Author Archive

Winter 2010 newsletter

The winter 2010 issue of the APLIC Communicator is here! Check it out for a message from new APLIC president Claire Twose, and preview of the upcoming APLIC conference, membership renewal information, three articles about library moves, and a calendar of events.

If you have comments about the Communicator, or if you’d like to write for the newsletter, please contact me or my co-editor Laurie Calhoun.

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New blog: All Things Census

All Things Census is a new blog from the Pew Research Center dedicated to “census methodology, findings and resources.”

The 2010 Census kicks off next week in a remote village in Alaska, but most Americans will receive their Census forms in March.

APLIC will present a session on the 2010 Census at our annual conference in April.

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US AIDS initiative and population growth in Africa

Researchers say that US AIDS initiatives under the Bush administration, which prohibited the promotion of contraception, have contributed to population growth in Africa, according to a McClatchy News Service story.

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New APLIC web site

The new APLIC web site is here! The new web site uses our new logo, unveiled at the annual conference earlier this year, and we’ve made some minor changes to the make the site easier for our members to navigate.

If you have comments or suggestions about the web site, or if you can’t find something, please let us know by leaving a comment on this post or by contacting a member of the APLIC Communications Committee:

Tara Murray

Laurie Calhoun

Nykia Perez

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APLIC get-together at SLA 2009

Morgan Grimes, Laurie Calhoun, Erin Barker, Tara Murray

Morgan Grimes, Laurie Calhoun, Erin Barker, Tara Murray

Several APLIC members attended the SLA 2009 conference in Washington, DC. Four of us met up at Co Co. Sala for an informal APLIC meeting.

If you attended a session at SLA that you think would interest other APLIC members, please write about it for the APLIC blog! You can post directly if you are a blog author, or you can send your report to me for posting.

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APLIC Communicator Summer 2009 issue now available

The latest issue of APLIC’s newsletter, the APLIC Communicator, is now available on our web site.

This issue includes Kiet Bang’s president’s message, reports from the 2009 APLIC conference, APLIC’s new logo, and a preview of the SLA conference taking place next week in Washington, DC.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and the blog posts about the conference. Please comment on the blog, and if you are interested in writing for either the blog or the newsletter, please contact me or my co-editor Laurie Calhoun.

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Understanding China Demographic Data with GIS

Report from the APLIC 2009 conference, submitted by Mary Panke

Shuming Bao, Senior Research Coordinator for China Initiatives, China Data Center, University of Michigan

Dr. Bao presented attendees with a richly informative overview of groundbreaking and relatively new online China data resources emerging from the China Data Center at the University of Michigan. The Center, inherited from the CITAS project, was founded in 1997 to aid in the international study of China. Dr. Bao explained that in the past, detailed census data from China has been difficult to study for a host of reasons. The language barrier, and the fact that the data was stored in hundreds of hardcopy statistical yearbooks records created significant obstacles, but other factors contributed as well. The data was based not on geography, as with US census data, but on political units. The data had also been collected at inconsistent intervals until after the Cultural Revolution when the 1990 and 2000 collections began to conform more closely to the US standard – collecting at 10 year intervals, and with much richer data. Dr. Bao further explained how the fortuitous convergence of richer data, digitization of the data, and integration with GIS maps has yielded a powerful new frontier for quantitative research and spatial studies.

Dr. Bao acquainted attendees with some of the Groundbreaking projects undertaken at the Center. Detailed maps of China have been generated, where none existed before, plotting boundaries, rivers, highways, etc. China data is now being factored into interdisciplinary spatial studies on population, environment, hydrology, and public health. More than 2800 Census data assemblies are now available electronically, for both counties and provinces in China, furnishing a wealth information on general population, mortality, nationalities, marriage, age, education, occupation, housing migration, and more. A newly relased tool – The Census Data Reports and Maps Online – is now available in beta. This comprehensive tool includes 2000 population census data for over 50,000 townships in China, 2004 economic census data for over 5 million units, population estimates for 9.6 million square kilometer grids and summary, comparison, rank, or customizable reports as well as custom reports, maps, and charts ready for publication. As with most of the resources available through the Center, the tool is designed for use by non-specialists as well as China scholars and can generate very powerful results in only a few clicks.

Dr. Bao gave attendees a glimpse of the creative potential of these resources by reviewing some of the case studies based on this data. Studies include assessments of the current and potential impacts of earthquakes on resident populations, migration scenarios and the development of sparsely populated Western China, a GIS-based cultural map of the Silkroad to build Western awareness of cultural/artistic traditions of China, and work on rural poverty alleviation strategies using household-level surveys to study nutrition, education, government programs, credit and investment. One of the goals of the Center is to publicize the availability of these rich resources, and you can help by bringing them to the attention of your patrons and adding the following link to your demographic resource “favorites”:

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Collaboration and virtual organizations

Report from the APLIC 2009 conference, submitted by Claire Twose

Presentation by Thomas Finholt, Professor and associate dean for research and innovation, School of Information, University of Michigan (April 29, 2009)

Dr. Finholt’s overall argument was that we are in the midst of a significant change in kind of virtual collaborations and virtual organizations that are active and therefore we also need new research approaches to understand and model them.

He framed the presentation in three “acts”: theoretical basis, learning from past research, and future directions.

First Act: Theory

Three ways to describe the shift that affects theoretical approaches:

  1. from small group to crowd: i.e. from a focus on traditional research teams of from 5-8 to online collaborations like Wikipedia and many others
  2. from Human Computer Interaction to social computing (from understanding page design and usability to the social dynamics of Facebook/mySpace)
  3. from psychology (how are we parsing/navigating a screen; social psychology) to economic and sociological approaches that are tailored to model the behavior of large groups

Second Act: Lessons learned from earlier research

Dr. Finholt drew lessons on the clash of work cultures from a study of the NSF funded George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES).

The analysis of cultures he described was along four broad dimensions:

  1. Hierarchy
  2. Collaboration
  3. Masculine/feminine (social monitoring low to high)
  4. Orientation to risk: seeking or not seeking novelty

The NSF study brought together civil engineers and the best IT staff (“hackers”), who only shared one similarity on these four dimensions–they were both “low” social monitors. Civil engineers in general are extremely hierarchical and individualist, the most conservative of engineers (who are already very conservative), and very low risk orientation. The ‘hacker’ IT programmers on this project by contrast had a flat, collectivist culture, with a high risk orientation, always wanting to try new things.

Lessons learned included:

  • It’s important to manage first contacts, script them, help people get over barriers of language
  • Communication has to be intentional activity
  • Find or create common ground, common goals
  • And, the technology is pretty much irrelevant to success: people, managing relationships are the big challenges.

Third Act: New Collaborations

Dr. Finholt then described several examples of new technologies that were virtual collaborations or fostered such collaborations.

  • Ultra-resolution collaboration: Images of the Optiportal at Michigan were shown, an environment to support “radical virtual collocation” using wall-sized displays that researchers in different locations can simultaneously observe. One recent example of the impact of such collaboration was the response to the SARS outbreak. Julie Gerberding, then director of the CDC, reported that video conferencing was instrumental in sharing research and analyzing the virus as quickly as they did.
  • “Crowd sourcing”: E.g. Innocentive.  Finholt gave an example of a New Orleans barge operator who needed to get silt out of barges. The barge operator put out his problem on the site, along with what he was willing to pay for a successful answer. Someone from upper states responded with an idea that worked.
  • “Clickworkers”:Small, incremental contributions from many people, harnessing human computation ability.
    • Scoring mars craters–it took 3 weeks to do what would have taken one expert 4.5 years to complete. Quality assessments of this project showed the voluntary contributions were at or better than expert level.
    • Picassa–creating tag fields for images

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The future of survey research and data access

The Associated Press released a story yesterday about the rise in households without a landline telephone. The story mentions one consequence of growing reliance on cell phones that is often neglected in this kind of story: polling and survey research, which APLIC’s members rely on in their work.

Growing numbers of surveys now include calls to people on their cells, which is more expensive partly because federal laws forbid pollsters from using computers to place calls to wireless phones.

This makes it particularly difficult to reach low-income and young adult populations, which are more likely to have only a cell phone.

Perry Building, home to ICPSR and the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center

Perry Building, home to ICPSR and the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center

Those who attended the tour of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center during the APLIC conference last week learned about this and other challenges in survey research, including declining response rates, the expense of in-person interviews, and the new challenges of collectign biological samples in conjunction with surveys.

We then moved to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), where we learned about the challenges of data archiving and access.

The following day, ICPSR director Myron Gutmann gave a keynote about spatial data and confidentiality. “You cannot have spatially explicit information without identification,” he said. But, he added, “spatial information adds tremendous value to research.”

Gutmann’s talk was based on a book (Putting People on the Map) and an article (Providing Spatial Data for Secondary Analysis) he wrote.

The challenge, Gutmann said, is to figure out how to responsibly share data where there are significant confidentiality risks. Data collection is very expensive, as we’d learned the day before at the Survey Research Center, so it makes sense to get as much use out of it as possible.

While Gutmann noted that there have been no significant breaches of confidentiality from research data, the risk is great. Even if a data archive removes identifying and spatial data, spatial data published elsewhere (such as a map in an article) could present a disclosure risk when combined with the data.

Gutmann encouraged researchers to think about data dissemination “early and often,” and to avoid publishing potentially identifying information – for example, acknowledging sample units such as schools and hospitals in articles.

As for the future, Gutmann believes that data will move to distributed online systems which will combine data on the fly, recognize confidentiality issues automatically, and build user communities based on dynamic data use. In the mean time, we can continue to expect institutional solutions to data security, ranging from the least restrictive (web access) to the most (data enclaves).

After the APLIC conference, I headed to Detroit for the Population Association of America annual meeting. There a panel of experts echoed some of the same concerns about survey research, and called for more work in survey methodology.

Keith Hall from the Bureau of Labor Statistics explained how technology is changing the way they conduct surveys. While technology can increase capabilities (BLS does a lot of internet data collection), it doesn’t necessarily decrease costs, contrary to popular belief.  When funding decreases, they continue to produce data, but it is of lower quality because of reduced sample sizes and training.

Howard Hogan from the U.S. Census Bureau began his remarks by talking about the initiative to change the Survey of Income and Program Participation from using surveys to using administrative data. Hogan was in favor of the change initially, but has since been won over to the advantages of surveys, which include:

  • Flexibility. Questions can be added relatively easily.
  • Quicker results.
  • Sub-annual data.
  • Consistency. Questions not subject to the whims of administrators.
  • Greater potential for public use. Respondents cannot be identified by administrators.

With all these advantages, Hogan noted that in the end, surveys are not even much more expensive than using administrative data. He did note that there are many ways to combine survey and administrative data to find useful information.

Barbara Entwistle from the University of North Carolina talked about the new National Children’s Study, an example of a nationally representative survey collecting many types of data, including biological, psychological, chemical exposure, and medical.

I came away from listening to all these experts feeling that it is an exciting time to be involved in population research. There are major changes that, while they present risks and challenges, greatly increase the amount and kind of data we can collect to better our understanding of ourselves.

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Capture This

Report from the APLIC 2009 conference, submitted by Margie Shiels

A panel of APLIC members described some of the tools they had been using for Web tutorials – or just in time teaching. I think we all walked away excited about the potential applications of these tools which ranged from free to low cost.

Morgan Grimes, Population Action International

Jing is a free tool though there is also a “pro” version where you can get additional features for a minimal charge ($15 a year). The free download allows you to create videos of 5 minutes or less. It doesn’t allow any editing, so you have to start over if you make a mistake, but for simple videos that record your computer actions, it’s a good way to go. It seems simple to use, too, so it’s not an intimidating tool to try.

Lori Delaney, Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Captivate is an adobe product that allows you to create more advance tutorials with quizes and audio as well as video. While the list price is $795, you can get educational discounts from the company.

CPC used Captivate to create a Popline tutorial.

From the group

Tara Murray (Penn State) has Camtasia though she hasn’t had much change to use it yet.

Corrine Farrell (IntraHealth) has used Articulate for orientations and Camtasia to do a Sharepoint tutorial for field office staff.

Lee Ridley (Univeristy of Michigan) has simply been using Photoshop and PowerPoint, but prefers the seamlessness of the e-learning tools presented.

Julia Cleaver (Ipas) has seen a tutorial developed for orientations for new hires, but it was outsourced, so no telling what was used and no way to edit it as things change at her organization. For her library orientations, Julia would ideally like a system that used online tutorials for some parts, but still allowed the element of human interaction.

There are also a couple of additional tools that have allowed folks to record audio with PowerPoint presentations. The ones above will also do this. Lori has used Audacity – free at CPC. At Ipas they have used Elluminate. They get a special low price for being a member of LINGOs.

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