Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

This is a reminder?

Dear Mr. Chief Statistician of Canada,
I would kindly like to suggest you purchase a dictionary. The missive you recently caused to be delivered to my address, complete with secure access code, is NOT a reminder, despite your subject line (bolded even!)
Subject: Reminder -- National Household Survey
You see, Mr. Chief Statistician of Canada, every dictionary definition I have found for the word reminder is along the lines of "cause to remember".  That would require that I simply forgot to complete it, or was unaware of it, following as it did on completion of the Census.

I, like you, know the difference between Census and Survey


So let's stop pretending. Considering you are essentially asking me for a favour, can I suggest less of a "we're watching you" tone?

May 30, 2011
Our records show that we have not yet received a completed National Household Survey questionnaire from you. This survey questionnaire was provided to you online at the time you submitted the 2011 Census questionnaire. Please complete the survey now by doing one of the following: 
  • Complete it online at . . .
or
  • Call 18773082777 if you need a paper questionnaire . . . 
By law, your responses will be kept confidential
If you have recently completed this survey, please accept my thanks. It is important that you participate in this voluntary survey so that your community has the information it needs for planning services such as child care, schooling, family services, housing, roads and public transportation, and training for knowledge and skills required for employment. 

Thank you for your cooperation. 
It would have been hard to get that VOLUNTARY part any further down in the letter, Mr Chief Statistician of Canada. It could only have been after all that bumph about apple pie and fuzzy kittens . . .

We both know that Statistics Canada can be a bit slow getting around to analyzing data once you get your hands on it. You'll still be releasing 2011 Census data by the time you are ready to do the next one. That's just the way it is.

Your data might eventually be able to say something about the state of affairs in Canada in 2011. But when?

If those community minded sentiments meant anything I would not be writing to you today.  If you had sent me a Census form with all those questions I would have happily completed them.

Which raises the bigger problem, going back to the difference between the Census and this Survey: discontinuity with historical data sets.  The old Long Form captured data that proved useful in a range of planning and development activities at all levels of government; the time lags for analysis were there, it is true. But the continuity of the data over time gave it strength, so that researchers could have confidence to use it in exactly the ways you outline,  Mr. Chief Statistician of Canada. 
Your new survey, on the other hand, will be little more than a snapshot for a long time to come.  I know your people have been pouring over the methodologies trying to figure out how to make this work.  We'll see.

There is no substitute for good, raw data. Just like with processed foods: the more ingredients on the label, the further you are away from the good stuff you need. 

I know you have a tough job to do, Mr. Chief Statistician of Canada.   I bet you'd much rather have been working with that tried and true Long Form.  Maybe you have dreams of perfect data. 
But please don't send me any more reminders.

We both know, it's just a survey.

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