Next month, I’ll be sending an email that I know, for many of you, isn’t an email that you want to receive. Yes, December marks the launch of the annual researcher survey and I admit, before I joined the CRDCN central staff, I didn’t like the researcher survey either. Since joining the CRDCN team in 2017, I’ve come to appreciate the need for the survey. I’ve also tried my best to streamline the survey while improving how it measures what it needs to measure.
In discussions with researchers using RDC data, I’ve found that many do not see why it’s so critical to respond to the survey. So, why the researcher survey? You may or may not know that your work in the RDC is funded in a rather complex way – by more than 30 universities, by many provincial governments, by CIHR and SSHRC, and by the CFI through the Major Science Initiatives program – and they all want to see results of that funding. Every year, CRDCN is required to report on the work produced through the RDC program and on the users of the RDCs. CRDCN depends on the responses collected in the CRDCN researcher survey to demonstrate that the investment made by the funders – to provide researchers with access to the RDC data – is worthy of taxpayer dollars. CRDCN also counts on the researcher survey to help understand your priorities and to advocate for new data to be brought into the RDCs.
Consider for a moment what microdata access in Canada would look like without the funding that CRDCN secures based on annual reports to the funders. Before CRDCN was established, researchers working on sensitive data would be required to work in-person in Ottawa. This was extremely inconvenient and deeply inequitable.
Those of you who have been RDC users for many years will remember that the survey, in its previous form, repeated the same questions for every contract, year after year. In 2020, in an effort to streamline, I restructured the survey: regardless of the number of projects you have, the survey now asks some questions only once and/or prepopulates responses for you to approve/correct, and it no longer requires everyone on a project team to provide the same information. If you are a Principle Investigator on many contracts, I understand that completing the “outputs” section does require your time.
There are further changes coming that are aimed at making it easier to complete the survey. You may have noticed that over the past few years, I’ve been trying to gather the ORCiDs for CRDCN researchers. I had intended to use these to scrape publications, but found that fewer than 10% of RDC users provided an ID. Instead, I am launching a new publication submitter to allow you to more easily submit research and to submit it outside the annual survey intake period (December to February). This will help CRDCN keep up to date the bibliography of research using RDC data and will also streamline the process of the researcher survey for Principal Investigators.
If you’ve made it this far, I appreciate your attention. If I can ask you for one thing further, I would ask that you become a proselytizer of the researcher survey this year. Ask your colleagues if they’ve done their survey and explain its importance to their work, the CRDCN, and the RDC program.
Thanks in advance,
Grant Gibson, Ph.D.
Assistant Director – Research & Evaluation