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Access to ICES Data

This workflow outlines the process by which a researcher accesses data on a secure online environment and creates manuscript ready research output.

Step 1

The Requestor submits the DAS Request Form

The Requestor must be a publicly funded, not-for-profit researcher, student, organization, policy maker or decision maker. The Requestor must specify the purpose of the project — academic publication, inform policy makers, report, etc. — and the intended audience. A pdf request form should be submitted.

Step 2

ICES DAS assesses the request. If acceptable, the Requestor is invited to a consultation to review the project.

Upon submission, the DAS team will assess project feasibility and timelines. The Requestor will be contacted within two full business days of submission of the DAS Request Form. If feasible and eligible for services, a consultation will be scheduled to review project objective and timelines.

Step 3

During the consultation, ICES DAS will gather information to develop a preliminary project plan.

Following the consultation, ICES DAS will provide the Requestor with a Confirmation of Feasibility that includes a cost estimate of the services requested.

The DAS team consults with the Requestor to develop a preliminary project plan. This consultation process (up to 10 hours) will gather information on the following:

  • Project Personnel: Specify the principal investigator and any analysts or research coordinators who are part of the project team. ICES DAS will also request a named individual who will require access to the virtual data environment. This person should be experienced in using statistical software (SAS, Stata or R) to analyze large data sets.
  • Type of Study: Specify whether the project is a cohort or case-control study. If cohort, has the cohort already been created or is cohort development required? If it is a longitudinal study, identify which changes over time are of interest (examples: residential changes, coding changes).
  • Index Event, Variables & Covariates: Identify the index event, age, sex and any other required demographic or geographic data. Specify any comorbidities and additional covariates.
  • Data Sets Required: Identify the data sets and dates that will be needed to answer the research question.
  • Types of Analytical Methods: Identify the analysis plan. Specify if existing data fields can be used or whether fields need to be derived. If there is a named analyst on the project team, are they familiar with the analytic methods that are required?
  • Disease & Procedure Codes: Specify any classification codes that will be used in the study.
  • Resources Required: Specify whether the project will require support from analysts, epidemiologists, scientists, project manager, etc.
  • Timeline: Specify the proposed timeline for the project and whether there are deadlines to meet (funding end dates, year-end reports, etc.).

Step 4

The Requestor seeks Research Ethics Board (REB) approval for the project satisfying any other conditions that must be met prior to project initiation, as specified in the Confirmation of Feasibility.

ICES DAS will provide the Requestor with a proposed project plan, high-level data set project plan and cost estimate based on the consultation. The letter of support accompanying the Confirmation of Feasibility will include conditions that must be met by the Requestor before project work can begin (examples include confirmation of public funding, copy of submission and written decision of the REB). If funding is being sought, the letter of support can be submitted to granting agencies for applications.

Step 5

The ICES Privacy Office reviews the submission to the REB and corresponding approval.

Upon approval, the Requestor submits to ICES DAS a copy of their REB application, approval and completed Confirmation of Feasibility for review. ICES Privacy requires evidence that the completed Confirmation of Feasibility has been submitted as a part of the REB application – an approval letter from an institutional REB typically lists the documents that have been submitted, and this is sufficient.

Step 6

ICES DAS provides the Requestor the DAS Agreement for signature.

When ICES Privacy is satisfied that the Requestor has met all the requirements of project initiation, ICES DAS will issue the DAS Agreement for review and signature. The DAS Agreement outlines the terms and conditions for provision and estimated cost of the services. Members of the Requestor’s project team will be required to sign a Confidentiality Agreement to be considered Authorized Researchers.

If the project scope, time or funding availability has been modified since the first consultation (Step 2), the Requestor will be invited to another consultation. A revised project plan and/or cost estimate may be provided as a result of the changes.

For projects requesting importation of external data to ICES, a data sharing agreement will be negotiated as part of the DAS Agreement specifying the data custodian, location of data, transfer schedule and data destruction upon linkage to ICES Data.

Following signature, ICES Finance will invoice the Requestor for services as per the payment schedule negotiated within the DAS Agreement.

Step 7

ICES DAS works with the Requestor to develop and finalize the Dataset Creation Plan.

Information from the consultation(s) with DAS and the project proposal will be used to put together the Dataset Creation Plan outlining in detail the Requestor’s data requirements (specific data sets, timeframes, variables, covariates, etc.). The Dataset Creation Plan must be approved by the Requestor prior to the ICES Analyst beginning cohort creation.

Step 8

ICES DAS completes cohort creation.

ICES DAS uploads the customized research-ready data to the secure virtual server, the ICES Analytic Environment.

The ICES Analyst creates the cohort(s) according to the approved Dataset Creation Plan. Once the cohort(s) have been created, project data will be moved to the ICES Analytic Environment for Authorized Researchers to access.

Step 9

ICES DAS grants Authorized Researchers access to the ICES Analytic Environment where analyses will be performed by the Requestor’s project team.

Concurrent to Step 8, Authorized Researchers will be onboarded to the ICES Analytic Environment. ICES DAS will provide Authorized Researchers with instructions on how to install the secure virtual desktop infrastructure and login. Once data is available, Authorized Researchers will be notified that the data set(s) are uploaded to the ICES Analytic Environment. Users of the ICES Analytic Environment must abide by the terms and conditions outlined in the DAS Agreement, Privacy Tip Sheet and the ICES Analytic Environment User Training Manual. Failure to do so will result in immediate termination of access to the ICES Analytic Environment.

ICES DAS offers two analytic environments for third party research: ICES Data & Analytic Virtual Environment (IDAVE) and Data Safe Haven (DSH). Based on the analytic needs of the project Authorized Researchers are provided with access to the project data on one of the ICES Analytic Environments.

  • ICES Data & Analytic Virtual Environment (IDAVE): Within the environment users are provided with access to software to perform analyses and create reports, including Microsoft Office 2010 suite, Adobe Reader, R-3.0.2, SAS 9.4 and STATA.
  • Data Safe Haven (DSH): This is a high-power computing platform and within this environment users are provided software to perform analyses and create reports, including SAS Viya 3.4, R, Anaconda 3 and Python.

IT support can be requested by populating and submitting this webform.

Step 10

The Authorized Researchers complete the analyses including the creation of manuscript-ready output, within the ICES Analytic Environment.

Authorized Researchers can request data outputs to be released from the ICES Analytic Environment (IDAVE or DSH) and are advised to suppress cells with counts less than six, including cells which allow for the back-calculation of cells with counts less than six. Authorized Researchers can request project output by populating and submitting this webform.

Step 11

ICES DAS assesses requested files for re-identification risk as per ICES policies.

Files cleared of re-identification risk are emailed to the Requestor.

Once the requested file(s) pass re-identification risk assessment, ICES DAS will email the file(s) to the Authorized Researcher.

Step 12

Requestor completes project and informs ICES DAS of project closure.

Access to project accounts will be closed and final administrative documents will be issued by ICES DAS. Any remaining and outstanding costs will be invoiced at this time. Any publications resulting from the work must include all applicable acknowledgments. Please refer to the Publication Guidelines for DAS Third Party Research (TPR) document and the ICES Data Dictionary for all the details.


If you have questions about ICES DAS, please email or call us at 1-888-480-1327 (toll-free).