Since 2000, the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN), in partnership with Statistics Canada's Research Data Centre Program, has transformed quantitative social science research in Canada. In secure computer laboratories on university campuses across Canada, university, government and other approved researchers are able to analyse a vast array of social, economic and health data.
Statistics Canada launched a series of longitudinal surveys in the 1990s to gather the information needed to understand and manage the serious challenges Canadian society faced as it moved into a new millennium. Research Data Centres (RDCs) were set up to ensure that this information could be extensively analysed by the research community across Canada without compromising the confidential nature of the information.
The creation of a national system of Research Data Centres (RDC) was the brainchild of the Joint Working Group on the Advancement of Research Using Social Statistics set up by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and Statistics Canada in the late 1990s.
The group identified three serious obstacles to quantitative social science and health research in Canada: i) a lack of access to detailed micro-data; ii) a lack of skilled quantitative researchers and iii) weak links between social scientists and potential users of the knowledge they generate. Research Data Centres (RDCs) were recommended as one solution to the problem of data access, in particular to Statistics Canada longitudinal survey data.
In January 2000, CFI awarded over $5 million to develop secure, fully-equipped laboratories for six RDCs on university campuses in Vancouver, Calgary, Waterloo, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. McMaster University, the University of Alberta and the University of New Brunswick also applied for provincial funding to open RDCs.
McMaster RDC in Hamilton was the first to open its doors in December 2000. The eight other centres followed gradually over the next 12 months, and by the end of 2001 the RDC Network was underway, with financial support from partner universities and SSHRC to cover running costs.
A second CFI infrastructure award (2006), joint SSHRC/CIHR operating grants (2005-2010 and 2010-2015) and sustained support from universities has permitted the Network’s rapid expansion. By 2010, more than 2,600 researchers (including 1000+ students) have analysed information on a broad range of socio-economic and health issues at our 25 university-based sites (centres or branches).
Although the CRDCN emerged as a strategy to overcome the first barrier to quantitative social science and health research identified by the Joint Working Group, the Network has adopted a broader mission statement and is working on all three fronts:
1) To improve data access by giving researchers across the country access, free-of-charge, to detailed micro-data from an increasing range of survey, census and administrative data.
2) To expand the pool of skilled quantitative researchers in Canada and train the next generation of researchers.
3) To make research count by improving communication between social scientists and the potential users of the knowledge they create.
Click here to view the CRDCN Organizational Chart.
Click here to download the CRDCN logo.
An RDC is a university-based laboratory, staffed by a Statistics Canada Analyst, which offers researchers:
Universities wishing to establish an RDC on site can find out how to do so in the documents below. Except in exceptional circumstances, new research data access facilities will begin as Branch RDCs, attached to an existing RDC, and remain as such until the level of activity warrants consideration as a full Centre.