Program of research: Academic

These steps are designed for academic research projects conducted by either a student or faculty member who is performing their project as part of a program of research.

From the perspective of the RDC program, we define a Program of research as:

  • A sustained research enterprise that includes one or more projects or other components, and which is shaped by broad objectives for the advancement of knowledge. It might be undertaken primarily by one investigator and encompassed within a single research career, or it could mobilize a team of researchers during a specific period. In pursuit of the overall objectives, specific approaches and methods are advanced, adopted and modified as the research proceeds and as findings are made and reported.

In addition to the above definition, the Microdata Access Division (MAD) also stipulates that:

  • The projects are related in research themes but may have dissimilar data access needs, timelines and research teams.
  • The projects need not be defined upon submission of the application of the program of research but can evolve over the life–span of the program of research.
  • The program of research has a funding source that the SSHRC deems acceptable (i.e. SSHRC equivalent granting agency).
  • Programs of Research will have a life cycle of 5 years. Data access start and end dates will be dictated by the Microdata Research Contract (MRC) for each individual project under a program of research.

Step 1: Draft a proposal for a program of research
Step 2: Complete the online application form on the SSHRC website
Step 3: Evaluation of a proposal for a program of research
Step 4: Draft project summaries
Step 5: Evaluation of the project summaries
Step 6: Complete the security screening process
Step 7: Sign a microdata research contract with Statistics Canada
Step 8: Submit a product/output

Step 1: Draft a proposal for a program of research

The program of research proposal is a maximum of ten pages and includes the following elements:

  1. Title of the project
  2. Rationale and objectives of the study
    • State how this Program of Research is a sustained research enterprise that includes one or more projects or other components, and which is shaped by broad objectives for the advancement of knowledge.
    • State how the research will contribute to the knowledge in the field of study by summarizing the current literature and identifying the gap(s) to be addressed.
  3. Expected projects and products
    • If known at the time of application, provide brief descriptions of expected projects.
    • If known at the time of application, provide list of products that will result from the Program of Research including:
      • Peer-reviewed journal article
      • Book or book chapter
      • Graduate level thesis or dissertation
      • Commissioned report (e.g. government report)
  4. Data requirements
  5. Funding Source (s)
    • Name the funding source for this program of research
    • What is the nature of the review process?

The role of the RDC analyst in the proposal writing process:

Each RDC employs an RDC Analyst who can assess the proposal to determine whether the required elements are present and whether the project is appropriate for access to the detailed micro data. Advice from an RDC Analyst before submitting a proposal does not guarantee a successful review but will mostly likely improve the chances of a timely review by ensuring all elements of the proposal are complete and clear.

Step 2: Complete the online application form on the SSHRC website

Academic researchers apply through the online web application via the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) login page. You will need to register as a new user if you are a first time applicant. The application will require you to list research contributions and CV's of the research team members, by including any identifiable contributions made by the applicants to the advancement, development and transmission of knowledge related to the disciplines supported by SSHRC. This application is a maximum of five pages, and will help SSHRC assess if the research team members have the expertise and ability to carry out the work.

Step 3: Evaluation of a proposal for a program of research

Programs of research are evaluated by review only for scientific merit and viability of the proposed research. The main purpose of the review is to ensure that the proposal meets the requirements of a program of research as defined by Statistics Canada. The reviewers also evaluate if the research proposed will contribute to the advancement of knowledge.

Terms of project approval:

All RDC applications may be subject to comments from reviewers who would like clarification on the nature of the program of research. These applications require a response from the applicant before the evaluation can move forward through the review process. The applicant therefore has 6 months to respond to these comments from the date they receive SSHRC's notification of a dormant application. If, at the end of 6 months, SSHRC does not receive a response from the applicant, the application will be marked as incomplete; their proposal will be withdrawn from the system and the applicant must re-apply. If the applicant chooses to withdraw the proposal, and resubmit at a later date, they will need to include all previous review comments and their revisions in order to facilitate the review process. The applicant will also need to quote their original application number when they are resubmitting their proposal.

Proposal approval:

Indicates that the program of research has been accepted and the Principal Investigator can now begin to submit project summaries associated with the program of research.

Timelines for the application process:

Statistics Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council collaborate to expedite the review of applications. On average, the review of an application can take 8 weeks. Review times are significantly longer if the components of the proposal are not met or sufficient detail is not provided. All applicants are encouraged to review proposals carefully.

Step 4: Draft project summaries

All project summaries are submitted via the SSHRC website. They will have their own terms of access including team members, data access end dates, and data sets.

Scope of analysis in a typical program of research project summary:

  • Focus on modelling data (i.e., regression, logistic regression, multilevel modelling, etc.)
  • Minimal descriptive statistics (i.e., between 35-50 frequencies and/or 2 variable crosstabs)
  • Access to 1-3 data sets (i.e., typically focused on one main dataset with a few others for supporting analysis)
  • Short to Medium timeframe (i.e., 1-2 years for the initial data analysis; extensions can be granted as required)
  • Produce 1-2 products to be published in the public domain (i.e., presentation, journal article, dissertation, book chapter)

Researchers planning proposals outside of this scope should consult with their local RDC Analyst for further guidance before applying for access to the RDC program. Options include submitting more than one project summary to carry out the work.

To ensure a swift review of the proposal, applicants are encouraged to include all elements of the Project Proposal Template.

The project summary is brief (about 1 page in length) and includes the following elements:

  1. Title of the project
  2. Identify program of research
    • By stating that the project is associated with a program of research titled "______" with contract number "______"
  3. Rationale and objectives of the study
    • Clearly identify the specific research questions or objectives of the project
  4. Proposed data analysis and software requirements
    • What is the proposed statistical methodology? How is it suitable for this project?
    • For cross-tabulations: a list of the variables involved, the number of dimensions in the tables, and the number of tables.
    • For modelling: what is the dependent variable, what are the independent variables, and what type of modelling is being used (OLS, Logistic regression, etc).
    • What software will be utilized?
  5. Data Requirements
    • An explanation of why access to the confidential microdata (as opposed to Public Use Microdata Files (PUMF)) is necessary (i.e., demonstrate what can not be obtained from the PUMF).
    • Which survey file/files or cycles are to be used?
      • Will the number of data sets be greater than that of a typical RDC proposal (i.e., 1-3 datasets)? If yes, please explain.
      • Will datasets be merged, pooled, or linked to other Statistics Canada datasets or other data sets? If you plan to merge, pool, or link data in your analysis please provide adequate detail on how the data from each source will be combined in this analysis, and its intended purpose. In particular, your description should outline whether you plan to pool data from two or more sources to increase your sample size; or to merge aggregate contextual data to the micro-records; or whether your plan is to link micro-record to micro-record together from two or more sources. Most of Statistics Canada's micro-data master files contain unique record IDs associated with respondents such as persons, families or households. To protect the confidentiality of survey respondents, RDC researchers are not permitted to attempt any record linkage either between data files (e.g. Census and CCHS) or among cycles of a survey (such as CCHS 2009 and CCHS 2010). Should you plan a micro-record to micro-record linkage please be advised that a second approval process is required by senior management at Statistics Canada and that the linkage must be conducted at Statistics Canada. Additionally, there may be a fee for these services.
    • What is the specific population of interest in the required data set(s)?
      • What is the expected sample size of the population of interest? Is this sufficient to complete the analysis as well as respect the confidentiality of the respondents? Please explain.
      • Is this data analysis based on small geographical area(s)? Please describe how geography will be play a role in this project, what geographical identifiers will be used and the potential implications this may have on the sample size.
      • What are the major variables to be used?
  6. Expected project start and end dates
  7. Expected Products
    • List products that will result from the proposed analysis including:
      • Working paper
      • Peer-reviewed journal article
      • Book or book chapter
      • Graduate level thesis or dissertation
      • Commissioned report (e.g. government report)

Letters of support required for project summaries

A letter of support from the Principal Investigator of the program of research is included stating that the project summary is within the scope of the program of research.

Sample:

Dear RDC Program Manager,

I support the application of ___________ to begin a project titled ____________ This project is related to my Program of research titled __________________ (Contract number _________________).

Sincerely,

Supply the letter of support to the responsible SSHRC Program Officer in both electronic format and as a signed print copy.

Step 5: Evaluation of the project summaries

Each project summary is institutionally reviewed by a Statistics Canada expert.

The approval of proposals will be based on:

  • relevance of the methods to be applied – the data to be analyzed;
  • demonstrated need for access to detailed microdata; and
  • sufficient sample size to support the research.

The decision to approve the proposal is unanimous. Within eight weeks of the date of application (sooner if possible), SSHRC will inform the principal investigator of the decision.

Terms of project approval

If the proposal is approved and access is granted to a Research Data Centre, the contract with Statistics Canada allows the research team to access only the microdata specified in the approved research project and only for the purpose of completing that project. Researchers are asked to submit a new proposal for any subsequent research project. In addition, SSHRC and Statistics Canada may ask for a new proposal if the scope of the research changes significantly.

Please note that all RDC applications may be subject to comments from reviewers who would like clarification on the use of datasets. These applications require a response from the applicant before the evaluation can move forward through the review process. The applicant therefore has 6 months to respond to these comments from the date they receive SSHRC's notification of a dormant application.

If, at the end of 6 months, SSHRC does not receive a response from the applicant, the application will be marked as incomplete; their proposal will be withdrawn from the system and the applicant must re-apply.

If the applicant chooses to withdraw the proposal, and resubmit at a later date, they will need to include all previous review comments and their revisions in order to facilitate the review process. The applicant will also need to quote their original application number when they are resubmitting their proposal.

Step 6: Complete the security screening process

Once a project is approved, a number of security procedures will be followed:

  • Statistics Canada performs a Reliability Check on any researcher who needs to access its data.
  • Researchers must contact their RDC Analyst in order to complete the security check form. This form must be completed within the presence of a Statistics Canada Analyst at the RDC where the research will be conducted.
  • The RDC Analyst sends this form to Statistics Canada in Ottawa to be processed and contacts researchers to inform them of the results of the security check.
  • Effective December 1, 2016, the RCMP requires all federal public servants in Canada (including RDC researchers and staff) to undergo fingerprinting as part of their security clearance. Additionally, the Treasury Board of Canada requires a credit check. Please contact your local RDC to learn more about the security clearance procedure. A list of FAQs is also available for additional information.
  • The RDC Analyst invites the researcher, or group of researchers, for an orientation session to explain procedures at the RDC.
  • At this session researchers sign their contract with Statistics Canada and take The Oath or Affirmation of Office and Secrecy.

In general, when completing the security screening forms each researcher must also provide:

  • a copy of photo ID
  • full 5 year address history
  • non-Canadians must also provide a work Visa, and proof of Canadian address

Please note there are additional security requirements for researchers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. The requirements are:

  1. Include a Canadian citizen or permanent Canadian resident as a co-investigator
  2. Provide a letter of reference from a person that vouches for the character of the international researcher, that he/she is a reputable researcher with a legitimate purpose for accessing Canadian data.
  3. For international students only, provide a letter of acknowledgement from their affiliated institution confirming their affiliation and acknowledging the potential penalties should they contravene the requirements of the Statistics Act.

For further information on these requirements, please contact the local RDC Analyst when the project is approved.

Step 7: Sign a microdata research contract with Statistics Canada

A Microdata Research Contract (MRC) between the researcher(s) and Statistics Canada needs to be signed once the proposal is approved and security clearance is confirmed. The RDC analyst will invite you, and your research team into the RDC for an orientation session to review research procedures, sign your contract with Statistics Canada and take the The Oath or Affirmation of Office and Secrecy, making all the researchers on your project "deemed employees".

Step 8: Submit a product/output

A product must be submitted for each contract signed in order to fulfill the contractual obligations agreed upon between the researchers and Statistics Canada. There are five types of outputs that you can submit as a product for your research project.

  • RDC working paper: A paper for the RDC working paper series authored by the principal investigator for Statistics Canada.
  • Peer-reviewed journal article: A journal article authored by the principal investigator for a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Book or book chapter: A book or book chapter authored by the principal investigator.
  • Thesis or dissertation: A graduate level thesis or dissertation.
  • Commissioned report: A commissioned report authored by the principal investigator.

It may be possible to submit other types of products. Please discuss other output options with the RDC Analyst before the contract is written. Once a year, researchers are contacted by CRDCN to submit a list of all products generated from the project work. The number of products generated by researchers working RDCs demonstrates the success of the program and helps the CRDCN secure funding to provide this service free of charge to affiliated members.

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