FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government will introduce legislation today that would enable public organizations to store prepared data at the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training.

The intention is to facilitate data research which will help provide better program delivery in everything from health care to poverty reduction to traffic safety.

“This is great news,” said Health Minister Victor Boudreau. “If we want to move our province forward, we must know our needs in terms of future social programs and this initiative is going to allow us to do that. Other provinces and the federal government already have similar research centres in place. Today, we are catching up, to the benefit of all New Brunswickers.”

The legislative amendments will enable public bodies to store prepared data sets at the institute, which is a highly-secure facility on the Fredericton campus of the University of New Brunswick. Prepared data is record-level data that has been collected by government departments and agencies, but from which all directly identifying information (such as name, address, Medicare number) has been removed. The data will be used for research to help inform the development of data-driven public policy and more cost-effective program interventions.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner is supportive of the work conducted at the institute and has reviewed the operations of the research centre.

“This is a very exciting development. There is a large research community in New Brunswick interested in doing policy relevant research for the benefit of our province and this will greatly expand the scope of work that can be done, while continuing to respect the privacy of citizens,” said Ted McDonald, director of the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training. “It also demonstrates very clearly that the government is committed to the goal of bringing more evidence to bear on policy development in partnership with the research community.”

Researchers will only have access to the minimum amount of raw data necessary to conduct their work. In addition, the data can only be accessed in an ultra-secure facility. The computer network does not have an internet connection. Within that closed network, the institute uses a wide range of security and audit measures to ensure that data is only accessed for the approved purpose.

“We have arrived at a major destination; short of a revolution, we have given ourselves the means to be smarter and better, we have filled the gaps,” said Dr. Bruno Battistini, the president, CEO and scientific director of the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation. “New Brunswick is joining the world in big data analytics, connecting the dots of data toward making sense of it all and guiding our steps. In three words: Data to Knowledge to Action.”

By adding data from other sources, the province will be able to create linked data sets that would enable researchers to find patterns and make causal connections that have never been made before. This will help the government find new ways to address long-standing problems by understanding better the diverse sources of such problems.

A backgrounder is available online.