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.”

The OECD announced today that three separate studies support that conclusion that “putting the right price on water will encourage people to waste less, pollute less, and invest more in water infrastructure.”  In the view of the OECD, the “right price” is one that reflects the true cost of the water they consume  – both drinking water, water for agricultural uses,  and any other water uses that ultimately require treatment and/or disposal.

You can find the free OECD summary of its studies here:  http://www.oecd.org/document/47/0,3343,en_2649_37465_36146415_1_1_1_1,00.html

The studies themselves are “for fee” publications to the general public.  These are, however, freely  available to current UBC students, faculty and staff members and patrons working at UBC Library workstations via the subscription database SourceOECD.  You will find our link to SourceOECD here. Note, the OECD does provide free access to a wide range of its smaller reports, including water pricing details “for Australia, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Turkey and the United States.”

The studies are:

1) Pricing Water Resources and Water and Sanitation Services

2) Sustainable Management of Water Resources in Agriculture

3) Innovative Financing Mechanisms for the Water Sector

The OECD released one of its flagship economic policy publications today: Going for Growth 2010

“First published in 2005, this annual report provides an overview of structural policy developments in OECD countries from a comparative perspective.”

Not surprisingly, given the title, this year’s report focuses on the “modest, uneasy, yet much-welcome recovery” that most OECD member countries are projected to enjoy in the upcoming year.   Chapters that are freely available for downloading cover 1) “ Responding to the Crisis while Protecting Long-term Growth“; 2) Responding to the Going for Growth Policy Priorities: an Overview of Progress since 2005; 3) Country Notes ; 4) Structural Policy Indicators; 5) A Family Affair: Intergenerational Social Mobility across OECD Countries.

Note, two chapters are not freely available from the OECD website:  6) Getting it Right: Prudential Regulation & Competition in Banking; 7) Going for Growth in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia & South Africa.  ***UBC students, faculty & staff, and patrons using UBC Library workstations do have access to the complete publication, including chapters 6 & 7 through the subscription database SourceOECD.*** 

We noted Google’s public data search feature in a November 2009 post and today we have an update for you.  Google Labs has just launched “an experimental visualization tool” called Google Public Data Explorer – designed to “help people comprehend data and statistics through rich visualizations.  With the Data Explorer, you can mash up data using line graphs, bar graphs, maps and bubble charts.”

Google data providers are the World Bank, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Census Bureau, the OECD, the California Dept of Education, Eurostat, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, so the Explorer has the potential to deliver high quality statistics on a vast array of socio-economic topics and for most geographic regions of the world.  Click here for more information about this resource from the Google Labs blog.

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) conduct surveys; publish  research findings; collect and disseminate high quality statistics;  produce reports, articles, newsletters, and much more.   In short,  IGOs can be a terrific resource for you when conducting your own research.  Examples:

Imagine you are looking for articles and data related to education and gender inequality.

  • You wouldn’t want to miss the World Bank’s “Key Issues” page on Girl’s Education.   This part of the Bank’s site offers links to its (freely downloadable) publications and statistics on the topic.
  • Also: check out UNICEF’s “Basic Education and Gender Equality” section.   Provides press releases, publications,  and podcasts.
  • The United Nations has established a special initiative to tackle girls education in particular – the  “Girls Education Initiative.”  Provides press releases, publications, video & audio programs, and links to findings from the GAP Report (Gender Achievements & Prospects in Education).
  • While these groups don’t have subject pages for this topic, they are all working on related projects, conducting research and publishing materials on gender and access to education: the International Labour Organization (ILO); UNESCO; and the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Another Example:  Imagine you are looking for facts & figures related to telecommunications/broadband access and usage around the world.

  • The OECD has a “Broadband Portal” that brings together all the organization’s statistics related to broadband – including number of subscribers per 100 inhabitants, penetration rates, cable modem coverage, DSL coverage, broadband pricing, speeds and more.   Also links to OECD telecommunication indicators and telecom reports.
  • The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has a wide array of free telecommunication  statistics
  • UNESCO maintains a portal for websites that provide statistics related to our “information society.”  Includes links to the OECD and ITU as noted above, and other useful sites such as country statistical agencies; related EU/Europa sites and sites from scholarly societies/institutes

For further information on IGOs and what they can add to your research efforts check out our guide to Intergovernmental Organizations. Features a Google Custom Search Engine that will allow you to search the sites for more than 30 high quality/reputable  IGOs from a single search box.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU)  is “the oldest international organization in the UN family….(providing leadership) for information and communication technology issues.”  The ITU has just launched its “History of ITU Portal” which contains ITU historical documents from radio, telegraph and telephone conferences.  Note, the process of digitization is currently underway and as of this date much of the proposed content has yet to be launched online.  Still, it’s worth noting for now and will be a terrific resource once the project is complete.   The site also provides a link to ITU statistics, which are freely available.

The FAO (Food & Agriculture Organization) has just launched a Gender and Land Rights Database which “puts the spotlight on one of the major stumbling blocks to rural development – widespread inequalities between men and women in their access to land….. (It)  offers up-to-date information on how men and women in 78 countries differ in their legal rights and access to land (and)  provides policymakers and other users with a better picture of the major social, economic, political and cultural factors which affect access to land and enforcement of women’s land rights.”

Need to look at US government documents that don’t seem to be publicly available?  All may not be lost!  Thanks to the tireless efforts of journalists, researchers, and average citizens thousands of documents that would otherwise remain closed to public scrutiny are made available each year through Freedom of  Information Act (FOIA)  requests.  Even better:  many of these folks  have contributed their FOIA documents to freely searchable web archives.  Here are a few of the best:

  • National Security Archive at George Washington University: “collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The Archive also serves as a repository of government records on a wide range of topics pertaining to the national security, foreign, intelligence, and economic policies of the United States.”
  • GovernmentAttic: “provides electronic copies of hundreds of interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act….(including) fascinating historical documents, reports on items in the news, oddities…and government bloopers.”
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation:  This site focuses on collecting and disseminating documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act “on controversial government surveillance programs, lobbying practices, and intellectual property initiatives.”
  • American Civil Liberties Union:   This portion of the ACLU website provides access to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act “relating to the abuse and torture of prisoners in U.S. detention centers overseas.”

Note,  some US Federal Departments and Agencies also have well-organized and fairly comprehensive collections of their own FOIA documents, such as

Huge kudos to Sheryl Adam for suggesting this topic and for finding these sites!!!  Watch the blog for a future entry on similar Canadian sources of FOI documents.

After discovering this morning that a brand of potato-leek soup might have undeclared clams in it….this seemed like an appropriate database to highlight.   The Healthy Canadians website has played host to a database of recalled food and consumer products since 2007.  You can search by product or by food and the site also provides links to lists of recalled foods and products by month,  and articles on various food/product safety topics.

A related site you may be interested to look at is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.   This provides you with a great deal of  information related to food & food chain safety in Canada.  Also links to the various authorities in each region that are responsible for handling restaurant complaints and  inspections.

  • For Vancouver, this is the Coastal Health Authority.  The Health Authority has a very handy database that will allow you to search for and view restaurant inspections for food establishments in Vancouver,  North Vancouver, West Vancouver,  “Bellas,” Richmond and Bowen Island.  Just may be more information than you wanted to know!

Now seems like a good time to look at government sources of information regarding the upcoming winter Olympics.  There is an impressive array of information freely available on the web from government sites: reports, contracts, statistics, financial accounts, media releases etc.

2010 Winter Games Secretariat:  From the BC government this site is a rich source of BC Government press releases, reports, business plans/budgets and contribution agreements between government(s) and venue providers!

  • Hover over about us to click on the reports and publications link – which will bring up contribution agreements as well as reports

    • Note, reports include Pricewaterhouse Coopers reports on the expected economic and social benefits of hosting the games
    Latest news releases are available on the homepage or you can take a look at the entire archive of releases here.

Vanoc’s site also has some interesting reports:

Canada2010 is the federal government’s Olympics website.  You can find:

You can also check out the media room on the city of Vancouver site – with links to news releases and quick facts/backgrounders

The online Atlas of Canada from Natural Resources Canada has recently added a theme page covering the upcoming 2010 Olympic games.

“In advance of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Atlas of Canada is pleased to provide to the public a special series of maps on the following themes.

The maps in the 2010 Winter Olympics series include:

  • the general physical activity of Canadians by health region
  • the sports participation rates of Canadians in downhill skiing, ice hockey and ice skating
  • the place of birth of past Winter Olympic medallists and when known, new Winter Olympic and Paralympic medalists
  • geography of the Vancouver region showing the population, climate, physical environment and economy of the region”

Maps come with extensive documentation explaining various map features.  The site also includes articles on Olympic medalists, winter sports, the geography of the Vancouver games region and physical activity.

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