April 29, 2011
By Kris Foster
About two years ago, the U of S teamed up with Statistics Canada to launch the Saskatchewan Research Data Centre (SKY-RDC) on the second floor of the University Library and it has proven to be an important tool for researchers.
“It’s a shared research facility that gives researchers and graduate students access to StatsCan censuses and population surveys that are confidential,” explained Carl D’Arcy, academic director of SKY-RDC. “We have census data from 1911 to 2006 and more than 90 types of surveys; some are yearly, some series and some longitudinal. Access to this type of detailed information is a real boon to quantitative researchers in social sciences, health, economics, population studies, and business.”
“Researchers don’t have the time, money or manpower to collect data that is this extensive and detailed. StatsCan has all of the data, but no one to analyze and use it. SKY-RDC facilitates research by putting the data in front of the researchers. Canadians benefit by having more evidence-based information available for decision makers to use.”
The centre, which D’Arcy calls “a social synchrotron”, is part of a network of similar facilities across Canada. Within the University Library, SKY-RDC is secure to ensure confidentiality and privacy of the data, he said. However, as long as there is a legitimate research project being pursued, any researcher in Saskatchewan can access the information pending project approval from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council—but that is not an arduous approval process according to D’Arcy.
In space that used to be home to the Museum of Antiquities, the centre was renovated to include 11 private workstations equipped with statistics software, and a couple of conference rooms for team projects. In addition to D’Arcy, who is a professor in the College of Medicine, the centre also employs two part-time Statistics Canada analysts as well as a statistical assistant. All are graduate students at the university.
The university covered the initial $350,000 start-up cost for renovations, equipment, furnishing and initial operation. “Operating funds for the centre have come initially from a strategic initiatives grant from the Office of the VP Research, a grant from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation and contributions from the library, College of Medicine and the Office of Associate VP Health Research but we will have to look towards providing continuing core funding for the research facility,” said D’Arcy. “Researchers don’t need a lot of funding to do this type of quantitative research. Data, software, equipment are all supplied, allowing you to focus on analysis and interpretation rather than the collection of data.”