Looking for a better way to search survey data?

January 21, 2010

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Looking for an easier way to access social science survey data such as the Canadian census, Statistics Canada’s omnibus survey or the Survey of Labour Income and Dynamics?

Seek no more. SFU students and researchers now have an effortless way to search such datasets thanks to StatsCan’s Data Liberation Initiative, a project involving all major Canadian universities.

Walter Piovesan, SFU librarian for research data services, has been working on the Data Liberation Initiative since day one. He has just finished helping to organize the four major B.C. university libraries’ participation in a province-wide, web-based service called ABACUS for accessing these files and documents.

UBC hosts the software, which SFU researchers can now access at

The new service offers GIS data sets and will include a NESSTAR data server for analyzing selected Canadian surveys on-line. NESSTAR—Networked Social Science Tools and Resources—is a web application that English and Norwegian universities developed to make it easier to locate, access and analyze statistical information online.

"Professors and researchers are used to getting data in an old-fashioned way via WebDav, which has a poor interface," says Piovesan.

"But with ABACUS, researchers can search all available datasets using nothing more than a web browser. All that’s required is a login using their university IDs."

Datasets include DMTI Spatial, Ortho Photos and Canadian Business Patterns. ABACUS is a partnership between SFU, UBC, UNBC and UVic.


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Daram Gita

I think UBC was the lead on this project - in terms of getting it going and funding it - oh yeah and hosting this, interesting to see SFU trying to play up its role

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