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Tools and Apps

OECD Factbook for iPhone, data visualization tools, new American Factfinder, entries focused on the container rather than the content

Informal Review of Thomson-Reuters Data Citation Index

The Thomson-Reuters Data Citation Index (DCI) has been up and running for just over a year. The University of Minnesota (UMN) had a trial of the database when the DCI first launched, but because so little of the database was populated at that time, it was hard to assess it completely. We felt that after a year, it would be worthwhile to revisit it. The initial annual subscrption prices were significant. The UMN's initial quote in late 2012 was over $20,000/year. The Like many universities, when we consider new acquisitions, it's always in light of what we'd have to cancel since at best, our budgets remain flat. Therefore, a potential new acquisition has to not just be good, but a better use of our funds than what we already have.

What makes the DCI interesting is that puts datasets and journal literature into a single platform, namely Thomson-Reuter's Web of Science (WoS). Within the overall WoS, there is a core collection that constitutes the default search for subscribers. We know from our own statistics as well as vendor supplied statistics that our users do indeed go to WoS. We know that there is use of specialized databases for datasets like ICPSR's archive, but the volume of use is much lower. If we had a single tool that made it easy for researchers to just search - without having to worry about what they're searching - we believe that we'd see an increase in use of datasets as primary research inputs and greater acceptance of them as primary research outputs. So, that became our standard for measuring the DCI: how has Thomson-Reuters integrated DCI content into the WoS platform and is that integration strong enough to allow researchers to just search? Is the DCI part of the core collection? If not, do the links at the record level between datasets and articles provide an adequate substitute? So far, for the UMN, the answer is no, the integration isn't strong enough to make the DCI a compelling subscription. It's not part of the core collection nor do the links at the record level appear to be robust enough to compensate for its absence from the core collection.

All of that said, the database itself has a number of nice features and shows tremendous potential. I gathered my notes from the UMN's first trial in late 2012 and our current trial at "Thomson Reuters Data Citation Index". They are informal notes and it's possible I may have gotten some things wrong. Working with trial versions of databases can be difficult I welcome comments and corrections!

DDI-XSLT -transform you DDI to XHTML, MARC, PDF

With DDI-XSLT you can tranform your DDI-lifeccle XML to other formats including:

  • DDI 1.2.2 (nesstar)
  • Datacite metadata
  • PDF codebooks

Demo site for transformations
Google code page

The R Guide to ESDS Large-Scale Government Surveys

ESDS Government has produced a new guide, The R Guide to ESDS Large-Scale Government Surveys. The aim of this guide is to provide an introduction to analysing large scale government surveys with the help of the R statistical software package. 

The guide focuses on providing step-by-step examples of common operations most users carry out in the course of their research: how to open data sets, do basic data manipulation operations, produce simple descriptive statistics or weighted contingency tables.

It should be noted however that this guide is not an introduction to R. Beginners should use it in conjunction with one of the more comprehensive guides available online. Links and information about R resources are available at the end of the guide, which is available from

Podcast about "Numeric data services and sources for the general reference librarian" by Lynda Kellam & Katharin Peter

Lynda Kellam & Katharin Peter, two IASSIST members, recently published their book on how to be a data librarian:

Kellam, L. M., & Peter, K. (2011). Numeric data services and sources for the general reference librarian. Oxford: Chandos Publishing. 

Earlier this summer, Lynda discussed the book, data, data literacy and instruction with the folks at "Adventures in Library Instruction".

Highly recommended!

US Department of Labor Tools for Application Development

From the US Department of Labor's website comes an initial set of datasets and mobile SDKs to support the creation of 3rd party interfaces for Department of Labor data.

To use the data, you need to go to to register and get keys for the data. In the initial offering are 

The Department of Labor has also released SDKs for all of the major mobile platforms:

The Department says that they will be releasing additional datasets as time goes by. So, go forth and create!

Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center

A new Web site, the Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center, aims to help those responsible for producing and managing geospatial data learn about the latest approaches and tools available to facilitate long-term geospatial data preservation and access. The Web site provides descriptions and links for a variety of relevant resources, including education and training modules, useful tools and software, information on policies and standards for preserving geospatial data, and examples of successful preservation and associated benefits. This first release of the Web site, which CIESIN will be enhancing over the next year, was developed as an element of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) of the Library of Congress.

World Bank Results At A Glance - iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch

The World Bank has developed an iPhone/iPad/etc application called "World Bank Results at a Glance". These results are indicators related to either UN Millenium Development Goals (where the World Bank has partnered with the UN) or outcomes from exclusively World Bank projects.

The application has 450 indicators for 85 countries. Users can

  • Search and browse over 450 results profiles by
  • country name or coordinates
  • more than 30 topics
  • over 300 keywords, including “roads,” “food security,” “job creation,” and more
  • Millennium Development Goals
  • Save and share stories
  • View a graphic timeline of key World Bank results and milestones
  • Read relevant background about the World Bank’s results initiatives
  • See Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Bank itself, shedding light on the modern workings of the institution
  • Gain access to multiple PDFs in multiple languages related to quick results facts, country statistics, and background on the Bank’s initiatives, all exportable to iBooks
  • View project images and videos

This tool joins three other World Bank applications which cover indicators (DataFinder), nformation (InfoFinder) and doing business around the world (Doing Business at a Glance). All are free via the iTunes store.

As the owner of an Android phone & an iPad who works in an office in which wireless signals go to die, I have mixed feelings about and limited experience with these applications. I suspect I'd find an Android version of all of the applications useful as I use my phone for both work and personal purposes. If it were easy to do so, I'd probably answer reference questions using a World Bank application from my phone.

My iPad is a purely personal toy which is why I have yet to try any of these tools on it - watching movies, reading books and playing Civilization all come first there. However, the iPad, with a bigger screen, might well be a good match to data displays.

An interesting element in the Results application is the "Random" feature. Since I'm working from screenshots, I'm not entirely sure of the function, but then, even if I had the software installed, I still would question the usefulness of the "Random" results feature. If there's one thing that mobile technology supports, it's task-driven activities and a random result doesn't seem to fit that model. On the other hand, I also spent a half an hour poking around an application for the US Congress last night with no particular purpose or task in mind. It's entirely possible that the target audience for this application is just as likely as I am to engage in similarly non-task-driven explorations.

I hope that the World Bank continues its admirable efforts to walk the walk on open data - by not just making it free online with multiple methods of access for all kinds of users, but also available across user devices. I also hope that they begin to release Android-compatible applications so that more of us can make use of the data in more contexts.

United States National Center for Education Statistics DataLab

The National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) Datalab, introduced earlier this year by the United States Department of Education, provides a user-friendly entry to NCES data.  The home page, linked above, links to

  • QuickStats for users of summary data needing quick tables or charts (requires click-through agreement to terms of use)
  • PowerStats for users of microdata needing to run linear and logistic regressions (requires free user registration)
  • Library for users looking for prepared summary tables
  • Links to the Restricted-Use Data Procedures Manual

NCES also promises to soon make available tables already created via the QuickStats and PowerStats tools which would be potentially the most powerful aspect of the Datalab.

OECD Factbook 2010 for iPhone

The OECD has created an iPhone app for the OECD Factbook

From the site "The OECD Factbook App presents 100 economic indicators in a format specially designed for your iPhone. Now, wherever you are, you have easy access to a comprehensive statistical picture of the world’s major economies from the most reliable source: OECD.

The OECD Factbook is organised around 12 themes such as population and migration, macroeconomic trends, and globalization. Each indicator includes a table showing the latest available data for the 30 OECD countries. When available, it also shows data from countries with which the OECD has close co-operation such as Brazil, Russian Federation, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa."

Additional features are the price: free and the French-language version.  I'll be curious to see how this application is used - the best thing about users is that they almost always surprise you with the way they use the tools available to them.

Visualize It! with IMF Data Mapper

The IMF Data Mapper lets you visualize data from some of the IMF’s major sources, including World Economic Outlook, Balance of Payment Statistics, Government Finance Statistics, AFR Regional Economic Outlook, and Joint IMF-OECD Statistics. You can choose from around 80 different indicators, such as GDP, inflation rate or unemployment rate. You can display data for specific countries, regions, or analytical groups, such as the Euro area or emerging and developing economies.

The display includes a zoomable map of the world. If you hover over a particular country, you will see the indicator’s value for that country, and if you click on the map, the display will zoom in. It also provides a line and a bubble chart displaying data points over time. The data for selected indicators can be exported to an excel file or you can export the map and chart as picture files (in .png formats).

The help screen is limited, so you may need to play around with the options to get comfortable with it. Overall, it is a good free source for creating visual displays of international economic data. Take a look at the IMF Data Mapper.

  • Iassist Quarterly

    Publications Welcome to the special double issue 3 & 4 of the IASSIST Quarterly (IQ) volume 36 (2012). This special issue addresses the organizational dimension of digital preservation as it was presented and discussed at the IASSIST conference in May 2013 in Cologne, Germany.


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