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Information for Public Sector Researchers

Who are public sector researchers?

  • Researchers and students affiliated with a university, college, hospital or other institutions
  • Publicly funded, not-for-profit health care agencies and research organizations
  • Policy makers
  • Other publicly funded knowledge users who require data or analytic services to support the development of evidence-informed policies and practices

Information for individuals from industry or using industry funds for their research.

Services available to public sector researchers

Access to ICES data

Researchers, students, policy makers or knowledge users who are affiliated with a publicly funded, not-for-profit organization and who want to obtain and analyze ICES data to answer a research question may submit a request to ICES DAS. DAS staff will contact the requestor to discuss the project’s feasibility, timeline and cost. Projects requesting access to data require the approval of a research ethics board.

DAS staff work with requestors to design a research-ready data extract from the ICES data repository using an algorithm that de-identifies data in a way that provides researchers with individual-level data while meeting all privacy standards. Requestors are provided with access to the linked, de-identified data extract on a secure, online research environment, where they can perform analyses and create reports. To ensure privacy policy compliance, linked data cannot be copied or removed from the environment.

Analytic Services and Reports – Research

In cases where the requestor is not seeking access to individual-level data, DAS can provide analytic services, including results reports based on analysis of ICES data. DAS staff and scientists will perform the analyses that generate the results report, in accordance with specifications provided by the requestor. Projects requesting analytic services for the purposes of research require the approval of a research ethics board.

Find out more about analytic services and reports.

To request analytic services and reports, submit a completed ICES DAS Public Sector Request Form.

Analytic Services and Reports – System Evaluation

Health system policy makers and providers looking to obtain research evidence to inform planning, policy, and program development for the benefit of the entire Ontario health care system are also eligible to submit requests for DAS analytic and reporting services. Requestors will receive results reports that include summary results (e.g., the number of people with a particular medical condition in Ontario in a specific time period, or the number of hospitalizations associated with that condition). DAS staff and scientists will work with the requestor to perform the analyses that generate the results report. Requests for non-research analytic services do not require research ethics board approval.

Find out more about analytic services and reports (system evaluation).

To request analytic services for system evaluation, submit a completed ICES DAS Public Sector Request Form.

If you are unsure whether you are seeking data access or analytic services, please email or contact ICES DAS at 1-888-480-1327 (toll-free).

Support for cohort and longitudinal follow-up studies

Researchers interested in receiving a cohort list of applicable individuals for the purposes of conducting publicly funded research may submit a request. ICES DAS may only provide a cohort list for the following purposes, subject to ethics board approval and other conditions that may apply: 1) to abstract or examine data from existing data sources (including but not limited to medical records, disease registries, human biological materials or genetic databases); or 2) to contact physicians or institutions for recruitment in research. DAS staff and scientists will work closely to work with the requestor to ensure the secure provision of minimal information as required to conduct the research.

Find out more about support for cohort and longitudinal follow-up studies.

To request a cohort list, submit a completed ICES Cohort List Request Form.

Data available to public sector researchers

ICES uses a unique 10-digit number to identify each individual in its data sets. The same encryption algorithm is used for all ICES data sets; this enables information to be linked from one data set to another and makes it possible to track an individual’s trajectory of care through the health system over time. Data availability and update frequency are subject to data sharing agreements made with the data custodians. Lag time varies depending on the data holding; for example, some data sets are updated as often as biweekly, others between one to two years.

Data sets available through ICES DAS include:

  • Hospital Discharge Abstract Database (DAD)
  • National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS)
  • Continuing Care Reporting System (CCRS)
  • Ontario Drug Benefit Claims (ODB)
  • Ontario Health Insurance Plan Claims Database (OHIP)
  • Registered Persons Database (RPDB)
  • Ontario Cancer Registry (OCR)

The ICES Data Dictionary provides a comprehensive listing of data holdings available.

In addition, researchers may also link their own externally collected research data sets to ICES data.


Costs will vary, depending on the type and complexity of the service request. ICES DAS staff are available to discuss the potential costs of data and analytic services. Ontario-based researchers and stakeholders are subsidized under the OSSU for infrastructure costs.

Eligible Applied Health Research Questions (AHRQ) are conducted at no cost to the requestor. Find out more about the AHRQ process.

Linking externally collected data to ICES data will incur additional costs.


The time required to complete a study will depend on the type and complexity of the request. In general, project assessment and confirmation of feasibility will take less than one week. ICES DAS staff will provide more detailed timelines as they relate to particular requests.

Submitting a request

The first step is to decide whether you would like to access a research-ready data extract on a secured virtual research environment, or whether you would like analytic services and/or reports. If you are unsure whether you are seeking data, analytic services or other forms of AHRQ response, please email or contact ICES DAS at 1-888-480-1327 (toll-free).

Submit a completed ICES DAS Public Sector Request Form.

For help completing the request form, see the DAS Request Form Information Sheet.

Frequently asked questions about public sector research

How does DAS provide access to data?

How does ICES ensure that its privacy and security standards are met when public sector researchers access data?

Does DAS provide public sector researchers with software applications for analyzing data?

Can public sector researchers request access to large data sets (as opposed to research-ready data sets that address specific questions)?

Will public sector researchers have to change how they interact with ICES and ICES scientists?

See DAS Frequently Asked Questions for more information.