Thursday, January 1, 2009

PL 1/09: Easy access to statistics

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 9:57 am

andromedaResearch and innovation are cooperative processes.

We do not start from scratch, but build on the work of  colleagues past and present. Newton’s famous metaphor – standing on the shoulders of giants – expresses the collaborative core of scholarship.

As we move from the Gutenberg to the Google galaxy, the web of scholarship becomes stronger. We are no longer delayed by the physical properties of print on paper..  The digital environment invites us to deepen our sharing of data, tools and results.

Sharing data as well as results

In that spirit I look forward to share my own statistical data through the web. In the not-so-distant future we will develop collective mechanisms to do so, I believe. In the meantime I will make my data available for reuse through a small data bank of my own.

Plinius Data Bank , or PliniusDB, is my personal “open access” collection of statistical data.

Most will be harvested from official library, media and cultural statistics. Some will be original data from my own projects, like statistics on visitors and activities inside libraries from the Count the traffic project.  Some will be derived from data gathered and published by other projects.

The data will be published as Google Docs spreadsheets.

Added value

I see no point in republishing existing tables if they exist on the web. Then a simple link is sufficient. The whole point of the project is add value by taking existing data and process them further.

The data bank will be labelled and documented in English. Other languages, primarily Norwegian, will also be used. But I hope to present the information in such a way that it will be easy to interpret for anybody who can read the global lingua franca, which happens to be English at the present stage in world history.



  1. I live in London and if anyone says to me “everyone speaks English” my answer is “Listen and look around you”. If people in London do not speak English then the whole question of a global language is completely open.

    The promulgation of English as the world’s “lingua franca” is unethical and linguistically undemocratic. I say this as a native English speaker!

    Unethical because communication should be for all and not only for an educational or political elite. That is how English is used internationally at the moment.

    Undemocratic because minority languages are under attack worldwide due to the encroachment of majority ethnic languages. Even Mandarin Chinese is attempting to dominate as well. The long-term solution must be found and a non-national language, which places all ethnic languages on an equal footing is long overdue.

    An interesting video can be seen at Professor Piron was a former translator with the United Nations

    A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at

    Comment by Brian Barker — Thursday, January 1, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

  2. Dear Brian Barker:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    As a speaker of Norwegian – with only five million native speakers – I am very much aware and concerned about the role of languages in creating social inequalities. I use the term lingua franca in a descriptive, not in a normative sense.

    World history offers many linguas francas, from Sumerian and (written) Chinese, through Aramaic, koiné Greek and the vulgar Latin of the Roman army, to Medieval Arabic and Swahili, Renaissance Italian and Spanish, courtly French and the hundred variants of English now in blossom.


    The blog Plinius itself comes in two linguistic flavors: Norwegian and English. I use Norwegian to reach my Norwegian colleagues – and English to communicate with the rest of the world.

    I would also like to go beyond English. At the LATINA summer course 2008, which was documented in a series of posts last year, we had several participants with limited English. Their fluent learning (academic) languages happened to be Arabic and Mandarin.

    See LATINA Spring 2009 and its links for details.

    Spanish, Polish, Arabic and Chinese

    To bridge the linguistic gap, we included Wikipedia articles in Arabic and Chinese in our course materials – and also started to use Google Translate. In 2009 we will take the multilingual approach further.

    We have just received, a grant to develop course materials for LATINA in several languages. Initially, we plan to concentrate on Spanish, on Polish and on Chinese.

    I will also do my level best to make the Plinius Data Bank easy to use for people with other “learning languages” than English. As a first small step I have included introductions to some of the statistical tables in Spanish as well as in English and Norwegian.

    See Book loans per capita. Norway 2001-2007. Municipalities. for an example.

    Translation tools

    In the future, both Wikipedia and Google Translate – and their successors – will make a big difference, I believe. Compared with earlier open access translation programs, such as Babelfish, the quality of Google Translate is impressive.

    The next ten to fifteen years will probably make automated translation a workable tool for most everyday situations. I suspect this will reduce the need for linguas francas in general.

    Comment by plinius — Thursday, January 1, 2009 @ 7:15 pm

  3. […] 1/09. Easy access to statistics. Announcing Plinius Data […]

    Pingback by P 8/12: News from the North « Plinius — Sunday, March 4, 2012 @ 10:33 am

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