STAGE 1a of the DATA ACCESS PROCESS: Planning the Data Access Request (DAR)

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Completion of the Data Access Request (DAR) itself is akin to completing a major grant funding application — it takes time, planning, and meticulous attention to detail. A major obstacle to timely access to data is an inadequate or incomplete application.

The Data Steward(s) require an exact description of the data required for a project in order to evaluate a request, and Population Data BC (PopData) needs a detailed description in order to prepare the appropriate data. A properly completed DAR will specify in detail the data needed for the research project, including a study population definition and a complete list of data files, fields and years of data.

Requests are assessed according to legislated requirements in the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), which only allows the disclosure of personal information if certain conditions are met, including: the exact nature of the data being requested, and how it will be used to fulfill the aims of the research project. The level of information in a standard research protocol is not sufficiently detailed to meet these two requirements. The DAR meets those needs and ensures that Researchers are provided with the data they need to fulfill their research project objectives.

The application process requires that Researchers:

  • Become familiar with all material outlining access requirements, data holdings, study population definitions, and privacy considerations
  • Ensure that the ethics and peer review requirements of the Data Steward(s) have been met
  • Submit a completed DAR to PopData


Completion of a DAR, the associated approval process and finally data preparation, can be a lengthy process. While we are working on reducing the timelines associated with an application, sometimes application to data delivery may take over a year. Researchers should be aware of this timeline when working on funding proposals and planning the course of their research. PopData has guides and tips on how to reduce timelines for application processing, and routinely publishes the time frames for recent projects on its website. See application processing.

Feasibility and cost estimates

Please note that PopData strongly recommends that Researchers request a Feasibility and Cost Estimate Letter for the purposes of grant applications. Researchers may request this online. PopData is usually able to provide the letter within 1 to 2 weeks. Please see our fees and charges page, or talk to a Data Access Unit (DAU) staff member for more information.

In order to learn what data is available, you may also request access to Metadata Central, our online data documentation system. In Metadata Central you will be able to view file and field level summary statistics. For more information, including how to get access, please visit

Data-linking initiatives and Privacy Impact Assessments

In November 2011 amendments were made to British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). These amendments introduced new requirements relating to “Data-linking initiatives” (DLIs), outlined in sections 36.1, and 69(1) of the Act.

An important requirement of a DLI is to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) and have it vetted by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). The scope of DLIs and extent to which the definition is applicable to research projects remains under consideration as regulations regarding DLIs have not yet been provided by the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). Until these regulations are promulgated, it is unclear whether research projects are exempt from being considered a DLI.

We recognize that this places Researchers and Data Stewards in a position of uncertainty. In an effort to bring some resolution, PopData has developed a tool to aid in assessing whether in general a project may be exempt from being considered a DLI.  If, after completion of this tool, the project is not exempt from the existing definitions, we recommend that Researchers contact their home institutions’ legal counsel for advice on whether a PIA is considered necessary. Please note: While this tool has been reviewed by the OIPC as a tool to support researchers, it does not constitute legal advice or opinion. PopData takes no responsibility for ensuring that Researchers are compliant with the data-linking initiative requirements in FIPPA. > download assessment tool

For more information on data-linking initiatives and the requirements of the legislation, please contact the OIPC by emailing or calling (250) 387-5629. Callers outside Victoria can contact the office toll-free by calling Enquiry BC requesting a transfer to (250) 387-5629.

See also:

> the Research Data Access Framework
> Study populations and extracts
> How much data to request

> Data Steward contact information

Page last revised: September 19, 2017