Data analysis stage

Printer-friendly version

Researchers are responsible for analyzing the data they receive. The data sets resulting from a request are large and often comprise hundreds of thousands of records spanning multiple files. Data Access Unit staff will provide support related to data files and fields if necessary, but it is expected that Researchers will have the capability to carry out their own analyses.

The amount of data that the Researcher receives and how it's structured depends on the number of data files and fields requested, the number of years requested, and the size of the requested cohort.

Data format

The Researcher receives the data as multiple files, not as a database. For example, a request for data from MSP, PharmaCare and Hospital Separations, spanning calendar years 1996 to 2000, would generally result in a separate file for each program area in each year (15 files in total). Each record is allocated a non-meaningful project-specific study identification number to enable identification of records belonging to the same individual across program areas and years.

Data are provided as ASCII flat files, as this format can be imported into a wide variety of software programs for analysis.

In addition to the data, the Researcher receives a data layout and data dictionary for each file. The data layout contains the length, start position, and end position of each field in your requested data file. The data dictionary provides coding information that will assist in interpreting the data.


Researchers that find data analysis requires more resources than anticipated may want to hire a student, or someone else with data analysis experience. Data Access Unit staff may be able to put Researchers in contact with people with relevant experience.

Looking for help with analysis for an approved project?  The Centre for Health Services and Policy Research (CHSPR) at UBC has extensive experience managing and manipulating large administrative data sets, completing complex analyses, and providing interpretable findings. Analytic Services by CHSPR can help once you have permission to access data.


Page last revised: November 15, 2016