Monday, April 30, 2012

PL 15/12: Top-down or bottom-up?

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 1:36 pm

My thesis is simple.

For many years we have tried to change the statistical practices of libraries through committees, concepts and proposals from the top. This approach does not work. Our experience shows that libraries are not willing to change their routines just because committees without power or money to impose their views say so. We have to start at the bottom. That means to improve existing data and current practices, year by year, in cooperation with the libraries that do the actual work of collecting, interpreting and applying statistical data.

To be effective agents of statistical change, we have to change from a top-down to a bottom-up approach.

Top-down work is easy to organize. You gather ten people around a table and ask them to make proposals. After one or two years the committee is finished. Implementation is left to the libraries. Unless they want to do what the committee proposes, the process stops here. The committee draws up a plan of work, but leaves the work itself to the library community.

Bottom-up work is hard to organize. Organizations don’t enjoy change. They resist change. The change agent has to find libraries and library organizations that are willing to cooperate. We have to form networks and production teams rather than committees. We have to test, to train and to argue our case. We have to struggle with the intellectual and material difficulties of statistics production. This is not for the faint of heart. It takes years of commitment and thousands of hours of work.

Change can be encouraged at the top, but must be realized at the bottom. That’s the way the world works.¨


As a small experiment I will publish the paper Indicators without customers, for our satellite conference in Turku, as a series of blog posts.



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  4. […] PL 15/12: Top-down or bottom-up?. Part 1 […]

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