Graduate students and approved researchers no longer have to travel to access Statistics Canada data.

Faculty members, as well as Statistics Canada and UBC Faculty of Medicine reps, were at UNBC’s Weller Library today for the grand opening of the Research Data Centre (RDC). Located on the first floor, the RDC provides a secure connection to confidential data related to things like population, household services, and health issues. Unlike a lot of Statistics Canada information, this particular data is not released to the public.

Students conducting this research have had to fly as far as Ottawa to access this confidential information until today. Former students like Larine Sluggett, who earned her Masters Degree in Community Health Sciences from UNBC, had to spend months in Victoria to access data.

“It cost me a lot of money to do the travel and then to find hotel accommodations and besides that I was also isolated from my supervisors and the people that I relied on to help me with my methodology.”

She admits she was one of the lucky ones. Sluggett had family in Victoria whom she stayed with, but she knows northerners don’t have this luxury.

“Now that we have this here, it’s fantastic. It’s going to open up so many opportunities for students.”

These academics will save more than just money. Vice President Research and Graduate Programs Dr. Geoff Payne noticed it took academics a long time to conduct research and often had to stall while earning money and booking trips. The RDC will speed up the research process exponentially.

“Having it here in Prince George allows us to access private secure data, very important data, in a timely fashion.”

For all the Prince George residents who won’t be occupying this classified facility, Payne says they’ll still benefit from the research conducted.

“There are very important questions that we want to ask of the data, we can then use that information to feed that back into new ways of delivering health care or outcomes for communities,” he says, “having that data accessed in northern British Columbia here at UNBC will be so important for us going forward and answering those questions that improve the health outcomes.”

UNBC is just one of 29 universities to have this type of Research Data Centre. The branch is also affiliated with the British Columbia Inter-University Research Data Centre.