Program of research: government funded

These steps are designed for research projects under a Program of Research by a federal or provincial/territorial government department. They are conducted by a government employee or an academic researcher working on contract for the government department as a consultant.

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, 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.
  • External funding may or may not exist.
  • Programs of Research will have a life cycle of up to 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: Evaluation of a proposal for a Program of Research
Step 3: Draft project summaries
Step 4: Submission and evaluation of the project summaries
Step 5: Complete the security screening process
Step 6: Sign a microdata research contract or Section 10 agreement with Statistics Canada
Step 7: Fee Structure
Step 8: Submit a product/output

Step 1: Draft a proposal for a program of research

Any federal/provincial/territorial government employee (or hired consultants on contract) applying for access to an RDC for policy development research purposes, must first seek approval for their project from their Senior Statistical Focal Point contact. The Provincial Focal Point Contacts (please request a copy by sending an email to STATCAN.MADHOOU-DAMSSOBC.STATCAN@canada.ca) are listed separately. Approval must also include advising their Focal Point contact of the monthly user fees associated with access to an RDC.

The Senior Statistical Focal Point, or the division with the Ministry requesting data access, must submit a Program of Research proposal for federal or provincial/territorial applicants, respectively, which is a maximum of ten pages and must include the following elements:

  • Title of the project
  • 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.
  • 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:
      • Statistical output
      • Research Paper
      • Commissioned report (e.g. government report)
  • Data requirements

Step 2: Submission and evaluation of a proposal for a Program of Research

Researchers will submit their Program of Research proposal to their Senior Statistical Focal Point contact for peer review and approval. Once approved by the Focal Point contact, it will be forwarded to the Director, Microdata Access Division, in Statistics Canada who reviews it with a committee consisting of subject matter experts.

Upon approval of the Program of Research application, Head Office Operations Unit (HOOU) of Statistics Canada's Microdata Access Division will send a letter informing the researcher that their Program of Research has been approved. HOOU will also forward a letter on behalf of the Director, MAD to the Focal Point contact advising of user fees.

If the researcher is a provincial government employee or a hired consultant on contract with a provincial government department, then a Section 10 agreement needs to be signed between the Provincial agency and Statistics Canada. The Section 10 agreement will contain the start and end dates for the research project, and the names of all the researchers who have direct access to the confidential microdata. Once the Section 10 agreement is signed and security clearance is granted, access to the RDC is granted and research can begin.

Step 3: Draft project summaries

For Federal/Provincial Government programs of research, a project within the Program of Research is identified by the Director of Research, or a comparable, who submits a project description. The description includes a justification for access to detailed microdata. This is called a "project summary." A project summary will have its own terms of access including team members, data access end dates, and data sets.

A letter of support from the Director of Research must include a statement that the project summary is within the scope of the Program of Research.

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 single or multiple data sets. (i.e., typically focused on one main dataset with a few others for supporting analysis)
  • Duration is short to medium timeframe (i.e., 1–2 years for the initial data analysis; extensions can be granted as required)
  • Deliver at least one product (i.e., presentation, journal article, dissertation, book chapter or government commissioned report).

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.

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 (no more than 3 pages 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 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:
      • Statistical output approved by a government official
      • Peer-reviewed journal article: A journal article authored by the Principal Investigator for a peer-reviewed journal.
      • Commissioned Report: A commissioned report authored by the Principal Investigator.
  8. References (optional)

Letters of support required for project summaries:

A letter of support from the Principal Investigator of the Program of Research should be included with the submission to Statistics Canada which states that the project summary is within the scope of the Program of Research.

Sample:

Dear Director, Microdata Access Division,

I support the application of ____ to begin a project titled ____ This project is related to my Program of Research titled ____ (Contract number ____ ).

Sincerely,

Step 4: Submission and evaluation of the project summaries

Each project summary is evaluated through the Statistics Canada Institutional Evaluation process – an expert in the subject matter area based on the survey(s) being requested to support the research project.

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), Statistics Canada will inform the Principal Investigator of the decision. If proposals are deemed to be incomplete by institutional or peer reviewers (due to insufficient detail on any of the elements in the proposal), the eight-week review timeline may be extended to accommodate revision and resubmission of the proposal. 

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.

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 Statistics Canada's notification of a dormant application.

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 contract number assigned by Statistics Canada when they resubmit their proposal.

Step 5: Complete the security screening process

Once a project is approved and prior to RDC access, Statistics Canada performs an Enhanced Reliability Check on any researcher who needs to access its data and will be named on the MRC.

For Provincial government researchers:

  • Provincial government researchers or an academic researcher hired as a consultant by a provincial government agency 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. Once security clearance has been approved, the RDC Analyst contacts the 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.

For Federal government researchers:

It is the responsibility of the federal government agency to process the security clearance for their researchers prior to submitting a proposal to access confidential Statistics Canada microdata. If you are a hired consultant for a federal government agency, coordination of your security clearance is done by the federal government agency who hired you on contract.

Both hired consultants and federal government employees must submit, along with the proposal, the following information to confirm their security clearance:

  • Your personal record identifier number
  • Full name
  • Date of birth

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 6: Sign a microdata research contract or Section 10 agreement with Statistics Canada

A Microdata Research Contract (MRC) between the researcher(s) and Statistics Canada is 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 Oath or Affirmation of Office and Secrecy, making all the researchers on your project "deemed employees".

Step 7: Fee Structure

For all federal/provincial government programs of research, fees will be negotiated between the Senior Statistical Focal Point of the federal/provincial government department and the Chief of the RDC Program. If the Program of Research is sponsored by federal government departments who have an agreement in place with Statistics Canada, then the fees included in the agreement apply. If you are unsure, please discuss this with your contact within your federal/provincial government agency. For additional information, refer to the RDC Project Fees section on the Application Process and Guidelines page.

Step 8: Submit a product/output

As a clause within the MRC, the Principal Investigator agrees to submit a product derived from their research project conducted in an RDC. A project is considered complete and contractual obligations met once the Principal Investigator submits their product to Statistics Canada. There are three types of outputs that a researcher can submit as a product for their research project.

  • Statistical output approved by a government official
  • Peer-reviewed journal article: A journal article authored by the Principal Investigator for a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Commissioned Report: A commissioned report authored by the Principal Investigator.

It may be possible to submit other types of products. Please discuss this with the RDC Analyst before the contract is finalized. Researchers are required to submit all final products to their local RDC Analyst.

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