Biobank researchers

Application process

Research proposals to access the Statistics Canada biobank are accepted anytime.

Important references:

Required documents:

  • Application form
  • Research Ethics Board approval
  • Funding arrangements
  • Condensed résumé (3 pages max)

Frequently asked questions

  • Who can apply to use the CHMS biospecimens?

    Canadian researchers who conduct research in Canada and work under the direction or supervision of a recognized public or private organization are eligible to apply. International researchers must collaborate with a Canadian researcher or research facility.

  • Can international researchers apply for access to the CHMS biospecimens?

    Only Canadian research facilities can receive the biospecimens. An international researcher could apply but would need a Canadian citizen or permanent Canadian resident as a co-investigator. The resulting data files must be accessed from a Research Data Centre (all located in Canada) in collaboration with the Canadian citizen (or permanent Canadian resident) as a co-investigator.

  • What biospecimens are available in the Statistics Canada Biobank?
    • Plasma
    • Whole blood
    • DNA
    • Urine
    • Serum

    Sample size can range from 3,000 to 6,000, depending on age and survey cycle. Each sample is representative of a number of Canadians in the same age and gender category (nationally representative). Please refer to the Biospecimens Available table for more detail.

  • Can I request a subsample for a project?

    Applications for subsamples, where findings could be of benefit to Canadians, are welcome. However, preference will be given to projects involving a nationally representative sample.

  • What has already been published using CHMS data?

    A CHMS Bibliography is available. Also, plain language descriptions of approved biobank studies that have been completed or are in progress are posted on the Biobank webpage.

  • Where can I find a content summary (variables included in each cycle of the survey) for the CHMS?

    A content summary of the CHMS is available upon request. Other documentation such as User Guides and Data Dictionaries are also available upon request.

  • Who can I contact if I have questions about the application form?

    Any questions can be emailed to the Statistics Canada biobank coordinator. You will receive a response within 24 hours.

  • When can I apply?

    Research applications are accepted at any time, however, a call for proposals is held biannually. The Statistics Canada Biobank announces a call in the Spring (May 1 to June 30) and again in the Fall (November 1 to December 31) to coincide with the Biobank Advisory Committee meetings.

  • How long does it take to get approval?

    There are three main approval steps. A CHMS review is followed by review by the Biobank Advisory Committee (BAC) then final approval by Statistics Canada's Executive Management Board (EMB). This can take four to six months. Communications and further questions regarding the project could lengthen this time period. In addition, the EMB would not review the proposal until ethics and funding have been secured.

    Please note that although approval may be complete, biospecimens cannot be shipped to the laboratory until the security clearance of the facility and personnel has been completed. The security clearance is carried out by Public Services and Procurement Canada and may take more than a year.

  • Does my project require approval from a Research Ethics Board?

    Yes. Each biobank project must provide certification of its own ethics approval.

  • Is there a cost to access the CHMS biospecimens?

    Yes. Access to the biospecimens is on a cost-recovery basis. The fee structure for each project can vary according to scope and complexity. For information on the fee structure, or for a cost estimate, please contact the Statistics Canada biobank coordinator.

  • Do I need confirmation of funding for my project before I can apply?

    No. Statistics Canada recognizes that funders may require evidence that applicants will be able to access the necessary biospecimens before committing funding. Statistics Canada will consider applications before and after funding is secured; however, a final decision will not be made until evidence of funding is received. A letter of support can be provided upon request if the applicant feels this might help securing funding.

  • How long will I have to analyze the biospecimens once I receive them?

    This can vary by project, the number of biospecimens, the number and complexity of analytes, and the method used for laboratory analysis. An end date will be determined during contract negotiations and parties will agree that timely completion of the laboratory analysis will be a priority.

  • What do I need to securely transfer my files to Statistics Canada?

    Statistics Canada will provide the software and IT support for secure electronic file transfers. Note that the laboratory data must be housed in a standalone computer with physical access controls and no Internet access. The only Internet exposure the data should have is with the secure, encrypted, password-protected file transfer to Statistics Canada.

  • Can I share the data with interested colleagues?

    No. The CHMS biospecimens and the data generated from their analysis are confidential and cannot be shared with unauthorized individuals. Only persons with Reliability Status security clearance who are considered "deemed employees" of Statistics Canada are allowed to access the biospecimens and data.

    Both employees and deemed employees of Statistics Canada are subject to the same penalties under the Statistics Act. However, becoming a deemed employee does not create an employment relationship between Statistics Canada and the individual.

    For more information on deemed employees, please refer to the FAQ for the Research Data Centres.

  • Can I add an investigator or a student to the approved project personnel?

    Although it is best to include everyone who will be on the project in the original application, it is understood that changes may occur. If a Principal Researcher is added, the original proposal must be amended. It is then subject again to the three approval stages. Laboratory staff or students who are added to the project must have security clearance (Reliability Status) and become a deemed employee by Statistics Canada before access to the biospecimens and data is allowed.

  • Can the CHMS dataset be linked to provincial health administrative databases across Canada?

    Statistics Canada endorses record linkage proposals to administrative data sources when possible. These proposals require separate approval from senior management, in addition to the approval required for the Biobank project. For more information on record linkage, please contact the Statistics Canada biobank coordinator.

  • How and when will I be able to associate my lab data with the CHMS data?

    During laboratory analysis, the results are securely transferred to Statistics Canada. The data are processed and checked for errors, duplicates, etc. When the file is clean and in a suitable format for analysis, it is released to the Statistics Canada Research Data Centre (RDC) of the researcher's choice. (The contract to access the CHMS biospecimens includes a contract to access the RDC). The researcher will then have exclusive access to both datasets for a one-year period, after which the dataset will be made available to other researchers.

  • How long do I need to wait after the laboratory analysis has been completed before I can access my data at the RDC?

    This can vary by project, the number of biospecimens, the complexity of the lab variables and derived variables as well as the number of corrections that may be required. It could take from three to six months.

  • Is there any longitudinal collection in the CHMS?

    There is currently no longitudinal element in the CHMS.

  • How do I get access to CHMS data (not biospecimens)?

    You can access these data at any Statistics Canada Research Data Centres (RDC) across Canada. The staff at the RDCs are very knowledgeable and can assist you with the analysis you wish to do. To access these data, you must submit an application to Statistics Canada. Information on the location of the RDCs, on the available datasets and on the application process is available on the website.

  • Is information on ethnicity available for the CHMS samples?

    Although we gather information on ethnicity from our respondents, deriving publishable results from the relatively low numbers of the varied ethnicities is difficult. For confidentiality reasons, Statistics Canada restricts the reporting of low-incidence findings.

  • Would I be able to produce provincial estimates using the CHMS data?

    Each CHMS cycle is designed to produce national estimates. The collection site selection process was done in order to obtain a sample that would produce reliable national estimates. The sample design at the national level takes into account the distribution of urban/rural areas across the country, but not provincially. No consideration was made within a province or region to ensure, for instance, that all health regions were covered or that all geographic areas (North, South, East or West) were represented. Therefore, even if cycles are combined, the provincial representation will not be optimal and is not recommended.

  • How are the biospecimens stored?

    The Statistics Canada Biobank biospecimens are stored in -80°C freezers. Other pre-analytical information is available in the cycle-appropriate User Guide. Users can request by sending an email to the Statistics Canada biobank coordinator.

  • Can I combine cycles of biospecimens?

    Yes. Multiple cycles of biospecimens can be accessed for analysis. Costs may be prorated to reflect the fact that some processes must be done only once for each project. Instructions for combining multiple cycles of Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) data are available upon request by sending an email to the Statistics Canada biobank coordinator.