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CRDCN National Policy Challenge

Are you a graduate student with an interest in quantitative analysis? Are you passionate about Canadian public policy? Do you love data? If so, this analytical competition is for you! Seize the chance to examine an important policy issue of your own choosing using confidential microdata. This is also a great opportunity to use your research results to inform real-world Canadian policy-making and propose innovative policy solutions.

Finalists' meeting 2018-19, Ottawa, June 11, 2019. Front row, L to R (members of the jury): Claudia Sanmartin, Chief and Senior Researcher, Health Services Research, Statistics Canada; Hugh Cairns Sr., Analytical Consultant, SAS Canada; Heather  Dryburgh, Acting Director General, Census Subject Matter, Social and Demographic Statistics, Statistics Canada; Dominique Bérubé, Vice -President, Research Programs, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC); Byron Spencer, Emeritus Professor, Department of Economics, McMaster University, and Research Program Director, CRDCN.

2019-20 Competition

In partnership with SAS Canada and Statistics Canada, the CRDCN is pleased to announce the second edition of the National Policy Challenge for Canadian graduate students. The competition is designed to encourage student researchers to share their policy ideas and to promote the use of confidential microdata in developing innovative, evidence-driven policy solutions. The competition will allow selected participants to analyze a policy problem of their choosing with confidential microdata and to present their research findings to their peers and to a jury composed of high-profile researchers who will select the best three presentations.
In order to be selected to enter the competition, students must submit a research proposal by August 25, 2019. We invite applications from students from all disciplinary backgrounds, such as: economics, sociology, demography, criminology, geography, industrial relations, education, epidemiology, public health, and business. Participants will be selected from among the eligible applications received before the deadline.
Competition highlights:
  • National competition across all Research Data Centres (RDCs).
  • Graduate students are given the opportunity to analyze real-world Canadian policy issues using confidential microdata from Statistics Canada with SAS analytics (preferably; or in combination with other accepted open source software).
  • Up to ten proposals will be selected for the competition - applicants will be notified in October 2019 whether or not their proposal has been selected.
  • Data analysis is to be conducted between December 2019 and May 2020 in an RDC.
  • Mentors will be available to support participants.
  • SAS training will be provided.
  • Research findings will be presented at a special one-day event in Ottawa where a jury will select the top three presentations.
Why you should apply:
  • to deal with a real-world policy issue affecting Canadian society.
  • to access Statistics Canada confidential microdata.
  • to improve your analytical and communication skills.
  • to get access to unique SAS training.
  • to get insights from highly qualified research mentors.
  • to meet senior officials and leaders from Statistics Canada, the CRDCN, and SAS Canada.
  • to present your research findings and policy ideas to a jury composed of high-profile researchers and government officials at a national meeting in Ottawa in June 2020 (travel grant will be provided to each project).
  • to win cash prizes awarded to the best three presentations.


  • Graduate students, individually or in team of up to three members.
  • Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree.
  • Some background in quantitative analysis and statistics is required.
  • Applicants must be living in Canada and be registered as a part-time or full-time student at an accredited Canadian academic institution.


  • Data analysis must be conducted in one of the RDCs across the country between December 2019 and May 2020. Find your nearest RDC.
  • Participants must abide by the usual RDC regulations, including security clearance and the requirement to become a deemed employee of Statistics Canada, in order to be granted access to an RDC (See for details).
  • Some background in quantitative analysis and statistics is required and must be demonstrated in the application.

 Deliverables and expectations

  • Finalists will have to attend the one-day special national meeting in June 2020 in Ottawa, where they will present their research results (travel grant will be provided to each project).
  • Finalists will have to provide a PowerPoint presentation in advance of the June 2020 meeting.
  • Finalists will have to provide a 300 word testimonial explaining the value of this experience for their academic and professional development by July 3, 2020.

Selection Criteria
Up to ten research proposals (finalists) will be selected to participate in the competition based on the following criteria:

  • Relevance and timeliness of the policy issue and the research question;
  • Choice of methodology and research strategy;
  • Adequacy of the dataset(s);
  • Feasibility of the project;
  • Originality of the project;
  • Overall quality of the proposal, including the clarity of the writing;
  • Letter of reference from a faculty member (see an example here);
  • CV/academic transcript confirming previous training in statistical analysis and relevant skills in quantitative methods.

Review process and selection of the proposals

Each eligible proposal will be reviewed and scored by the selection committee according to the criteria listed above. The proposals that receive the best combined scores will then be reviewed by experts in the relevant division at Statistics Canada in compliance with the mandatory institutional review that all research projects must undergo to be granted access to an RDC.

Applicants will be informed of the outcome of this process in October 2019, and access to the selected RDC will be granted to the finalists as of December 2019.

Please note that in the unlikely case of a large number of highly qualified applications from a single centre, RDC capacity may factor into the selection process.


Apply now.