Call for Proposals to Access Data from the Provincial Overdose Cohort

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

The addictions research community in British Columbia 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 to problem solving the opioid crisis, BCCDC is issuing a Call for Proposals from researchers interested in accessing POC data, which will be made available through Population Data BC (PopData).

POC Data

The cohort includes individuals who have experienced a fatal or non-fatal overdose in B.C. since January 2015. De-identified data for these individuals includes:

  • Relevant historical Medical Service Plan (MSP) billings
  • Discharge Abstract Database (DAD) holdings
  • PharmaNet records
  • National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS) and additional regional emergency department visit data
  • Client Registry (demographic information)
  • BC Ambulance data
  • BC Coroner’s Service data
  • Drug and Poison Information Centre data

For more information about the POC please visit:


Only research proposals from individuals enrolled, employed, or appointed by any of the following 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).

The research question outlined in the Proposal must: 

  • Not require linkage to other external datasets
  • Be deemed to be in the public interest
  • Satisfy an ethics review
  • Demonstrate scientific merit

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

Criteria for the Evaluation of Research Proposals 

The Data Stewards for the POC will consider research proposals that have the potential to support BC’s response to the public health emergency. Specifically:

  • Research conducted should directly inform the overdose response. This requires both that 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 public health analytic teams and other researchers so that there is no confusion, and public health action is efficient.  This requires that standard definitions established by the POC are used by all researchers accessing the data (e.g. definition of an overdose episode, definition of opioid tapering).
  • Assets generated in the development of research become the collective assets of the community of analysts involved in overdose inquiry in order to accelerate standardization and efficiency.  This requires both that the POC share code and derived variables with the research community, and that new derived variables and code developed by researchers are shared for re-use by others. 

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 POC data by approved researchers.

Suggested Research Themes

While all proposals with the potential to inform the overdose response will be considered, some important knowledge gaps were identified during two prioritization exercises with stakeholders involved in the emergency response.  Gap areas that would benefit from researcher involvement include:

  • An economic analysis of the Overdose Crisis
  • Long-term sequelae and outcomes associated with opioid overdose
  • Risk factors for repeat overdose
  • Factors associated with geographic variation in overdose risk

Access to the POC

Approved researchers will access the POC remotely through the PopData Secure Research Environment (SRE). The SRE is a central server accessible only 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 POC 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. Efforts are being made to source funding to cover the data access costs for a limited number of projects per year. However, at this time, funding is not available. Applicants will be notified if this changes.

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 September 24th and October 15th, 2018. 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 POC data.
  • Section 15: After completion of the above sections, submit to the PopData Data Access Unit.


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

Page last revised: April 24, 2019