How to access microdata

Statistics Canada recognizes that sometimes researchers require access not only to aggregate statistics, but also to microdata at the individual business, household or person level. In order to preserve the privacy and confidentiality of respondents while at the same time encouraging the use of microdata, a range of data access options are offered by Statistics Canada. These include access to public use microdata files (Data Liberation Initiative and Access to Public Use Microdata Files Collection), direct access to detailed microdata in a secure physical environment (Research Data Centres and the Centre for Data Development and Economic Research) and remote access solutions (Real Time Remote Access and Remote Access Services for Health Data).

The Data Liberation Initiative (DLI)

The Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) is a partnership between post-secondary institutions and Statistics Canada for improving access to Canadian data resources. The DLI provides a wide range of data and metadata to participating post-secondary educational institutions, allowing their faculty and students unlimited access to numerous public use microdata files (PUMFs), databases and geographic files. Academic institutions pay a service fee for DLI support.

Access to Public Use Microdata Files (PUMFS) Collection

The Public Use Microdata File (PUMF) Collection is a subscription-based service which offers institutional access to the collection of available Statistics Canada public use microdata files (Statistics Canada catalogue no. 11-625-X). Public use microdata files contain anonymized, non-aggregated data.  For a yearly fee, designated contacts at subscribing institutions can have unlimited access to all microdata and documentation available in the PUMF collection.

The Research Data Centres (RDC) Program

The Research Data Centres (RDCs) provide researchers with direct access to a wide range of population and household surveys, as well as administrative microdata files in a secure university setting. The centres are staffed by Statistics Canada employees and are accessible only to researchers with approved projects who have been sworn in under the Statistics Act as 'deemed employees.' RDCs are located throughout the country, so researchers do not have to travel to Ottawa to access Statistics Canada microdata. In some situations access fees may be charged.

The Federal Research Data Centre (FRDC) Program

Similar to the RDC program, this access service is streamlined for the research needs of federal departments. The FRDC provides a secure site where federal government employees can conduct complex statistical analysis. As with the RDC program, the FRDC provides researchers with access to a wide range of population and household surveys, as well as administrative microdata files in a secure setting. The FRDC program has two locations in the National Capital Region, both are staffed by Statistics Canada employees and are accessible only to researchers with approved projects who have been sworn in under the Statistics Act as 'deemed employees.' The FRDC operates on a cost-recovery basis.

The Canadian Centre for Data Development and Economic Research (CDER)

The Canadian Centre for Data Development and Economic Research (CDER) provides researchers with direct access to a wide range business and economic microdata files for analytical research. The Centre is located at Statistics Canada's head office in Tunney's Pasture in Ottawa.  The Canadian Centre for Data Development and Economic Research operates entirely on a cost-recovery basis and all microdata files used for approved projects are only accessible to researchers with approved projects who have been sworn in under the Statistics Act as 'deemed employees'.

The Real Time Remote Access (RTRA) system

The RTRA system is an on-line remote access service allowing users to run SAS programs in real-time against microdata files located in a central and secure location. Researchers using the RTRA system do not gain direct access to the microdata and cannot view the content of the microdata file. Instead, users submit SAS programs to extract results in the form of frequency tables. As RTRA researchers cannot view the microdata, becoming a deemed employees of Statistics Canada is not necessary. There is a subscription fee to obtain access to the RTRA service and there is no requirement to submit proposals.

Remote Access to Health Survey Data

The Remote Access to Health Survey Data is a service offered by Health Statistics Division and is suitable for projects that involve multivariate analysis (such as regression analysis). If a health survey microdata file (PUMF) is not sufficient for research needs and access to an RDC or the RTRA service is not feasible, researchers may apply for remote access to the Canadian Community Health Survey and the National Population Health Survey.

Once a project is approved, researchers are provided with synthetic data from which they develop and test their computer programs (in SAS or SPSS). Researchers then transmit the programs to Health Statistics Division where they are run on secure data servers,and the output is reviewed to ensure it meets disclosure and confidentiality requirements. Once approved, the output is returned to the researcher.

Remote access to the data is offered free of charge, but is restricted to projects with demonstrated needs. For more information on remote access, contact the Health Statistics Division Client Services Unit at hd-ds@statcan.gc.ca.

Biobank

As part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), blood, urine and DNA samples (biospecimens) are collected from consenting participants. With respondents’ consent, these samples are then stored at the CHMS Biobank located at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg for use in future health studies. The results of all projects using stored biospecimens must be made available through the RDCs. Published results will only be presented as combined data. Under no circumstances will personal or identifiable data be published.

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