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PEDAL lab is a medium security research facility that specializes in transforming and analyzing administrative data

We conduct research in areas of public economics, primarily focusing on issues related to education and charitable giving. We have established working partnerships with multiple data providers at various government levels, including school boards, universities, charitable funding agencies and other data owners.

We provide a platform for other researchers who require similar security settings and secure access to data for research purposes while protecting sensitive personal information frequently contained within data collected for purposes other than research.

The idea

The idea of creating a secure Canadian data lab which would allow researchers to tap into vast administrative data for empirical economic research started in 2002. Funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Innovation Trust, and McMaster University, Dr. Abigail Payne created a laboratory that provided physical, educational and data resources to conduct research related to public policy. PEDAL opened its doors in 2004, featuring infrastructure designed to protect data yet providing computing power and secure access for research purposes. Dr. Payne became the first director of PEDAL. Initially, research activities were focused primarily on fields related to education and charitable giving.

Read the article about the PEDAL lab grand opening

Growing up

Over the span of the following 12 years, we have evolved into a larger facility with a bigger virtual component, providing secure remote access for remote users. PEDAL turned into a lab specializing in working with administrative data in general, providing expertise in cleaning and transforming data collected for purposes other than research. We have established partnerships with various external organizations which were interested in the potential of conducting research using their own data. PEDAL houses multiple academic research projects led by researchers located at McMaster as well as other Canadian universities, and other countries. For many years, students of the Masters of Economic Policy program used PEDAL as the base camp, learning to work with data from the ground up, receiving hands-on training in Stata data transformation and analysis, and conducting a full scale research project as part of their coursework.

PEDAL 2.0

In 2014-2017, PEDAL has received additional funding from CFI to help transform the secure computer lab into PEDAL 2.0, a higher security facility with upgraded security features and new computer equipment. During the same period, we have moved into the new lab space on the 5th floor of L.R. Wilson building. We are expanding our collaborative efforts and partnering with researchers in other social sciences, computer sciences, health sciences and are open to new partnerships, as well as bringing new types of data and making them available for research. 

PEDAL is funded by awards and grants associated with the research projects, and operates strictly on cost-recovery basis. Researchers affiliated with the lab participate in covering costs of data and support staff according to the size of the research project and consequently the scope of the lab use.