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University of Connecticut

The Second Annual State Data Conference

Data Partnerships:

A New Approach to a New Millennium

June 19, 2000

Working Toward a Solution—Current Intiatives:

The Second Annual State Data Conference brought together data users, collectors and providers to share the latest developments in Connecticut data while discussing the needs of our data community. This report outlines some of the current problems within the system, the latest data developments, and future issues for Connecticut’s data needs. The Conference emphasized the importance of partnerships and the need for a virtual State Data Center. Ken Wiggin, the Connecticut State Librarian, has provided a short statement on the presentation he was to make on the new State Data Protocol (see Appendix 1). Appendix 2 contains a description of the websites cited during the meetings.

The purpose of the Second Annual State Data Conference was to continue the conversation started at the First Annual Data Conference held May 10, 1999. The broad objective of this conference series is to create an ongoing symposium in which those involved in different stages of data generation, archiving, distribution, and use can exchange information on current data availability, the challenges they face, their particular needs, and their expectations (or hopes) for future developments. This Conference considered challenges in establishing uniform standards—an issue that lies at the heart of efficient data collection, archiving and dissemination—and discussed what systems for accessing data are now available or being developed in the State. Participants assessed the feasibility of establishing a comprehensive Data Center for Connecticut, and saw both what the forthcoming U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey will offer, and some of the best sites available in other communities. Conference participants came from various sectors, including government agencies, academic scholars, private enterprise and non-profit organizations.

The one-day Conference included eleven presentations organized in four sessions. Two sessions provided in-depth reports on recent advances in remote sensing and the American Community Survey. The other two sessions had multiple presenters. One group of data providers and archivers surveyed innovations in data development on the federal, state, county, town and census block levels. Another group showed what was being done to facilitate use of data for specific constituencies or communities, and how the data was being integrated into scholarship and analysis. The speakers addressed directions for future growth. The following summarizes the challenges, current initiatives and future directions for Connecticut’s data system.

Data Challenges Facing Connecticut:

The First Annual Data Conference concluded that a State Data Center need not be a physical concept. Indeed, a single physical entity attempting to archive all the relevant data and maintain its timelessness would surely fail. This Conference built on that insight, recognizing a “data central” should be a virtual entity, whose purpose should be to create a framework that identifies, organizes and disseminates data efficiently and makes it readily available for users from both public and private sectors. This evolution calls for the cooperation and coordination of parties involved in different stages of data processing, from data collection to final usage.

Presenters provided a valuable roadmap to the principal problems in current data systems:

  • Lack of Intelligent or Meta data:
  • Although the Internet has become a powerful tool in terms of obtaining data, data does not “travel” with the appropriate description (meta data). Without meta data, retrieved data are cut off from their source, and, at the same time, makes data interaction impossible. As users, we do not always know the appropriate uses or limitations for data.

    In addition, data is not integrated with geographical information. Graphics and maps are powerful analytical tools that allow us to visualize data and spatial patterns. However, because of a lack of geographical information, most of the data currently available is not graphable or mappable. Data that are accompanied with meta-data and geographical information are intelligent data.

  • Lack of integrated data:
  • Currently, there are an overwhelming number of stand-alone data systems on the web and in publication. Duplicated effort and high variation in quality are natural results of these isolated and uncoordinated systems. Data users are often confused by the widely variable data from different sources, and frustrated with the inability to reconcile them.

  • Lack of longitudinal data:
  • The analysis of trends and forecasts requires longitudinal data. Unfortunately, most of the currently available databases lack consistent time series data. Users have to search different databases to obtain longitudinal data. Without the appropriate metadata, users typically have inconsistent and incomparable data.

  • Lack of geographical flexibility:
  • Most of the data collected are on the federal and state level. While some databases have county, town and census block data, they do not allow user-defined study areas. For example, some school districts encompass several towns. Without the kind of data that allows regrouping of town level data into school districts, it is impossible to compare different school districts and rank them. Another example is the case of child health, safety, and community services. To appropriately analyze this data, users need local, disaggregated data.

  • Lack of involvement of state and local government:
  • State and local governments collect data for various purposes. The data collected by local governments, e.g., towns, planning districts, etc. are valuable not only for their own purposes but also for local community analysis, policy making and other research programs. Incentives need to be provided to state and local government agencies to share their data with other public and private sector data users.

Working Toward a Solution—Current Intiatives:

The solution to these problems is a well-designed and easily accessible State Data Center built with the cooperation of data producers, processors and distributors and data users. Such an initiative would articulate the appropriate standards and facilitate coordination among different data generators. A variety of initiatives are underway in an effort to respond to these issues.

  • Connecticut’s involvement with and implementation of meta data structures:
  • There is an international effort in developing meta-data guidelines, building metadata infrastructure, and implementing them. The following projects were described in relation to Connecticut:
       The Networked Social Science Tools and Resources presented by Ann Green of Yale University

  • The Census Bureau's FERRETT system discussed by Pat McGlamery, University of Connecticut;
       The Connecticut Data Server project at the University of Connecticut presented by Bob Cromley.

    The Connecticut Data Server provides a portal through which users can access a data catalog describing each database in terms of its source, time of collection, and data content. Users are encouraged to consult the data catalog before acquiring any data. They can then define the geographic region of analysis to extract data available at that level.

  • Bringing mappable data to users:
  • The Connecticut Data Server project is a joint project of the Center for Geographic Information and Analysis ( and the Map and Geographic Information Center ( at the University of Connecticut. The objective is to provide easy access to on-line data for small areas, e.g., tract and block group data. In addition, it aims to provide distributed attributes that can be “joined” with the geographical data for mapping in a geographical information system (GIS).

    This work extends the geographical attributes currently available on the Map and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC) website. Currently, the study areas include the State, counties, congressional districts, regional planning districts, service delivery areas, and tourism areas. The project’s next step is to develop user-defined study areas, which allows users to break up a system-defined study area and construct a study area that suits different study purposes.

  • The effort to build a data web or a “data central”:
  • The University of Connecticut, under the leadership of Professor Robert Cromley and Patrick McGlamery of the Babbidge Library, jointly with the U.S. Census Bureau’s FERRETT Project, are working towards establishing a data web that links federal, state and local data from disparate sources.

    The structure is based on the FERRETT distributed architecture software. When completed, it will serve as an intelligent common database gateway to multiple and varied databases, provide a lightweight data directory service that aids data resource discovery and use, and allow data viewers to intelligently couple data from different sources into this distributed architecture.

    The next step for McGlamery and FERRETT is to add Connecticut databases with demographic, fiscal (federal monies to towns, state monies to towns, town income and expenditures) and educational (strategic school profile 1992-1999) data. Furthermore, the joint effort will build shapefiles of Connecticut geographies and install MapServer for FERRETT Hot Reports.

  • Learning from other states:
  • A critical lesson that emerged from both the first and the second conferences is the importance of benchmarking what we are doing in Connecticut against other states, municipalities, and non-profit entities. Jack Eichenbaum of GISMO and New York City’s Data Council provided striking examples of how detailed parcel mapping and other neighborhood-level data could provide a framework for both thoughtful policy assessments and an “early-warning” system for neighborhood distress in other parts of the country. Such presentations remain critical for informing participants about the possibilities that flow from developing first-rate data systems.

    The websites, listed in Appendix 2, provide opportunities for Connecticut to learn best practice systems from other parts of the country.

  • Explore new information collecting technology:
  • Besides traditional data collecting methods, new data collecting technologies are being introduced that produce new and better data. Remote sensing is a good example of such technology.

    Northeast Applications of Useable Technology In Land planning for Urban Sprawl (NAUTILUS) represented by Dan Civco and James Hurd from the University of Connecticut, is one of the NASA’s Regional Earth Science Applications Centers (RESAC). They are charged with educating the public about the value of remote sensing technology, and making data available, accessible and useable to local land use decision-makers.

    Remote sensing uses satellites or radar to record land cover features through different reactions to electromagnetic radiation. These data can then be applied to study land cover changes and conduct longitudinal analyses. (For more information on remote sensing, data availability and its applications, see Appendix 2 for relevant websites.)

  • Open session among data producers, distributors and users on accessing and using data:
  • A series of short and intense discussions given by data distributors, data users, policy researchers, and representatives from non-profit organizations began a dialogue leading to an information exchange, and thus more efficient access to available data. These discussions honed in on how to find data and provide a better understanding of how currently available data can best be utilized. The data users also voiced the need for community level data, including health and property data.

    This discussion began with Doug Rae exemplifying the power of appropriate data by rebuilding the city profile of New Haven in the early 1920s. Ben Barnes introduced us to the data archive organized by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) ([not online, March2009]. Mike Meotti presented Connecticut strategic school profile data and the outreach programs initiated by the Connecticut Policy and Economic Council (CPEC) ( [no longer a separate organization, March 2009]. Lisa Mercurio of the Southwestern Area Commerce & Industry Association of Connecticut, Inc. (SACIA) characterized the potential users of regional data and the need to locate the appropriate data in a timely manner. Priscilla Canny showed how the Connecticut Voices for Children uses data to shape public policy to improve Connecticut children, youth and families’ well-being.

  • The U.S. Census Bureau’s effort to generate more timely data:
  • In response to the lack of continuous and costly data gathering of the decennial census, the U.S. Census Bureau developed the American Community Survey (ACS) in 1996. Timothy Jones from the Census Bureau presented a short workshop on the ACS. The Census Bureau projects the ACS will replace the Census 2010 long form questionnaires.

    The purpose of ACS is twofold: to provide longitudinal socioeconomic data, such as population and housing data, at more frequent intervals, and, to produce information for small areas including counties, tracts, block groups, and population subgroups that is updated year by year. After passing the demonstration period for 1996-1998, ACS is currently in the experimental stage. The data for 31 comparison sites throughout the country are available on the Census Bureau’s website and through the Census Bureau’s free CD-ROM. The Bureau plans to implement the survey nationwide in 2003, covering every county. For more detailed information on ACS, go to Census Bureau’s web page at (click on Subjects A-Z, then click on American Community Survey).

  • Facing the Issues:
  • Even with the current effort, there is a long way to go to build an integrated data system, a State Data Center that provides users with easy access to accurate, well-documented federal, state and local data. The data users at the Conference voiced their frustration regarding the loss in time and efficiency trying to locate the proper data sources and integrate them so they have a common basis for analysis. As a continuation of the effort towards establishing a State Data Center through partnership, there is a clear need for serious consideration of the following issues:

    1. Data Portal from concept to reality:
    2. As we have agreed at the First Annual Data Conference, a State Data Center need not be—indeed should not be—a physical concept. During this Conference, the idea of a linked data system where users can easily navigate among various databases received detailed attention. The next step is to decide how to establish this system. Specifically, what organization or organizations will host this interrelated system? One needs to realize that the host not only needs to coordinate and establish linkages, but also maintain the system, which requires significant funding. While the University of Connecticut has begun to build the foundation for such a center, ultimately this project is a matter that needs to be considered by Connecticut policymakers and the legislature. Without a significant resource commitment and a parallel articulation of a formal “state data policy”, development of a strong data portal will be fragmentary.

    3. Coordinating Data Generation and Delivery:
    4. Presently, there are many data distributors, with duplicated or contradictory data from different data sources and different definitions. As a result, there are duplicated efforts and confused data users. While establishing a partnership among data distributors may greatly mitigate these problems, it raises the issue of accountability and allocation of effort. It argues for the creation of a data advisory council that can continually monitor developments, facilitate discussion of critical policy issues, articulate formal policy recommendations, and provide strong representation to top policy makers.

    5. Promoting distribution of local data:
    6. As pointed out above, local governments collect data for various purposes. These data are valuable in making decisions at the community level. Unfortunately, these data are usually buried inside the collecting government agencies. What can be done to create an incentive for these government agencies to publicize their data?

    7. Developing data exchange infrastructure:
    8. Finally, how can we create an environment that encourages high quality data generation and data processing? What should we do to facilitate information exchange through the Internet and publications? Both of these considerations underline the potential importance of an empowered data advisory council. Broadly, this discussion resolves itself into two fundamental questions:

      (1) Will there be the necessary commitment of resources to bring the virtual system whose first elements are now being developed to full development?

      (2) Will the State recognize the urgent importance of institutionalizing the articulation and implementation of data policies and incentives through creation of a State Data Advisory Council?

    We hope that these questions prompt active thinking and participation by all of the relevant constituencies, whether government agencies, non-profit groups, foundations, or private sector entities, to evaluate how they can help in the process of building a virtual State Data Center. The Third Annual State Data Conference in 2001 will assess what progress we have made on these issues, discuss what remains to be done and continue to provide a forum for data users to access the latest in data delivery.

    APPENDIX 1: Towards a State Information Policy

    by Kendall F. Wiggin, State Librarian
    June 19, 2000

    The State of Connecticut’s current Information Policy can be found in constitutional provisions and federal law. It can also be found in state statutes and the interpretations of state statutes by the courts (the common law). And it can be found in executive orders, regulations, and the rulings, opinions, directives and guidance of those agencies having responsibility over government information matters, such as the Freedom of Information Commission, the State Library and the Department of Information Technology. Unfortunately, thus far the policy is neither comprehensive nor is it located in one place.

    Section 4d-7(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes provides that the state’s Chief Information Officer shall “develop, publish and annually update an information and telecommunication systems strategic plan.” One of the statutory goals of the plan is to “develop a comprehensive information policy for state agencies that clearly articulates (A) the state’s commitment to the sharing of its information resources, (B) the relationship of such resources to library and other information resources in the state and (C) a philosophy of equal access to information.”

    The Government Information Policy Advisory Committee has been working on a draft document that is an articulation of Section 4d-7(a) and brings together, in a unified structure, the fundamental principles underlying the existing government information policy, as found throughout the law. Those principles of government information policy are those that express the fundamental concepts of (1) “government transparency,” (2) fair information practices, (3) efficiency of services within a state agency, among government agencies, and between state agencies and the people they serve, and (4) the stewardship of government information. These concepts form the core of government information policy in all democratic societies, including that of Connecticut.

    The document that has been developed by the Government Information Policy Advisory Committee is also designed to fill in missing elements of state data policy, where permissible, in order to construct a comprehensive policy in keeping with these basic principles. The Committee anticipates that where additional authority is required to fill in missing elements, such authority will be sought through legislation, executive order or other means, and incorporated in later versions of this document.

    Before I discuss the status of the State Information Policy document, I think it is worth noting that in 1994 the Connecticut Law and Information Policy Project published A “White Paper” on Connecticut Information Law. The “White Paper”, authored by John J. Phillips, was designed to assist the Office of Information and Technology (predecessor of DOIT) and the Information Policy Planning Committee in formulating a comprehensive information policy for the State of Connecticut as called for in Section 3(a)(3) of Public Act No. 89-257. The white paper provides an interesting background to the topic before us. The driving force then, as now, was the rapidly changing technological advances. The report warns that with the advent of “electronic miracles” comes the risk of informational chaos and the danger of information tampering. The report was also concerned about the proliferation of the personal computer and the resulting redundancy of information. It was felt then that a comprehensive statewide information policy would be needed to guard against the inefficient and costly use of storage space and the unrecoverable loss of important public records. While storage space has certainly ceased to be a cost consideration, the growth of servers and the proliferation of data depositories remains a very real concern. The white paper also contains a suggested draft information policy, which, although it is written in the form of “findings”, articulates many of the same policy positions addressed by the current draft State Information Policy.

    The Government Information Policy Advisory Committee has sent the draft document to Rock Regan, the state’s Chief Information Officer for his review. The Committee has suggested that it be reviewed and reacted to by an ever-widening circle of individuals within and outside of state government. At this time, I do not know if that process will be followed or when it will start or when a final policy will be adopted. Topics covered in the Information Policy draft include Government Information Policy Principles; Fair Information Practices; Efficiency of Services; and Stewardship of Government Information.

    Government Information Policy Principles talks about government transparency; dissemination and disclosure, both public dissemination and public disclosure; freedom of information and the disclosure of public records; and confidentiality. For purposes of the State Information Policy, fair information practices refers mainly to the Personal Data Act, which is contained in Chapter 55 of the Connecticut General Statutes, Section 4-190 and the sections that follow.

    Government in a democratic society by its very nature has to be somewhat inefficient. However, efficiency of services is a basic principle of government information policy because it often goes to government’s ultimate effectiveness, as well as to the financial burden that taxpayers must bear. The section on Efficiency of Services looks at the basic principles that help assure efficiency of services in the area of information technology and resources.

    Since in a democratic society where government does not own (in the traditional sense of the word) the records or information it collects, produces and maintains but rather is the custodian of the records and information, the draft Policy also outlines the policies and principles relating to the stewardship of government information.

    The draft Policy concludes with the identification of key agencies and personnel necessary to carry out the policies articulated in the policy.

    This policy will become part of a set of integrated policies pertaining to information and IT systems for state agencies and implemented through the State of Connecticut Strategic Plan for Information Technology and Policy

    APPENDIX 2: Conference Websites

    This appendix contains a summary of the websites that contain economic, social and geographical data. These are the websites introduced by the speakers at the Second Annual Data Conference. They are organized by the type of data available, ranging from international to state and local.


    Networked Social Science Tools and Resources
    NESSTAR is an infrastructure for meta data and data dissemination via the Internet. Data currently available in the archives include data on economic, social and political research in Europe. The data are collected from a wide variety of sources, including government and academia as well as survey data. The NESSTAR publisher provides free software trial that enables data publishers and disseminators to distribute data via NESSTAR.

    Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)
    CEISIN CIESIN works at the intersection of the social, natural, and information sciences, and specializes in on-line data and information management, spatial data integration and training, and interdisciplinary research related to human interactions in the environment.

    GeoEye is a world leader in digital earth information. They launched the first onemeter resolution, commercial imaging satellite, IKONOS, in 1999. They produce, compile and disseminate digital data and economic information. Users can obtain imagery data from the company’s archives, which house 1 million images.

    GIS Planning
    GIS Planning, Inc. is an award-winning inventor of web-based geographic information systems (GIS) which foster enhanced economic development. As the International Economic Development Council's (IEDC) official and exclusive partner for online property listings, demographics and online mapping products and services, GIS Planning serves clients from government, businesses and community organizations.

    Landstat statellite data
    Users can access information and obtain Landsat satellite data through this website.

    Spot Image
    Spot Image distributes image data collected through European Space Agency’s ERS radar observation satellites. These data are compatible with all GIS systems and can be applied in mapping, change detection, and varied thermometric analyses.

    At this website, users can purchase imagery from this company for mapping, engineering and architectural design, commercial real estate transactions, etc.


    Data Ferrett : Federal Electronic Research and Review Extraction Tool
    Provides a meta data infrastructure for the survey data from the Current Population Survey, American Housing Survey, Survey of Income and Program Participation, and National Health Survey.

    Remote Sensing Core Curriculum (RSCC)
    This website provides lecture topics for a remote-sensing curriculum, including an introduction to remote sensing technology, data processing and applications. It provides links to RSCC’s remote sensing database and other educational sites.

    Remote Sensing Tutorial
    Goddard Space Flight Center at NASA’s Applied Information Sciences Branch and the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, CO provides this tutorial. It offers a detailed a tutorial on the history of space, the historical and technical perspective of remote sensing, and the available satellite sensor data.

    U.S. Geological Survey, including:
         Earth Explorer
    where users can download and purchase aerial photographs, maps and imagery from satellites, Corona and Landsat 1-5 and 7. NOTE of their website headings, since USGS does not provide distinct URLs for the different webpages.


    National Real Estate

    First American Core Logic, previously First America Real Estate Solution
    The First America Real Estate Solution collects, processes and sells data on mortgage and property sales in the United States. It currently has 65 million records, including more than 100 million historical sales and mortgages. This data covers 634 counties across 48 states and the Virgin Island, including 75% of major metropolitan areas.

    National Stats on Children : Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics
    This website offers easy access to federal and state statistics and reports on children and their families. The information includes population and family characteristics, economic security, health, behavior and social environment, and education.

    Kid's Count from the Annie E. Casey Foundation
    KIDS COUNT is an effort to track, both nationally and state-by-state, the status of American children by compiling educational, social, economic, and physical data.

    Child Trends and Child Trends DataBank
    Child Trends is a non-profit research organization studying children, youth and families through research, data collection and analysis. They publish child, youth and family well-being trends with a national, state and local focus. They include data and reports on their site. Their publications address welfare and poverty, adolescent sexual behavior, fatherhood, children’s health, public policy, education, youth development, family strengths, marriage and family, and urban issues. They also provide links to other national and state resources on trends and statistics about welfare and poverty, teen pregnancy, fatherhood, and children and youth.

    Kansas City's Partnership for Children
    The organization publishes an annual report card/data briefing book evaluating children’s well-being in Greater Kansas City through 17 indicators. The website also provides links to other national, local and regional organizations that work for kids.

    State and Local:

    Connecticut : Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development
    This website publishes Connecticut town profiles, economic and market data. In addition, it publishes documentation on business assistance and incentives (corporate tax, financing, training, utility, etc.), vacationing in Connecticut and much more.

    Connecticut Department of Public Health
    click on "statistics and Research" in the left margin
    This Department publishes the latest public health code and Connecticut vital statistics, such as birth, death, ethnicity, etc. at county and town levels. It also provides information pertaining to public health in the A-Z topics section.

    Connecticut State Department of Education
    Information posted on this website is available to the general public. It provides Connecticut strategic school and district profiles and data tables.

    Connecticut Voices for Children
    Connecticut Voices for Children conducts research and analysis on a wide range of topics related to Connecticut children well-being. These reports and data are posted on this website. The organization also collects data on a range of child status indicators and makes them available through the reports on their web.

    CTDATA Server
    This website allows users to search for Connecticut data, including state, county, town, census tract, census block group, congressional district, labor market area, regional planning district, tourism district, and service planning area data. Breakdowns on senate district and house district data are under-construction. The database covers the 1980 and 1990 U.S. census data, 1995-1998 Connecticut Department of Labor Statistics, and 1998 town profiles. Extracted data are accompanied by geographical identifiers, and can be used in conjunction with a GIS system.

    Center for Land Use Education and Research
    This programs focused on balancing growth and natural resource protection, in association with various national programs: (1) the National NEMO Project (using percent impervious surface estimate), Eightmile River Watershed Project (on habitat or forest fragmentation), and the study of land use change for the Salmon River Watershed in Connecticut; and (2) the Geospatial Technology Program, in asociation with the National Geospatial Technology Extension Network.

    Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. (CERC)
    CERC collects and archives a large amount of data, from available commercial and industrial properties to economic data, such as state, industry and employment profiles. In addition, CERC also provides research and consulting services, from starting a business to market research and regional economic growth.

    Business Council of Fairfield County
    previously Southwestern Area Commerce & Industry Association of Connecticut, Inc. (SACIA)
    This economic development agency collects data on 23 towns in Fairfield County and publishes them in a 138-page fact book. The website provides links to other state and regional resources.

    Other State and Local Entities

    City of Ithaca Interactive Maps
    This website provides data, maps and high-resolution aerial photos of the City of Ithaca. Users can also link to other sites via this website for information on, for example, commercial properties for sale and lease, the county data book, bus schedule and maps for the City of Ithaca.

    Neighborhood Knowledge Los Angeles (NKLA) and one of its subsidiaries,
    Maintained by the Community Information Technology Center (CITC) at UCLA’s Advanced Policy Institute, this website provides free data and maps of Los Angeles neighborhoods upon registration. The site also provides links to information and data on housing, community development corporations, community based organizations, technical support organizations, funding, government, banking, environment, education, and, people with disabilities. This source provides federal, state and local data.

    East St. Louis Action Research Project operated by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    This site contains information about East St. Louis and its neighborhoods, and has become a social action program. [IN the year 2000, this agency coordinated data on people (income level, number of kids in a family, etc.), land (flood, streams, etc.) and city (location of churches, schools, historic buildings, hazardous sites, etc.).
    See their GIS opportunities report.

    Minnesota Governor's Council on Geographic Information map and Data Clearinghouse
    Minnesota GIS holds a huge repository of statewide data organized by region, county and city. Most of the data are mappable and downloadable.

    Vermont Agency of Human Services
    This state example publishes electronic reports of community profiles and social well-being in the State of Vermont. The data are organized at the state, community and county level.