Published on January 7, 2009
Statistics Denmark Annegrete Wulff Head of Division, Dissemination 29 July 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org AWU/- . IAOS, Shanghai 14-16 October 2008 From Data Access to Information Integration Statistics Denmark is continuously focusing on user needs and carries out Introduction regular user surveys annually. Different aspects of quality measures are addressed, including technical functionality, accessibility, comprehen- sibility and contents. Since the mid 1980’s statistical data have been made accessible via on-line databases. Through personal meetings with users, seminars, hot line, training courses and user surveys Statistics Denmark has kept quite close contact with the users and has been exposed to their needs. Although different users have different needs, it is possible to point out a few generally expressed wishes. 1980’s Focus on: Electronic on-line access Shifting needs Content, cross-domain coverage and details Output formats 1990’s Focus on: Internet access Functionality (calculations) Interactive aggregations Contact possibilities 2000’s Focus on: Presentation, layout Documentation Linking, coherence Long time span Search 2008 Focus on: Response time Definitions Search and browse Visualisation, maps and graphics Self service Integration with own systems The above list is not complete. However, in our contact with users these were some of the more frequently expressed needs for improvements. It seems quite evident that fulfilling user needs does not consequently result in completely satisfied users. More likely it will result in additional user needs. The possibility to get on-line access through public data nets to the very latest published statistics was a revolution some 25 years ago and solved many problems for our professional users at that time. Today the public Internet databank, StatBank (www.statbank.dk), contains more than 2,000 large multi dimensional tables covering all 17 subject areas in our statistical /home/pptfactory/temp/user-needs-from-access-to-integration-iaos-1231359481743588-1/user- needs-from-access-to-integration-iaos-1231359481743588-1.doc
production. The geographical dimension – where available - goes down to municipality and region. By launching the StatBank access spread to a much larger group of users. From statistic users to Gradually the typical Internet user – who differed a lot from the traditional Internet users statistics user – also became aware of the possibilities and treasures of statistical information. The number of annual table retrievals from the databank rocketed from 20,000 to 2,000,000. To support this new generation of users we – as a statistical organisation – have to present statistics in a comprehensive and appealing way. Statistics Denmark has the advantage of compiling statistics from all public administrative registers. Data from different registers can, due to unique identifiers, be linked together. This gives the possibility of producing a large variety of information down to detailed geographical levels. However, the issue of confidentiality is very important and has of course to be taken into account when publishing. The amount of available statistics is growing enormously - partly as a result of the huge possibilities of combining data from the statistical registers. Organising the data in a good and logic structure becomes essential. During the past few years user satisfaction surveys have showed a need for enhanced documentation and a successful search engine. The latest survey of the StatBank was carried out December 2007. The response rate was 35%, which is remarkably high when compared to many other web based user surveys. The five functions and possibilities that users evaluated highest as well as the five that got the lowest score are listed below. Satisfied and Very satisfied n=755 The StatBank in general 94 % and Very Unsatisfied n=755 Response time 94 % unsatisfied Content 93 % table Finding the right 30 % Download possibilities 92 % Help 29 % Presentation in charts 89 % Documentation related to a table 23 % Degree of detail 18 % Presentation on maps 15 % Different levels of experience in using statistics are reflected by different needs for documentation. The real professionals and recurrent users have already accessed the relevant documentation for some years as every statistic is linked to a quality description giving information on source, contents, time, accuracy, comparability and accessability. The less advanced users have – more or less – been left on their own. They will now be prioritised and their situation will be improved in the year to come. A project linking “down-to-earth” definitions of concepts with the data in Concepts project the StatBank was inaugurated in 2007. Our investigations show that recurrent users have less problems interpreting the statistics and finding the needed information. They manage to browse through the structure of subject areas and they are familiar with the terms used in the statistical area. Moreover they study the Quality declarations connected to the 2
statistics, for instance information on reliability, sample size, breaks over time etc. What the users still ask for are definitions of concepts that help clarify to the not-so-frequent users, which information to select and how to interpret the results. The challenge is three-fold: 1. selecting the concepts we need to define 2. defining the concepts so it becomes meaningful to the general user 3. making the definitions accessible The concepts we are referring to are all concepts that describe the tables: Selection of concepts variable names, values in a list connected to a variable, content of the table. To give a couple examples: − Table 1: Unemployed by ancestry, age and sex. − Table 2: Immigrated by country of origin, citizenship, age and sex Statistics Denmark has chosen a pragmatic solution deciding that not all concepts need being defined. For instance age and sex will not be defined in this system (while they will be documented in the metadata system connected to micro data and statistical registers). The selection task is in the hands of a librarian who is not “grown up” in statistics but who has profound experience meeting users’ questions and enquiries. Listed in scheme 1 are some examples of concepts that are selected to be defined. Concept Dimension Dimension Frequency measured member Unemployed Ancestry Descendants Continuous years Immigrated Country of origin Western countries Scheme 1 The StatBank contains approximately 850 different dimensions and 173,000 different dimension members. The first version of the concept definition database will contain close to 2,000 defined concepts, while the expected size of the fully developed base will be 8,000 concept definitions. (Values belonging to an official classification will not be defined separately. There will instead be made links to the classification itself) So far, the definitions are only in Danish. 80% of visitors to the StatBank Defining concepts are using the Danish site, and we assume that the percentage among the less experienced users is even higher. However, as the interpretation of concepts may vary from country to country, an English translation of the concepts is far from irrelevant and the system will be built making multiple languages possible whenever we find the resources to fill it in. It has turned out that many concepts were already defined – unfortunately it was as glossaries in different publications like for instance the statistical yearbook. They were not in a database and thus they could not be reused in an electronic way. However, copy/paste form these documents gave a good 3
start filling the base with relevant definitions. Definitions with similar content but with slight differences in the wording were often found thus indicating that the text had been written several times and not re-used from one publication to the other. Here there is an opportunity for rationalisation and improving communication. Our intention is to turn the working process around: storing the concepts and definitions in a database, connecting the definitions of the concepts to the databank tables, and re-use them in publications and in a glossary on the web site. Scheme 2 gives a few examples of the kind of “down-to-earth” definitions we have chosen. Concept Definition Unemployed Out of work, but seeking work (the last week of November) Descendant Born in Denmark and neither of the parents is born in Denmark and has Danish citizenship as well. Western countries All 27 EU-countries plus Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, The Vatican City, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand Scheme 2 Collecting information and display it “somewhere” on the Internet is not Making definitions good enough. This media has not (yet) the long term tradition for where accessible users could expect to find the explanations, definitions etc. A printed publication contains often an appendix with definitions and explanatory notes in the back of the publication. No such convention exists when it comes to the Internet. The challenge is to create a solution that seems intuitively to most users. The StatBank contains 2,000 large, multi dimensional tables structured within 17 subject areas. To some users this is overwhelming and difficult to overview. We plan making the definitions available directly in connection with the databank and at the stage, where users still are considering whether it is the right table they are about to select. They need some further information to make that choice. A draft solution of the display function looks like this: 4
The idea is to use the definitions in the database whereever they are needed: on the web site as a glossary, on publications as explanatory notes, together with ad hoc table deliveries etc.; red i’s point to this additional information. A glossary on the website is at the same time planned to be used in combination with a search for data. Data should be understood as integrated – they all have the same source but are displayed at different levels of detail. A concept used in one publishing should be defined in similar terms in another publishing. This will be helpful to the users and it will save resources in the statistical organisation. Definitions are composed once only and changes made once will be displayed all over. The glossary will look something like this: 5
From the glossary there will be links to tables in the StatBank that use the actual concept. This is automaticlly maintained through the data model built for the concepts. At a later stage it could possibly also include links to publications. We expect the concept database to be useful and help the not so frequent users finding the statistics they need. At the same time it is our expectation that even the search task will be improved when the direct access to tables is displayed together with the concept. Usability tests will help us amending the design solution, and user satisfaction surveys will tell us if it is used and useful. 6
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