Government Information in Canada/Information gouvernementale au Canada, Volume 3, number/numéro 2 (fall/automne 1996)
On "Data Liberation and Academic Freedom" 1

Vivian J. Hajnal 2
Department of Educational Administration
University of Saskatchewan

Thank you for an interesting paper, which reminded me of the importance of quantitative data and numerical literacy. I commend you for your work in support of the Data Liberation Initiative (DLI). Your paper is particularly timely because of this conference and the release last week of the results of the recent Canadian Literacy Study, which reports a less than stellar performance in numerical literacy by Canadians.

There is no doubt about the "importance of full and affordable access to data" and the necessity for a "data culture" to enable Canadians to engage in discourse about our past and our future. Without a periodic return to data, we base our arguments on interpretations of others, many of whom have some vested interest.

It is wonderful to be able to celebrate the success of this collaborative effort between the government and the universities and to congratulate both of you for the foresight you have shown. Although I am very supportive of DLI and your efforts, I want to turn our attention to five issues which deserve further consideration.

  1. Why is the DLI a five-year pilot? Researchers who stopped using Statistics Canada data files after the hefty price increases in the 80s may now take up the data again. What assurances do they have that they will be able to afford the data when the agreement expires? The five-year time line is very short. It will take two to three years before people return to the Statistics Canada data as a research base. One more change in direction and researchers will stop bothering. You may well want to assess the success of the pilot too early in the cycle.

  2. Is this the thin edge of the wedge? Now that you have a cost-sharing agreement, however favourable to the universities, will you consider it a precedent and propose a similar arrangement for the Depository Services Program?

  3. What is the message for collaborative research? In many instances the face of research has changed. We work with partners in other countries. Will they also have access to the data?

  4. Foreign researchers are interested in Canadian issues and we have Canadian graduate students studying abroad. What are their possibilities for data access?

  5. What about access to data by the general public and small businesses? Yes, the banks can afford to pay for any data, but what about the people running small independent businesses, the people who finished their Bachelors of Commerce recently, who learned the value of data, and who started their own businesses? What access do they or other members of the general public have?

I want to thank you again for the paper and end my comments with strong support for both data liberation and academic freedom. I hope we have both for a long time to come.


[1] May be cited as/On peut citer comme suit:

Hajnal, Vivian J. "On 'Data Liberation and Academic Freedom'" Government Information in Canada/Information gouvernementale au Canada 3, no. 2 (1996). []
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Vivian J. Hajnal
Department of Educational Administration
College of Education
University of Saskatchewan
28 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK
S7N 0X1
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