The Federal Research Data Centre (FRDC) located in Ottawa Ontario, offers federal employees access to selected detailed micro data collected by Statistics Canada. Federal employees who are not located in the National Capital Region can still access data at a Research Data Centre (RDC) located at a participating Canadian post secondary institution.
All researchers must submit their research proposal through a review process before access to the FRDC, or a RDC is granted. The steps for submitting a project proposal are outlined below.
- Step 1: Draft a project proposal
- Step 2: Submit the proposal for peer and institutional reviews
- Step 3: Complete the security screening process
- Step 4: Timeline and fee structure
- Step 5: Sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Letter of Agreement (LOA) with Statistics Canada or Microdata Research Contract (MRC)
- Step 6: Submit a Product/output
Step 1: Draft a project proposal
Scope of analysis in a typical proposal:
- 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)
- Duration is short to medium timeframe (i.e., 1 to 3 years)
- Produce 1-2 products to be published in the public domain (i.e., presentation, journal article, dissertation, book chapter).
To ensure a swift review of the proposal, you are encouraged to include all elements of the following Project Proposal Framework.
- To another government department, to fulfill its mandate to develop or evaluate policy in a particular area, when it requires statistical outputs that necessitate access to confidential microdata; and,
- When a service is being rendered to Statistics Canada; i.e., Statistics Canada can engage the services of an employee of another department to produce requested statistical outputs when it is unable to provide the service itself.
Project proposal framework
The project proposal is a maximum of ten pages and includes the following elements:
- Title of the project
- Identification and security verification of primary investigator
- Access to enter an FRDC will only be granted to individuals with valid federal security clearance. Federal employees requesting access to the FRDC must first provide their date of birth and PRI number on their proposal so that Statistics Canada can verify their level of clearance. Consultants hired by a federal department to perform research are responsible for gaining security clearance through that department prior to submitting a research proposal.
- Rationale and objectives of the study
- Briefly identify the specific questions addressed by the project and its overall objectives.
- Not mandatory but preferable - 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.
- Proposed data analysis and software requirements
- A brief description of 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?
- Please note, the approval of the feasibility of the data is not also an approval for the software requested in the research proposal. Please check with your local RDC Analyst to determine the availability of particular software packages and to discuss possible alternatives. Please see the following FAQ for more information on this process:
- FRDC users have access to software such as SAS, SPSS and STATA.
- Due to Statistics Canada's IT security requirements, getting any other packages are limited and time consuming. If a request comes to our attention, we will do our best to get the software but there would be no guarantees.
- Data requirements
- Which survey file/files or cycles are to be used?
- Please list numerically all data sets required.
- 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.
- An explanation of why access to the confidential data (as opposed to public use microdata files (PUMF)) is necessary (i.e. demonstration of what can and cannot be obtained from the PUMF).
- Does geography play a role in the data analysis? If it is based on small levels of geography please describe how it will be defined, what variables will be used and the potential implications this may have on the sample size.
- Refer to these survey specific guidelines for RDC proposals requesting the following data:
- Which survey file/files or cycles are to be used?
- Expected project start and end dates and location where work is to be conducted.
- Expected project start and end dates or anticipated duration and resources to complete the work (for example, two persons working 3 days per week for a month).
- Proposed location. Generally, access will be provided in a Statistics Canada Research Data Centre, or occasionally, in the Statistics Canada offices in Ottawa.
- Expected products
- Describe 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)
- Describe products that will result from the proposed analysis including:
- Sources, if any, used in the proposal or for specific analytical methods employed.
Step 2: Submit the proposal for peer and institutional reviews
A project proposal is submitted for peer review to the Senior Statistical Focal Point contact for the Government department that is funding the research. Upon approval of the proposal the Senior Statistical Focal Point contact forwards it, along with a statement of affirmation, to Microdata Access Division for institutional review.
Statement of affirmation: "The statistical work outlined in this proposal will be used to support the mandate of the department. The person (or persons) named in the proposal is (or are) authorized to perform the work on behalf of the department."
Institutional review of a project proposal does not guarantee analytical success. In the case where work cannot be completed on an approved project,Footnote 1 researchers have the option of amending the statement of work to ensure project feasibility or withdrawing their project from the RDC.
Step 3: Complete the security screening process
In order to access confidential microdata, all researchers must obtain security clearance, and become "deemed employees" of Statistics Canada.
Typically, all federal government researchers will conduct their research at the Federal Research Data Centre (FRDC) located in Ottawa. If this location is not convenient, then arrangements need to be made between the academic director of the RDC where the researchers wish to conduct their project and the federal government agency responsible for the project. For further instructions contact STATCAN.MADFRDCAdmin-DAMCFDRAdmin.STATCAN@canada.ca.
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:
- Include a Canadian citizen or permanent Canadian resident as a co-investigator
- 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.
- 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 4: Timeline and fee structure
It typically takes between 6 to 8 weeks for the entire application submission, proposal review, and security clearance steps to be completed when a project proposal is submitted for RDC access. 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.
Normally all federal government research projects are conducted at the Federal Research Data Centre (FRDC) located in Ottawa. If this is your situation, negotiations for all costs incurred must be done with the Manager, Government Access Program
For access to one of the Research Data Centres across Canada, Statistics Canada's Microdata Access Division will assist the researcher in coordinating this cost recovery service.
Fees are to be negotiated between the Chief of the RDC Program and the Principal Investigator according to the standards agreed upon with the CRDCN. This agreement is negotiated at the time of the proposal submission. For additional information, refer to the RDC Project Fees section on the Application Process and Guidelines page.
Step 5: Sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Letter of Agreement (LOA) with Statistics Canada or a Microdata Research Contract (MRC)
Federal Research Data Centre (FRDC)
If the research will take place in the FRDC, and the Manager of the Statistics Canada Microdata Access Division has approved and signed the institutional review, a FRDC analyst drafts a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Letter of Agreement (LOA) between Statistics Canada and the researchers who will be working on the project. The MOU/LOA will need to be signed by both the Federal Government Agency's Senior Statistical Focal Point contact and the delegated authority within Statistics Canada. The agreement will contain the start and end dates for the research project, the names of all the researchers as well as the amount of remuneration for this particular project. Once the MOU/LOA is signed, access to the FRDC is granted and research can begin.
Please contact STATCAN.MADFRDCAdmin-DAMCFDRAdmin.STATCAN@canada.ca for further information regarding this process.
Research Data Centre
If the research will take place in an RDC, then 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 Oath or Affirmation of Office and Secrecy, making all the researchers on your project "deemed employees". The contract specifies the following terms of access:
- Data sets to be provided by Statistics Canada (please note the contract grants researchers access only to the microdata specified in the approved research proposal).
- Purpose and scope of the research project as outlined in the approved research proposal.
- Project start and completion dates.
- Agreement of the researchers to abide by the RDC security and confidentiality requirements.
- Agreement to provide a final product to Statistics Canada at the contract end date.
Step 6: Submit a product/output
A product must be submitted for each contract signed in order to fulfill the contractual obligations agreed upon between the researcher and Statistics Canada. There are six types of outputs that a researcher can submit as a product for their 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.
- Vetted output can be considered part of the service agreement.
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 Academic Directors of the 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.