Receipt of data and the Secure Research Environment (SRE)

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The Secure Research Environment (SRE) is a central server accessible only via an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) through a firewall and use of a YubiKey® for two-factor authentication. Research Extracts will be housed on the SRE at Population Data BC unless otherwise authorised (see below).

The SRE provides:

  • Secure storage and backup
  • A centralized location for access and processing of research data
  • A range of software for use in data analysis
  • Security standards that meet Data Steward(s) requirements

PLEASE NOTE: Storage of data is as described and approved in the DAR. Please remember that FIPPA not only prohibits the storage of Personal Information outside of Canada, but it also prohibits access, which includes viewing. For example, if your data is on the SRE or a similar server you are prohibited from accessing that server from outside of Canada via VPN or any other method. Although the data remains on the server within Canada, your viewing of the data constitutes access outside of the country.

Available software

For a current list of software programs/packages available on the SRE visit: https://my.popdata.bc.ca/html/SRE/software.html

Authorisation to house research extracts outside the SRE

Researchers who wish to store, access and analyse their data extracts outside the SRE need to ensure this is clearly identified in the Data Access Request (DAR). To request authorisation, Researchers will be required to provide:

  • A written rationale/justification for why they cannot use the SRE
  • Details of the physical location(s) where research data will be used or accessed, including physical security measures in place to protect workstations, hard copy and source media
  • Details of network security measures in place if data will be stored on a network or system to which individuals other than the identified project personnel can have access
  • Details of the security measures taken to protect data residing on a personal computer if data will be stored on or accessed from the hard drive of a PC

Transfers in and out of the SRE

While researchers are not permitted to download Research Extracts on the SRE to any local drive, downloading research outputs, scripts etc. from the SRE (e.g. for the purpose of incorporation into a paper for publication) is allowed. 

In order to balance ease of use, protection and accountability, PopData has developed a system which facilitates and monitors transfers into and out of the SRE. This process allows PopData to keep an audit trail for transfers, and the explicit action required by the Researcher to minimize accidental releases of data. The log information is reviewed by PopData regularly and upon request by the applicable Data Steward(s) to ensure conformity with the Research Agreement(s).

Uploading Data to the SRE

Researchers wishing to upload data to the SRE must request approval to do so from the Data Access Unit. If it is approved, the data will be added to the Researcher's folder on the SRE by PopData.

Outline of what happens between Data Access Request (DAR) approval and SRE access

  1. Once the DAR has been approved, the Researcher signs the following documents:
    • Research Agreement(s), including Pledge of Confidentiality and YubiKey® form
    • Population Data BC - Researcher Services Agreement
    • Population Data BC Cost Quote
  2. Data Access Unit staff forward login information to all identified Researchers requiring access to the SRE plus the Principal Investigator. This includes:

    • Username and temporary password for the my.PopData portal
    • Instructions for Privacy training
  3. Researchers, including the Principal Investigator, successfully complete online Privacy training*. Once all Privacy training is complete, a YubiKey® will be sent/ready for pick up and Data Access Unit staff will authorize access to the team’s project specific folder.

  4. Once the approved data have been extracted, the data will be placed on the SRE in the project-specific folder and the research team notified that their data is now available on the SRE.

  5. Following data delivery, the Researcher will receive an invoice for Population Data BC services.

* Please note, the Principal Investigator (PI) for the research project must complete the online Privacy training before any team members are given access to the SRE, regardless of whether the PI will be accessing the SRE or not.

SRE technical support

For technical issues and support please email sre@popdata.bc.ca. You will receive a response within four hours of submitting the email. Before sending an email please check https://my.popdata.bc.ca/sre/available for server outage and technical issue notices.

SRE technical support hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday


Page last revised: November 15, 2016