Charting progress...

January 24, 2013

Today, Statistics Canada enters the world of blogging. The goal of the StatCan Blog is to pull back the curtain to explain some of the agency’s inner workings, and to show the links between quality statistics and the lives of Canadians.

Chief Statistician Wayne Smith expects that the blog will demystify some of the agency’s decisions, priorities and methodologies, and serve as a trusted source of information on pending initiatives. “We need, in a very systematic way, to tell Canadians what we’re working on and why it is coming, so that people can interact with us throughout the statistical process.”

The StatCan Blog also offers Canadians a chance to comment and provide feedback on the agency’s direction. By broadening its dialogue with users to online channels, Statistics Canada will better understand their interests and expectations, which, in turn, will help the agency make decisions on where to set priorities.

Statistical agencies play a fundamental role in the democratic process, and in nurturing public debate, by providing objective, accurate data and analysis. Businesses use data to decide site locations. Governments use data to discuss where to build schools or to assess whether a program is meeting its objectives. Health officials use data to track links between lifestyle and health. And everyone uses data to make informed decisions.

For Statistics Canada, maintaining trust with users is paramount. “As long as people trust and believe our data, the debate then becomes about the substantive issues and not the data itself,” Mr. Smith noted. “Without that trust, we are just a big number-generating machine.” 

Like most endeavours at the agency, the blog’s topics will have a certain statistical gravitas: the Framework for Environment Statistics, the System of National Accounts, the Consumer Price Index Enhancement Initiative, the Survey of Financial Security, as well as some broader topics, such as the use of microdata or the new model for publishing data online.

The Chief Statistician believes in the importance of linking these sometimes arcane-sounding initiatives to people’s own backyards. He cites environment statistics as a prime example. Statistics Canada is an OECD leader in finding ways to profile the environment by approaching the ecosystem as a dynamic resource affected by economic activity. Measurements could address crucial questions like “whether air is breathable, whether water is drinkable, or whether people’s health is affected.” 

Similarly, the Survey of Financial Security is a way to measure wealth beyond the weekly paycheque. “You do not fully understand the economic situation of Canadians until you have a measure of both income and wealth. It makes a fundamental difference whether you own your home or rent it, whether you have a mortgage or don’t have a mortgage, whether you have $200,000 or $10 in the bank.”  

The blog is the latest step in engaging Canadians by using social media, supplementing the agency’s presence on Twitter and YouTube. These social media initiatives reflect the increasingly digital milieu in which Statistics Canada operates. This reality also alters the way that Statistics Canada collects, shakes and stirs data. Door knocks, phone calls and traditional data processing are being replaced with e‑questionnaires, data mining and apps.

In the ever-expanding digital environment, Statistics Canada is using emerging technologies to better communicate statistics and to personalize user interaction. For example, CANSIM, the agency’s main database, became free in 2012. In ‘self-serve’ mode, users can now obtain, customize and manipulate data.

This StatCan blog offers a glimpse of the agency’s future, and provides a setting where Canadians can have a say about where Statistics Canada is heading.


Next month: The Consumer Price Index Enhancement Initiative

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User comments

A great development! Looking forward to regular posts.

A good start, but please try to make the the voice of the blog not sound like a news release. I do like what you have been doing on twitter and look forward to following.

Very glad to see Statistics Canada acknowledging its fundamental role in the democratic process. It's time to make Statistics Canada an arms-length agency of government, to strengthen its indepdendence and trustworthiness.
Really glad to see Statistics Canada use this blog to discuss these issues and further increase its transparency. Kudos!

Congratulations on this development. I am looking forward to learning more about how StatsCan works and the philosophy behind what you do.

Twitter login for comments would be helpful. Will you tweet blog posts from statcan_eng or a dedicated handle?

Hi zerodown,

Users have to log into their StatCan Blog account to post comments. We will be tweeting blog posts from our twitter accounts @StatCan_eng and @StatCan_fra.

Congratulations! The full embracing of your public responsibility, from open licensing to open engagement like this blog, will make Statistics Canada an even more widely appreciated and invaluable resource (and hopefully a less assailable one!) for citizens and businesses alike. Here's hoping this becomes a real dialogue and strengthens your support from and for the user community.

Greetings from The Yukon and congrats on this new chapter...

Why not call attention to the other language(s) blog of StatCan
( Do you prefere StatCan or StatsCan?)
such as phrases as :
"Door knocks, phone calls and traditional data processing are being replaced with e‑questionnaires, data mining and apps." comparing with
"Les visites à domicile, les appels téléphoniques et le traitement traditionnel des données sont peu à peu remplacés par les questionnaires électroniques, l’exploration des données et les applications."

And can we have mention on your cooperation with provincial, (and international) statistical agencies such as BC stats which sent its many twitter followers to you today.
"BC Stats @bcstats
@StatCan_eng Already enjoying it. Thanks for the reading material. Looking forward to your #CPI post!

Congrats to @StatCan_eng on launching their new blog .. check out their first post "Charting progress"

In general, we go with Statistics Canada. However, for the blog, we chose StatCan Blog and Blogue de StatCan.

Like all Government of Canada communications, the blog is bilingual and readers can comment in either language.

The tweet from BC Stats is appreciated. Statistics Canada appreciates the support and collaboration of its provincial and international counterparts.

Yipee! New blog to follow! Yaaayyy

I like your enthusiasm

Stats Can is one of my favourite federal agencies, mainly because of their commitment to data integrity. My area of interest is in crime and criminal justice, and it agonizes me to see data politicized or misused by people who should know better.

Congrats to everyone at Statistics Canada that was part of the process in making this happen. I'm sure there were numerous hurdles that you faced and managed to succesfully overcome. I am looking forward to the discussion ahead.

Hopefully this won't just be a dry monthly bulletin that only posts long, serious pieces on "decisions, priorities and methodologies" and "pending initiatives". It would be great if this is a real blog: frequent posts, short and less formal, engaged with the wider statistics blogosphere (with lots of links).

StatsCan is by far the best federal agency. Looking forward to the CPI enhancement initiative blog tomorrow. Hopefully you'll explain some misconceptions of what the CPI is, along with the improvements you're doing to the index.