  undergone a makeover.  There are new opportunities to interact with the data as well as new feature such as usage statistics and apps featuring  crime statistics by neighborhood to the best towns to find a job to seeing the environmental health of your community.

“Launched in May 2009 with 47 datasets, Data.gov has been continually expanded since the inception of the Open Government Directive (OGD).  Under the OGD, published Dec. 8, 2009, executive branch agencies had 45 days to release at least three “high-value” datasets on their websites and register them with Data.gov. These datasets were to be information “not previously available online or in a downloadable format” and were to be published “online in an open format.”  On the deadline, the website held about 300 datasets in total but now boasts of a library containing more than 270,000 sets.” — OMB Watch

Some of the most viewed datasets include:

  1. Worldwide M1+ Earthquakes, Past 7 Days
  2. U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants (Greenbook)
  3. MyPyramid Food Raw Data
  4. Latest Volumes of Foreign Relations of the US
  5. OSHA Data Initiative – Establishment…

Both OMB Watch and Free Government Information have interesting posts.

MPs and Senators study, debate and vote on a variety of issues and most of them wind up impacting most of us.  Ever wondered how they do their research?  As outlined in our entry of March 22, the Parliamentary Information and Research Service (PIRS)  has researchers on staff who “obtain and analyze material, and write…research papers at the request of Senators and Members of the House of Commons.”

Those research papers are freely available from the Library of Parliament webpage and provide you with a well-researched, cited, and readable summary of issues being studied in Parliament.  Why not take advantage of this tax-payer funded service when conducting your own research?

Here are some of the latest reports:

Researching older issues?  PIRS has reports on-site from as far back as 1991, though the majority are from 2006 – 2009.  For example:

The array of topics covered by PIRS is impressive, so if you’re looking for some primary source documents or if you are looking for something from the government’s perspective you may be well-served by the documents you find on their site!

Two great new sites have just launched this month that will help Canadians have easier access to Federal government data.

openparliament.ca was launched on April 12th, by Michael Mulley, a Montreal-based web designer.  It provides a simple and attractive interface from which to find data culled from the Hansard (aka, official Debates) of the House of Commons.  You can browse by MP or search by name or postal code.  The main focus of the site is to keep citizens informed about the work of parliamentarians and its most useful feature to that end is its hyperlinked list of topics under current debate.  Are you curious to know what MPs were debating about most recently? According to Mulley, who has taken his information from the April 16th Hansard, topics included:

  • ethics
  • Afghanistan
  • Fairness at the Pump
  • sealing industry
  • Canada Post
  • agriculture
  • Chile
  • the environment
  • wine industry
  • and much more!

If datasets are your thing, check out http://www.datadotgc.ca/ Launched by David Eaves on April 14th, this site provides a home to a growing list of federal government datasets.  You can see which ministries share their data and which do not and you can see how many datasets each ministry has provided.  At present the lion’s share of available data come from Natural Resources Canada, but as the open data movement grows in Canada we will likely see more content added from other departments.   Supports keyword searching and you can browse by ministry or by tags.

Interested in hearing Maher Arar’s testimony to the US House Committees on Torture?  Or watching Toyota executives testify before Senate?  Or perhaps you’d like to watch bank executives being grilled over the recent financial crisis?  Well you can watch all this and more on the C-Span Video Library website.

“Every C-SPAN program aired since 1987, now totaling over 160,000 hours, is contained in the C-SPAN Archives and immediately accessible through the database….”

Videos of Congressional sessions and committee hearings are posted alongside full-text transcripts of the events and a list of all participants.   Other types of content include press briefings/news conferences,  media interviews, clips of debates, ceremonies, public appearances, and even clips from foreign legislatures.  You can search for videos by “subject, speaker names, titles, affiliations, sponsors, committees, categories, formats, policy groups, keywords, and location.”

The site for the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, hosted by the University of California San Francisco, has just added over 3700 documents from the  Canadian Tobacco Trials:  “The Canadian Tobacco Trials collection consists of court records (transcripts, depositions, exhibits) from two major national Canadian trials – the 1989 Tobacco Products Control Act (TPCA) Trial and the 1997 Tobacco Act Trial.”

  • Click here to read about the collection
  • Click here to start searching the collection

Here’s  more information about the Legacy Documents Library:

“The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (LTDL) contains more than 11 million documents (60+ million pages) created by major tobacco companies related to their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific research activities….(and also) offers integrated searching of tobacco industry documents from a variety of companies…. These collections are comprised of tobacco industry documents from the late nineteenth century up through the present with the bulk of the collections dated 1950 through 2002″

Other collections besides the newly added Canadian Tobacco Trials include:

Huge thanks to the folks at the Resource Shelf for alerting us to this new content!

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was appointed in 1991 and submitted its final, 5000 page report in 1996.  During its five year inquiry, the Commission “held 178 days of public hearings, visited 96 communities, consulted dozens of experts, commissioned scores of research studies, reviewed numerous past inquiries and reports” (Highlights. “A Word From Commissioners”).  You may be surprised to discover that not all of this work appeared in the final report – in particular, the hearing transcripts were not included.  The transcripts were made available as part of a CD-Rom publication, “For Seven Generations,” but have not been freely accessible online until quite recently.

  • Thanks to Commissioner Allan Blakeney, who donated his personal copies of the hearing transcripts and roundtable discussions, the University of Saskatchewan Archives and U Sask’s Special Collections units have recently finished a project to digitize and OCR these materials.  You can access them online from Saskatchewan’s cooperative public Archives site Our Legacy.
  • Kudos to Frank Winter at the University of Saskatchewan for alerting the Gov-Info list-serv to their fabulous resource!

You can  view the Commission’s Final Report, Highlights from the Final Report and the Address for the Launch of the Report online on Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s website here .

    • UBC Library also has a wide array of print materials published by and about this Commission, including the Final Report.  You can view the list of available titles by conducting a keyword search using the terms: royal commission aboriginal peoples.
    • UBC Library has several copies of the “For Seven Generations” CD-Rom mentioned above, available at call number E78.C2 F77 1997 CD-ROM

We owe another shoutout to Christina at Lam for telling us how much she likes FedFlix!  We agree – it’s terrific!

FedFlix is a collection of US government public information and training films hosted over at the Internet Archive:  FedFlix is a “Joint Venture NTIS-1832 between the National Technical Information Service and Public.Resource.Org. Here we feature the best movies of the United States Government, from training films to history, from our national parks to the U.S. Fire Academy and the Postal Inspectors, all of these fine flix are available for reuse without any restrictions whatsoever.”

  • The content covers a wide range of topics, from forest fire control to workplace integrity, military etiquette, mining safety, cold war, homeland security/civil defence and culture, religion and communities training courtesy of the Chicago police department.
  • Here are just a few sample titles you can watch: Why Vietnam (1965, Dept of Defense); the much spoofed Duck and Cover (1951, Federal Civil Defense Administration); Central Intelligence Agency True Stories (1963; and Assessing the Madoff Ponzi Scheme Part 1 and Part 2 (2009, US House of Representatives)

You may wonder – does Canada have a repository like this?  Not exactly, but we do have a couple of great sources of film clips that cover a wide range of social and political topics:

  • The CBC Archives is a wonderful source of CBC radio and television clips.  Topics include Federal and Provincial elections;  the path to Canada’s Constitution; separatism; abortion; women politicians; and foreign relations.  There is also a great deal of content on various prominent political leaders such as Pierre Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, Ed Broadbent, Maurice Duplessis, William Lyon MacKenzie King, Paul Martin, Robert Bourassa, and Rene Levesque.

Thanks to Christina from David Lam library whose eagle-eye spotted these two new resources!

1) AidData is a database of data and information on foreign aid finance.  It just went live this week, and while still in Beta, contains over 1 million records.   “AidData attempts to capture the universe of development finance, increase the value of data by providing more descriptive information about development activities, provide data in an accessible format, and strengthen efforts to improve donor and recipient strategic planning and coordination.”

You can search by keyword within different databases covering: donor information, recipients (ie, countries or regions), purpose, activity and years.

2) Google has teamed up with the US Census Bureau to develop a new mapping tool which will allow you to track mail participation rates in the 2010 US Census.  You can view the “Take 10 Challenge Map” on the US Census Website here. Just type in a town/city and its state or type in a zipcode to see the current participation rate and the rate for the 2000 Census.  Note, as the Census has only just launched there is not much data below the state level.  Check back in a few weeks to see figures for smaller geographic units.

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!

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