All other researchers

The steps below are designed for researchers wishing to work in a Research Data Centre (RDC) who are not from an academic institution, nor are receiving funding for the project from any level of government.

Prior to submission, we recommend that researchers seek permission from the Academic Director in order to use their RDC. Fees may apply as well as other conditions regarding access to the university.

Step 1: Draft a project proposal

Scope of analysis in a typical RDC proposal:

  • Focus on modelling data (i.e., regression, logistic regression, multilevel modelling, etc.)
  • Minimal descriptive statistics (i.e., 35-50 frequencies and crosstabs with limited dimensions)
  • Access to single or multiple data sets (i.e., typically focused on one main dataset with a few others for supporting analysis)
  • Short to Medium timeframe (i.e., 2–3 years for the initial data analysis; extensions with an accompanied written justification may be granted as required)
  • Deliver a copy of at least one product based on the analysis (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 an RDC. The choice may be to submit more than one proposal or a program of research.

To ensure a swift review of the proposal, applicants are encouraged to include all elements of the Project Proposal Template, and can use the Sample proposal as an additional guide.

Project proposal template:

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

  1. Funding Source
    • Name the funding source, briefly describe its mandate, and indicate if the funding is to purchase a product for their use.
  2. Title of the Project
  3. Rationale and objectives of the study
    • Clearly identify the specific questions or objectives of the project.​​
    • 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.
  4. Proposed data analysis and software requirements
    • What is the proposed statistical methodology? How is it suitable for this project?
    • Will the volume of descriptive statistics be greater than that of a typical RDC proposal (i.e., 35-50 frequencies and crosstabs with limited dimensions)? If yes, please explain.
    • What software will be utilized?
  5. Data requirements
    • An explanation of why access to the anonymized microdata (as opposed to public use microdata files) is necessary.
    • 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.
    • Provide a statement that the anonymized microdata file(s) identified is (are) in fact suitable for the proposed research.
    • What are the variables to be used?
    • 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
    • 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:
  6. Expected project start and end dates
  7. Expected products
    • Working paper
    • Peer-reviewed journal article
    • Book or book chapter
    • Graduate level thesis or dissertation
    • Commissioned report (e.g. government report)
  8. References
    • Sources used in the proposal or for specific analytical methods employed

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: Submit the proposal

The proposal should be submitted, via email, to . The CV of each research team member should also be included in this email. These criteria will help in assessing if the research team members have the expertise and ability to carry out the proposed work.

Step 3: Evaluation of a proposal

Each proposal is evaluated by two academic peers and a Statistics Canada Subject Matter Expert(s). SSHRC facilitates this review process. The approval of proposals will be based on:

  • scientific merit and viability of the proposed research;
  • relevance of the methods to be applied – the data to be analyzed;
  • demonstrated need for access to detailed microdata; and
  • expertise and ability of the researchers to carry out the proposed research as illustrated in the CVs and list of contributions.

An institutional review determines if access to detailed microdata is needed and provides feedback on whether these data can support the project. The decision to approve the proposal is unanimous. Statistics Canada will inform the principal investigator of their decision. SSHRC will inform the principal investigator of the decision within eight weeks of the date of application. 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. 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.

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, Statistics Canada may ask for a new proposal if the scope of the research changes significantly.

Step 4: Timeline and fee structure

Since this application type is non-standard, and can vary widely with each applicant, the timeline for approval cannot be specified.

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. Applicants who would like to get an estimate on the cost of access in advance should contact

Step 5: 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 will directly access its microdata.
  • 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 The Oath or Affirmation of Office and Secrecy (PDF, 54.21 KB).
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 6: 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 (PDF), 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 7: 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 six 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.
  • 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 Canadian Research Data Centre Network (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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