Use of Secondary Data and Record Linkage

Secondary or administrative data sources can be very useful resources for research. These data sources are collected by organizations to conduct their business. For example, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board collects information in the course of administering employee compensation claims and collecting employer insurance premiums. These types of data generally provide savings in cost and time and reductions in respondent burden as compared to direct surveying or interviewing. Often, these data sources cover entire populations.

Contemporary standards for ethical research practice expect that researchers obtain informed consent from people who are invited to participate in research. It is often not feasible to obtain individual consent from people whose information is recorded in administrative records. To address this special circumstance, enhanced standards for using secondary data sources without individual consent are being developed through the initiative called Harmonizing Research & Privacy, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The Institute for Work & Health is committed to respecting these standards and the guidance outlined in the CIHR document Best Practices for Protecting Privacy in Health Research (September 2005). To that end, whenever we plan to conduct a study using secondary data and/or record linkage without individual consent, we submit our study protocol for ethical review to a Research Ethics Board at a recognized organization. This submission includes assessments of the benefits of conducting the research, the risks involved, whether other methods could be used and the safeguards in place to protect the data and the confidentiality of the study subjects.

The following is a list of research projects being conducted at the Institute for Work & Health which are using or will use secondary data without individual consent. Projects from 2005 onward are listed. Click on any of the following to view a summary.

For more information about the Institute's Research Privacy Policy, please contact:

Agnieszka Kosny
IWH Privacy Officer