PopData founder appointed Member of Order of Canada

A headshot of Professor Morris Barer

We are delighted and proud to share that in December 2023, Professor Morris Barer was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada. Morris is a leader in every sense of the word and was endlessly visionary during his career about how to build structures and opportunities that help others succeed.

Among many accomplishments, Morris was instrumental in the birth and development of Population Data BC. With colleagues, in the late 1980s Morris began the long trek toward the development of a linkable data resource. This resource would ensure that routinely-collected health data would be archived permanently, as Morris observed that, at that time, data were stored on expensive tape systems at the Ministry of Health and were over-written every five years. A linked data system would also avoid time consuming requests for data access, data extraction and linkage for each new project by housing and creating the linkage technology and expertise in one secure setting.

“This was to be a service to the Ministry of Health and to the health research community,” says Kim McGrail, PopData’s Scientific Director, who, with Morris, also played a role in PopData’s early development. “It was a journey fraught with set-backs and unexpected roadblocks, but with perseverance became a resounding success that has supported hundreds of research projects, served as a foundation for scores of research careers, and enabled research that has influenced many realms of public policy.”

It is important to note that Morris and his colleagues very deliberately set this resource up as a “public utility” meaning it was intended to be available to any researcher who could meet the criteria required under BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. There was no expectation that Morris, or his colleagues, would be involved in the research supported by these linked data, or even acknowledged personally in any form. This was the ethos of all of Morris’ efforts; there should be public good and little focus on the individuals who made it happen.

Congratulations to Morris on this well-deserved recognition, and thank you for everything you did to give PopData a successful start.