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Annual Report

New NB-IRDT satellite location launched and data research leader wins national award

(L-R) Donna Gates, Living SJ; Diane Burt, NBCC; Dr. Robert MacKinnon, UNB; Dr. Ted McDonald, NB-IRDT; Barry Strack, Regional Director, Horizon Health Network; Sarah Campbell, NB-IRDT; Ian Watson, NB Trauma Program; Dr. Laurelle LeVert, UNB.

A new satellite location of the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT) was launched on the UNB Saint John campus in December 2018.

It was one of two similar locations – the other is located at Université de Moncton to become the first data facilities of their kind in Canada to house both federal and provincial administrative data securely. UNB Fredericton hosts the main sites of these data centres in the province.

Serving as a research data centre for the province, NB-IRDT provides researchers with secure access to provincial administrative data allowing researchers to examine questions and provide data-driven results that will empower government to implement evidence-based policy, use public dollars effectively and anticipate the needs of a changing population.

“This is a major milestone for NB-IRDT,” said Dr. Ted McDonald, NB-IRDT director. “From its inception, we and our government partners conceived of NB-IRDT as a resource for all of New Brunswick, even though data access was only available through our Fredericton facility. The opening of our satellite sites in Saint John and Moncton is tangible evidence of our commitment to that objective.”

“We are very happy to see NB-IRDT expand its operations to Saint John and Moncton because it offers more opportunities for researchers and scientists to access this data,” said Judy Wagner, Clerk of the Executive Council Office with the Province of New Brunswick. “This work, and the projects that result from it, will allow government decision-makers to adapt and improve our programs to provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.”

UNB data research leader wins national award

In June this year, NB-IRDT Director Dr. Ted McDonald received the Mike McCracken Award for Economic Statistics at the National Economics Association’s 53rd annual conference in Banff, AB.

McDonald was a co-winner of the award, which comes with a prize of $2,000, with Jane Badets and Sylvie Michaud, both assistant chief statisticians at Statistics Canada. He helped found the NB-IRDT in 2015 as New Brunswick’s only data research centre and steward of provincial health and administrative data.

“We weren’t the first provincial data centre in Canada. But we’ve managed to leap ahead of other provinces in terms of the richness of the data available to researchers and our collaboration with the provincial government,” said McDonald.

Key to New Brunswick’s leap ahead was a provincial omnibus bill initiated by the Province’s Executive Council Office and supported by key line departments that amended more than 20 pieces of legislation to enable provincial health and administrative data to be shared with the NB-IRDT for research purposes after being stripped of personal identifiable information.

“Most New Brunswickers assumed their data was being used all along to inform economic, social and healthcare decisions, but it wasn’t until the Legislature passed the Act Respecting Research in 2017 that we were able to get access and combine data from a variety of departments,” said McDonald.

Because the datasets are now centrally stored and linked, government policy makers have the ability to make evidence-based decisions like never before, explained McDonald. “We’re helping to take a lot of the guesswork out of decisions that impact New Brunswickers and Canadians in a profound way. Facts are powerful tools.”