Call for Proposals to Access Data from the Provincial Overdose Cohort

BCCDC logoThe BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), together with a range of provincial partners, established the Provincial Overdose Cohort to identify risk factors and trends in health care utilization related to the public health emergency, with a view to inform and support the efforts of service delivery partners.

The research community in British Columbia (BC) has been a key partner in promoting data-driven public health policy, most recently as part of the provincial response to the public health emergency on overdose deaths.

To continue this collaborative approach and finding solutions to the overdose crisis, BCCDC is issuing a Call for Proposals from researchers interested in accessing the Provincial Overdose Cohort data, which will be made available through Population Data BC (PopData).

BC Provincial Overdose Cohort Data

The Cohort includes people who have experienced a fatal or non-fatal overdose in BC since January 2015. De-identified data from the following sources is available:

  • Medical Service Plan (MSP) billings
  • Discharge Abstract Database (DAD) 
  • PharmaNet 
  • National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS) 
  • Client Registry (demographic information)
  • BC Emergency Health Services (BC EHS) 
  • BC Coroner’s Service (BCCS)
  • Drug and Poison Information Centre (DPIC)
  • Chronic Disease Registry
  • Mental Health Data Warehouse (MHDW)  - new for Call of Spring 2020
  • Vital Statistics Deaths
  • Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (SDPR) Data - new for Call of Spring 2020

More information about the Cohort can be found by downloading this PowerPoint presentation or by visiting:


Only proposals from applicants enrolled, employed, or appointed by any of the following organizations will be considered:

  • A university, where the university status is defined under the BC University Act
  • A college, university college or provincial institute as defined under the Colleges and Institute Act R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 52
  • The Open Learning Agency as continued under the Open Learning Agency Act R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 34
  • Royal Roads University continued under the Royal Roads University Act R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 409
  • Another equivalent educational institution in another jurisdiction outside B.C. but within Canada

Further, only researchers who will conduct their analyses in Canada are eligible to submit research proposals pursuant to section 33.2(k) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

For a full description of eligibility requirements, please go to:

Guiding Principles

The governance model has been based on a set of guiding principles for researcher use of the Provincial Overdose Cohort (ODC):

  • Research conducted should directly inform the overdose response. This requires both that research questions be relevant to response efforts, and that results are communicated to stakeholders as soon as available and prior to publication.
  • Results generated by individual researchers need to be comparable to those generated by BCCDC. This requires that standard case definitions established by the Cohort are used by all researchers accessing the data (e.g. definition of an overdose episode, opioid agonist treatment (OAT).
  • Assets generated in the development of research become the collective assets of the community of analysts that analyze data using the Provincial Overdose Cohort in order to accelerate standardization and efficiency.  
  • Efficiencies are generated through exposure of the existing pre-linked, de-identified Cohort and Reference Cohort to researchers, rather than processing research requests for data de-novo which in large part duplicate the work already completed.
  • Data is held securely, can be used only for the purposes agreed and risk of re-identification is minimized.

Criteria for the Evaluation of Research Proposals 

The Data Stewards for the Cohort will consider proposals that have the potential to support BC’s response to the public health emergency, with emphasis on projects that address priorities selected from a group of people with lived experience in substance use (see Suggested Research Themes below).

Proposals need to be:

  • Evidence and Community Informed
  • Sex, Gender, and Trauma Informed
  • Reduce Harm and Stigma

The research question(s) outlined in the Proposal must: 

  • Not require linkage to any other datasets
  • Be deemed to be in the public interest
  • Satisfy an ethics review (once requested in full Data Access Request)
  • Demonstrate scientific merit

When required by section 11(1) of the E-Health (Personal Health Information Access and Protection of Privacy) Act, approval from the Data Stewardship Committee (DSC) will be sought before the Data Stewards enter into research agreements governing the access to Cohort data by approved researchers.

see complete evaluation criteria of the Cohort proposals and criteria checklist


Suggested Research Themes

While all proposals with the potential to inform the overdose response will be considered, some important knowledge gaps have been identified as priorities for the Data Stewards. These priorities include:

  • Access to Health Care Services
  • Health Care Utilization
  • Rural vs Urban Differences
  • Protective Factors to Overdose

see complete list of priorities and potential research topics

Access to the Cohort

Approved researchers will access the Cohort remotely through the PopData's Secure Research Environment (SRE). The SRE is a secure private cloud accessible via an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) through a firewall and use of two-factor authentication. The SRE provides:

  • Secure storage and backup
  • A centralized location for access to and processing of research data
  • A range of software for use in data analysis
  • Security standards that meet the requirements of the Data Stewards

All researchers accessing the Cohort will be required to complete the PopData privacy training program.


The cost of accessing and analyzing the Provincial Overdose Cohort is the responsibility of the applicant. Data access fees comprise a one-time charge plus a yearly SRE access fee. Up to five fee waivers will be available for approved researchers.

How to submit your Proposal

Proposals should be submitted using the PopData DARonline system as a Data Access Request (DAR). You will find DARonline on the my.popdata website under the Researcher Tools tab. You will need a my.popdata account to login. If you don't already have an account, you may register for one here.

Proposals may be submitted between April 23rd, 2020 and June 30, 2020. Proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

PLEASE NOTE: Only the following sections of the DAR require completion. DO NOT COMPLETE ANY OTHER SECTION.

  • Section 1: Project Title
  • Section 2: Research team memberships and academic affiliations
  • Section 3: Funding source(s) for the work (i.e. public or non-public funds).  Always include the CV for the Principal Investigator
  • Section 5:
    • Question 1: Timeline and knowledge mobilization activities
    • Question 2: Your research question
    • Question 3: Methodology
    • Question 4: Explanation of how the Provincial Overdose Cohort and Reference Cohort data will be used to meet the stated research objectives
    • Question 5: A description of how your research could contribute to B.C.’s response to the Public Health Emergency
  • Section 7:  Select “Provincial Overdose Cohort Data” from the drop-down menu.
  • Section 10: Under “Provincial Overdose Cohort Data”, select the option for submitting a research proposal for accessing ODC data.
  • Section 15: After completion of the above sections, submit to the PopData Data Access Unit.

Download this PowerPoint presentation for an overview of the data application process for the ODC.


For questions related to the application and approval process, please contact the PopData Data Access Unit via

For further information about data contained in the Provincial Overdose Cohort, please contact Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite via


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