PopData Support for COVID-19 Research

Population Data BC (PopData) is partnering with the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), the BC Ministry of Health (MoH), the BC Academic Health Science Network (BC AHSN) and others to support research related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

PopData is also part of Health Data Research Network Canada, which is supporting multi-jurisdictional research.

All information provided here is expected to evolve and will be updated as that happens.

What data will be available?

A survey of researchers identified high-priority data sets, all of which will be available for approved COVID-19-related projects. This includes:

  • COVID-19 testing data, individual-level for both those positive and negative
  • Fee-for-service physician payments (MSP)
  • Hospital separations (Discharge Abstract Database, or DAD)
  • Emergency Department visits (NACRS)
  • Prescription pharmaceuticals (PharmaNet)
  • Deaths (Vital Statistics)

Other data sets are under discussion. 

download researcher survey here

Academic access to DIP data to support COVID-19 research

PopData and the BC Ministry of Health are working with the Province’s Data Innovation Program (DIP) to pilot academic access to the program for priority projects that support B.C.’s COVID-19 response and require data from other provincial ministries. This access is being piloted ahead of schedule (originally planned for fall 2020) to support COVID-19 response; academic access to data for other projects, unrelated to COVID-19, is still under discussion.

How up-to-date will the data be?

COVID-19 testing data will be current.

For other data sets, PopData is able to provide open-year data. Data provided to researchers will be relatively recent, within the constraints of administrative data, and subject to routine updating of Ministry of Health data holdings. Ultimately this means there may be a lag of a few weeks rather than the traditional months or years.

This process was made possible through work over the past two years by PopData and the MoH, supported by the MoH and the BC SUPPORT Unit.

Will the data access process change?

All requests will still continue to require both peer review and ethical review. Research Ethics BC (part of the BC AHSN) just announced a rapid review process for COVID-19 provincial clinical research projects.

Projects that are funded through the MSFHR rapid-response program will be expedited. More details on other requests will be provided as they are available.

How is PopData working with MSFHR specifically?

Projects submitted to MSFHR COVID-19 Research Response fund do not need to include a budget for data access through PopData. Projects must outline data requirements, and will need to complete a Data Access Request to PopData, but funding for this is being addressed directly through the PopData-MSFHR partnership.


> Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Case Definition and Related Coding
> Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Research Resources
> COVID-19 Response from the Health Data Research Network Canada

Page last revised: June 25, 2020