Update on the Statistical Abstract and a new threat to government data

I blogged last month that Statistical Abstract would continue in private hands. Among the unanswered questions were the content and the price of the printed edition to be published by Bernan. I received the following information by e-mail from them today:

ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States Update
As we announced in this newsletter last month, Bernan Press and ProQuest are teaming up to rescue one of libraries’ most valued reference tools by publishing the ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States beginning with the 2013 edition.
We have received several inquiries for details about the new version, and we will be using this monthly newsletter to provide information about the ProQuest Statistical Abstract as well as sharing updates on the progress of the 2013 edition.

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we’ve received:

Q: When will the 2013 edition be published?
A: We are working towards a publication date of late November. Of course, this is subject to change and it could be ready a little earlier or later, but we’re committed to maintaining the publication cycle established over the years for this important reference resource.

Q: What is the price for the 2013 edition?
A: The 2013 edition will have a retail price of $179. Please note that pre-publication discounts and multi-volume discounts are available-discount pricing will range from $143.20 to $161. Standing Order customers will automatically receive the pre-publication discount. Orders can be placed at www.bernan.com, by calling 1-800-865-3457 or emailing order@bernan.com.

Will the new edition contain the same tables as the traditional Statistical Abstract?
A: The 2013 edition will be as close as possible to previous editions, with roughly the same number of tables and valuable, detailed bibliographic documentation, an updated back-of-the-book index, and updated introductory sections. Each edition of the Statistical Abstract is unique, but like the versions previously compiled by the Census Bureau, the editors will adhere to the same methodology and utilize the same sources whenever possible.

Q: How will the new edition compare in the look and feel with the traditional version?
A: The new edition will be identical to previous editions of the Bernan Press Library Edition of the Statistical Abstract. Unlike the 6″x9″ traditional government edition, which came in both hardcover and paperback versions, the new edition will be 8 ½”x11″ hardcover with a sturdy binding designed to withstand heavy use and frequent photocopying in libraries. Importantly, the text and tables will be presented in an easily readable format with 25% larger type than in the previous government editions.

Be sure to read next month’s newsletter where we will address questions regarding the expertise of the editorial staff working on the publication, the integrity of the data and the sources used.

Sounds as if the book will be sturdier and have larger type. That’s nice. However, it will be far more expensive than the current hardcover published by the U.S. Government Printing Office ($44). Bernan’s price ($179 list) puts it beyond the range of the average person. Only libraries will buy it.

A New Threat

Information Today reports that an appropriation bill passed by the House of Representatives would eliminate the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The ACS compiles data from the so-called “long form” filled out by a subset of Americans. It also conducts the Economic Census in between the standard decennial censuses. As Barbie E. Keiser puts it:

By combining the demographic data with industry activity, government programs and businesses can plan how best to spend their funds. Insights on family structure, household and consumer spending habits derived from ACS forms, such as length of commute and mode of transport to/from work, drive new product developments and targeted marketing. The more accurate the data, the better the decisions made, particularly with regard to providing social services at the local level. Republicans, in particular, have disputed the validity of sampling, which may have been a factor in the mostly party line vote on the Census Bureau budget.

The Senate may reinstate ACS’ funding, but that’s by no means certain.

For a more political view of all of this, albeit with quotes from businesspeople and the mainstream media, see: this Daily Kos article.

New U.S. Water Quality Portal #waterquality

A new Water Quality Portal [waterqualitydata.us] was released by agencies of the U.S. federal government on May 1.

What is the WQP:

The Water Quality Portal (WQP) is a cooperative service sponsored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NWQMC) that integrates publicly available water quality data from the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS) and the EPA STOrage and RETrieval (STORET) Data Warehouse.

The EPA water quality data originate from the STORET Data Warehouse, which is the EPA’s repository of water quality monitoring data collected by water resource management groups across the country. Organizations, including states, tribes, watershed groups, other federal agencies, volunteer groups and universities, submit data to the STORET Warehouse in order to make their data publicly accessible. For more information about STORET, see the STORET Home Page.

The USGS water quality data originate from the NWISWeb Database. The database contains current and historical water data from more than 1.5 million sites across the nation and is used by state and local governments, public and private utilities, private citizens, and other federal agencies involved with managing our water resources. For more information on what data are available and how NWIS data are mapped to the Water Quality Exchange (WQX) format, visit NWIS Water Quality Web Services.

More from the USGS:

The Portal provides a single, user-friendly web interface showing where water quality information is available from federal, state, tribal and other water partners. It reduces the burden to data users searching, compiling, and formatting water monitoring data for analysis, and provides scientists, policy-makers, and the public with a single web interface to query data stored in STORET and NWIS.

Data users can choose from a variety of filters including geographic and sample parameters, to narrow down the dataset by state, county, organization, watershed, and sites of interest. Downloaded data can be served out in comma-separated, tab-separated, MS Excel, Keyhole Markup Language (KML) and Extensible Markup Language (XML) file formats.

The Portal utilizes the common nomenclature known as the Water Quality Exchange (WQX) to retrieve data from NWIS and STORET and publish it in a consistent format. The Portal is designed to support additional data sources that are integrated with the WQX template. EPA offers a web-based data entry tool called WQX-Web that enables data owners to upload their data for use by the Portal.

Future enhancements to the portal include the development of the Portal’s interface, web services, and compatibility with popular mapping tools.

Climatological data will be free starting Monday

I received the following e-mail this week from the National Climatic Data Center:

If you are receiving this email you are a current online subscriber to Edited Local Climatological Data (Edited LCD) publication, Climatological Data (CD) publication, Edited Local Climatological Data – ALL stations, ASCII files only, or the Edited Local Climatological Data, Annual Summary – ALL stations, PDF files only.

Major changes are in the process of being implemented to our online publications and subscriptions access systems. Beginning on Monday, February 13th, publications will no longer be available for subscription purchase. Each of the major publications available from our Imaging and Publications system will become available to all users at no charge. If you are a current subscriber, you may continue to access your data via the subscription access system, however, it is not necessary. You may simply visit the Images and Publications (IPS) web page for access – http://www7.ncdc.noaa.gov/IPS/

Online ordering of certification for the Edited LCD publication will continue to be available for purchase through the online store and a link for this will be provided via the IPS system.

These changes are part of NCDC’s ongoing effort to provide more of our online data to all users at no charge.

This is very great news (and probably about time). When I would renew our subscription every year, I would be amused by the question asking where I had heard of Climatological Data. I can’t remember not knowing about it! Every library I have worked in has had a subscription to Climatological Data for our state. It’s the basic record of weather and climate data for as long as such data have been kept.

This is especially good news when the federal government is considering not keeping or not publishing some very basic statistics that it has long provided.

As long as I’m feeling all utopian and all, maybe I can wish that a freely accessible source of authoritative data could bring some agreement to the climate change disputes. Probably not, but I can dream.

Library and Information Updates: Data.gov, Statistical Abstract, Special Libraries Association, INFOdocket

Data.gov and Other Sources of U.S. Government Data

Data.gov, USASpending.gov, and other web sources for federal government data saw the budget that funds them cut by more than three-fourths (from $35 million down to $8 million) in the FY 2011 budget deal. But Rep. Darell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he can save some of the sites.

Statistical Abstract

Meanwhile, librarians are fighting to save the Statistical Abstract, City and County Databook, and other compilations published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Compendia Branch. The Branch was zeroed out in President Obama’s FY 2012 budget. The American Library Association and Association of Research Libraries are asking Congress to restore funding. You can, and should, do the same. There’s also a group on Facebook and a petition on Change.org, but nothing is more important than writing your representative and senators.

Special Libraries Association

SLA has a blog going all this year, Future Ready 365, in which each day a different librarian writes about how she or he is ready for the future. You can read something inspiring everyday. And if you’re a librarian who feels ready for the future, you can tell the world about it. There’s also a Future Ready Toolkit with more resources.

Deb Hunt recently spoke about the web site: Revisit SLA.org, OR “I didn’t know that was there!”

Infodocket

If you’re like me, you follow the work of librarian/web maven Gary Price. And if you’re like me, you wondered why the formerly prolific posts on his site ResourceShelf suddenly slacked off earlier this year. It turns out that Gary, and his writing partner Shirl Kennedy, have started a new site called INFOdocket, where they write about news of the library and Internet worlds. They also have a site called FullTextReports, which is just what it says: full-text reports in the news.

Valuable sources of government data slated to go away, part II

U.S. Census Bureau to Eliminate Strategic Publications Including Statistical Abstracts by Barbie Keiser, Info Today, March 28:

It was felt that the popular Statistical Abstract of the United States—the “go to” reference for those who don’t know whether a statistic is available, let alone which agency/department is responsible for it—could be sacrificed. Staff will be moving to “Communications,” digitizing the data set. It is hoped that the private sector—commercial publishers—will see the benefit of publishing some version of the title in the future.

Statistical Abstract is a convenient and user-friendly resource to consult. In addition, this may be the original mashup. As an example, Table 663, Labor Union Membership by Sector, 1985-2009, indicates that while based on Current Population Survey, the source of some data in the table is a Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), the BNA publication, and research authored by two academics (their names, affiliation, and website URLs included). Published since 1878, the print and online version of this publication will cease with the 130th edition. Other publications getting the axe include:

  • Current Industrial Reports (CIR), “providing monthly, quarterly, and annual measures of industrial activity” for highly specific products. Among the CIRs most recently posted to the website include Fats and Oils, Flour Milling Products, and Inorganic Chemicals. Perhaps most useful is the fact that the individual responsible for each publication is named and a telephone number (direct line) provided. From the Budget, we learn that the Bureau “will expand the NAICS industry product detail for some manufacturing industries in the 2012 Economic Census to minimize the loss incurred through the cancellation of the CIR program.”
  • The County and City Data Book and State and Metropolitan Area Data Book will no longer be printed, but the data will remain available online. (Thankfully, the Census Bureau has a good help desk to assist those who find the online data tools confusing. For those who don’t believe that difficulties are encountered, try the 2010 Factfinder at http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml). Commercial publishers make a good deal of money compiling tables and ranking states/cities, so that the public may be able to purchase convenient presentations of this data should it find the books easier to use than pulling the data from the Census website.
  • Other terminations mentioned in the Executive Summary (page CEN-6) include Federal Financial Statistics, Foreign Research and Analysis, Demographic Call Center, Population Distributions.

Barbie goes on to point out some the illogic behind the decisions about what to keep and what to drop.

See also:

American Library Association action alert: Contact appropriators and tell them to oppose the defunding of the Statistical Compendia Branch!

Pegasus Librarian’s Statistical Abstract of the United States on the Chopping Block (includes a sample letter to Congress members)

Statistical Abstract to bite the dust, University of Michigan library

Valuable sources of government data slated to go away

The Statistical Abstract is zeroed out in the Commerce Dept.’s budget for next fiscal year. This is a valuable source of facts and statistics compiled by the government since 1878. Even if some of those facts are available elsewhere, the “Stat Abs,” as its fans call it, makes it so convenient to have them in one place and to have sources for all that data.

If you’re not familiar with it, take a look at the online version of the Statistical Abstract. Then do what you can to help save the Statistical Abstract.

Much more recent than the Stat Abs is Data.gov. This site allows anyone with the right programming skills to reuse government data. They can even use it to produce profit-making web sites. (You’d think conservatives would appreciate that.) However, it too is on the chopping block.

Tell your senators and representatives to fund these valuable sources of government information.