York to open StatsCan Research Data Centre

York’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) is set to launch a new and powerful resource for researchers on the Keele campus in January 2009 – a Statistics Canada Research Data Centre (RDC).

First established on university campuses across Canada in 2000, the country’s 15 RDCs provide researchers with access to master files that contain complete records of Statistics Canada surveys. These files are particularly useful to researchers because the information they contain is not edited to protect the identity of survey respondents.

“In an RDC’s controlled and secure environment, these files provide researchers with access to the rich detail contained in the original responses,” says Professor Michael Ornstein (right), director of ISR. “Instead of being limited to broad categories, a researcher can view exact measures of ancestry, occupation and income while placing those responses within the context of a neighbourhood and community, not just a region or province.”

The Statistics Canada surveys available through RDCs span a wide range of research interests. They include the National Population Health Survey, the Canadian Community Health Survey, the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics and the General Social Survey. Others, such as the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth and the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada, explicitly focus on development and the human life course.

RDCs also provide access to census master files that provide an unparalleled source of information on family and household structure, immigration, education, income, housing, ancestry and racialization, among other topics. The 2001 Census file alone contains more than 6 million records – one in every five Canadian households.

In the past, York researchers interested in using Statistics Canada master survey files had to commute to the Toronto Regional Statistics Canada RDC, located in the Robarts Library on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. With the new RDC branch opening on the second floor of York Lanes, researchers will no longer have to travel downtown to access the files.

The new space, which meets Statistics Canada security requirements, will contain eight workstations, offices for Statistics Canada staff and a meeting room able to accommodate research team meetings or classes of up to 15 people. ISR will operate and manage the centre.

“Having our own branch office will be a huge benefit to our researchers and affirms York’s commitment to quantitative social researchers,” says Ornstein. “Its presence will complement York’s strengths in theory and qualitative empirical research while expanding the possibilities for faculty, graduate students and post-doctoral students conducting quantitative social research. We expect it to attract new researchers working in this area.”

Researchers interested in using RDC data must have their projects approved by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and Statistics Canada, which takes approximately six weeks.

For more information, contact Michael Ornstein or Glenn Stalker at ISR or visit the Statistics Canada Research Data Centre Web site.

Submitted to YFile by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer