Program of research funded by federal government

These steps are designed for research projects under a Program of Research by a federal 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 approved proposal submitted for each individual project under a Program of Research.

Step 1: Draft a proposal for a program of research

Any federal 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 Senior Focal Point Contacts are listed separately (please request a copy by sending an email to this generic address: STATCAN.MADHOOU-DAMSSOBC.STATCAN@canada.ca). Approval must also include advising their Focal Point contact of the user fees associated with access to an RDC, if applicable.

The Senior Statistical Focal Point, or the division with the Ministry requesting data access, must submit a Program of Research proposal for federal 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 a list of products that will result from the Program of Research including. See the instructions at step 8 for the accepted categories of product.
  • 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 applicable.

If the project occurs at the Federal Research Data Centre, a Letter of Agreement (LOA) needs to be signed between the federal agency and Statistics Canada. There is also a Microdata Research Contract (MRC) that needs to be signed.

The 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 agreement is signed and security clearance is granted, access to the RDC is granted and research can begin.

Step 3: Draft project proposals

For federal 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 proposal." A project proposal 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 proposal is within the scope of the Program of Research.

Scope of analysis in a typical project proposal:

  • Focus on modelling data (i.e., regression, logistic regression, multilevel modelling, etc.).
  • Minimal descriptive statistics (i.e., between 35 to 50 frequencies and/or 2 variable crosstabs).
  • Some government projects may develop complex indicators for monitoring purposes. Their production of more tabular output will be justified in the project proposal and the conditions of access may include some specific constraints. The frequency of data access to update the monitoring should be specified, across the length of the project.
  • Duration is short to medium timeframe (i.e., 1 to 3 years).
  • Deliver at least one product (i.e., research paper, statistical output, 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 proposal must be concise, and must contain the following elements:

  1. Project title
  2. Research Program identification
    • Indicate that the project is associated with a research program, its title, and contract number.
  3. Rationale and objectives of the study
    • Clearly state the research issues or particular objectives of the project.
  4. Proposed data analysis and required software
    • What are the proposed statistical methods? How are they suitable for this project?
    • Will the volume of descriptive statistics be greater than that of a typical Research Data Centre research study proposal (35-50 frequencies and crosstabs with limited dimensions)? If yes, please explain why.
    • Modelling: what is the dependent variable, what are the independent variables, and what type of modelling will be utilized (OLS, logistic regression, etc.)
    • What software will be utilized?
      • Please note that approval of access to data does not mean that the software requested in the research proposal has also been approved. Please check with the Analyst in your local Research Data Centre regarding the availability of specific software and to discuss possible alternative solutions.
  5. Data requirements
    • Explain why access to Confidential Microdata (rather than to Public Use Microdata Files [PUMFs]) is necessary (indicate what cannot be obtained from PUMFs).
    • If the project consists mainly in creating socioeconomic indicators, explain why it is not possible to use other modes of access such as ordering custom tabulation or using the Real Time Remote Access system. The frequency of data access to update the monitoring should be specified, across the length of the project.
    • Which survey files or cycles are to be used?
      • Will the number of data sets be greater than that of a typical Research Data Centre proposal (i.e., from 1 to 3 data sets)? If yes, please explain why.
    • What is the population of interest in the required data set(s)?
      • What is the expected sample size of the population of interest? Is it sufficient to conduct the analysis successfully and respect the confidentiality of respondents? Please provide details.
      • Is the data analysis based on small geographical areas? Describe the importance that the geographical area plays in this project, and indicate what geographical identifiers will be used and their possible repercussions on the sample size.
      • What main variables are to be used?
    • Refer to the guidelines for surveys in the case of research proposals involving the following data:
    • If the project involves the use of administrative data, complete Appendix D of the framework agreement to describe the data and justify access to it. You can consult the RDC analyst for this purpose.
  6. Pooling, merging and linking data
    • Some research projects may involve pooling, merging or linking data. Here is a definition of each of these processes:
      • Pooling survey data consists in adding observations to a data file. An example would be to add to a 2008 cross-sectional survey observations from the same survey repeated in 2011, for variables that are common to both. The added observations do not match the same respondents as those of the previous cycle.
      • The merging of aggregate information with survey data consists in using contextual variables that are added to a data file by means of an item of information, such as the geographical area of residence. An example would be to add the unemployment rate and the proportion of immigrants per census tract to the data of a social survey, using a geographical code for the merge.
      • Statistics Canada defines record linkage as the combining of two or more micro-records to form a composite record containing information about the same entity. The output of a record linkage must contain information that originated from more than one data file that served as inputs in the record linkage activity.
    • If you plan to pool or merge data, please provide sufficient details about the manner in which the data from each source will be processed.
    • 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. Moreover, fees may be charged for these services. You must explain both the nature and the objective of the linkage. Statistics Canada's record linkage policy can be consulted.
  7. Planned project start and end dates
  8. Membership of research team (list the researchers names and their respective organization)
  9. Location of work
    • Indicate the Research Data Centre where the work will be carried out.
  10. Proposed output
    • List the outputs of the proposed analysis. See the instructions at step 8 for the accepted categories of product.
  11. References (optional)

Step 4: Submission and evaluation of the project proposal

Letters of support required for project proposals:

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 proposal is within the scope of the Program of Research.

Sample:

Dear Director, Microdata Access Division,

I support the application of [name of researcher] to begin a project titled [project title]. This project is related to my Program of Research titled [program of research title], [contract number].

Sincerely,
[signature]

Evaluation

Each project proposal 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 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.

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 verifies that the researcher who needs to access the data has a valid security clearance.

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

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

Step 6: Sign a Microdata Research Contract

A Microdata Research Contract is signed by researcher(s) 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".

For researchers using the Federal RDC, a Letter of Agreement is also signed to specify the financial aspects.

Step 7: Access fees

For all federal government programs of research, access fees will be negotiated between the Senior Statistical Focal Point of the federal government department and the Chief of the RDC Program, if the access occurs in an academic RDC. If the access occurs at the Federal RDC, the chief of the Federal Research Data Centre will be the contact for Statistics Canada. 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 signed contract, 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 four types of outputs that a researcher can submit as a product for their research project:

  • Analytical research paper that Statistics Canada may use for internal purposes, or may publish itself;
  • Written data quality assessment of frames, or of protected information;
  • Non-confidential statistical outputs that are confirmed by a senior governmental official as being important to the work of that official's department;
  • Vetted statistical outputs associated with the Statement of Work.

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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