Application Questions

How long will it take to receive my dataset?

Once you submit your CLSA Data and Biospecimen Request Application, you can track the progress of your application through the online application system. You may be contacted if additional information is required. You will be notified about the approval status of your application approximately three months after the submission deadline. If your application is approved, a CLSA Access Agreement must be negotiated and signed between McMaster University and your institution. This part of the process can take a variable length of time (up to an additional three months) and is not under the control of the CLSA. You will also need to provide evidence of ethics approval for your project, if you had not done so within your initial application. Please be aware that these steps may affect the length of time that it takes for the data to be released to you. Once all parties have signed the CLSA Access Agreement and proof of ethics approval has been received by the CLSA, your data will be released within 7 – 10 working days. When planning for your project, you must include in your timeframe at least six (6) months from the application submission deadline to the time you receive your dataset.

Can my application be rejected?

The goal of the CLSA is to enable data access to the platform. There may be some instances when an applicant is asked to revise and resubmit an application at the recommendation of the Data and Sample Access Committee (DSAC). To avoid applications being sent to the DSAC that are not appropriate, we try to work with interested researchers before the application is submitted, to provide them with information about the available data and feasibility of a project. During the application process itself, we ask applicants to correct errors and omissions and provide feedback from the DSAC review, so that applicants can clarify or revise and resubmit a proposal.

What do I do if I have problems completing the online application?

Should you encounter any issues completing the online application, please contact us via

Who can apply to use CLSA data?

The CLSA data are currently available to approved public sector researchers, with no preferential or exclusive access for any individual. The CLSA welcomes applications from graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who wish to use data for their thesis research or for their postdoctoral work, respectively. For trainee applications (MSc, PhD, Postdoctoral fellows), the primary applicant must be the supervisor and the trainee must be clearly identified.

As an international researcher, can I apply to access CLSA data?

Yes, investigators affiliated with public research organizations outside Canada can apply to access alphanumeric data collected as part of the CLSA.

Currently there is no provision to transfer biospecimens to applicants outside of Canada, however, international researchers may choose to collaborate with Canadian researchers to access biospecimens, as long as the biospecimens are analysed in Canada.

How can I determine if my research project is feasible?

The CLSA DataPreview Portal has been designed to help researchers browse available variables in the CLSA Baseline dataset and find basic frequencies. Should you need additional information not available through the Portal to determine the feasibility of your proposal, please contact us on We can provide simple cross-tabulations (of two or three variables), which are not available through our DataPreview Portal. We do our utmost to respond to data queries to help potential users ensure that their proposal is feasible, however, we are not resourced to provide more in-depth statistical support.

Will my proposal undergo a scientific review?

Evidence of peer-reviewed funding will be considered evidence of scientific review for data access applications. You must provide proof of the peer-reviewed funding for the specific project in your application. If there are no plans to submit an application for financial support for your project, or if it is a trainee project, please provide evidence of peer review (e.g. internal departmental review; thesis protocol defense, etc.) if available. Awards of funding not specific to the proposed project (i.e. student fellowships) are not considered proof of peer review. If no evidence of scientific peer review is provided with the application, the project will undergo scientific review by the Data and Sample Access Committee.

Does my project need to have secured funding before I apply?

No, you do not need to secure funding before applying to request CLSA data. If funding has been requested, but not yet approved, please provide the name of the funding agency in the appropriate section of the CLSA Data and Biospecimen Request Application. If your project is approved, and once the CLSA Access Agreement has been signed, the CLSA Financial Administrator will contact the primary applicant with the invoice for payment of the fees.

Do I have to obtain ethics approval for my project?

Yes. Please note that ethics approval is not required at the time of the application to use CLSA data, but no data or biospecimens will be released until proof of ethics approval has been received by the CLSA. Should your institution not require a full ethical review for the use of de-identified data, please provide a letter from your institutional review board to this effect. Ethics approval must be obtained only from the primary applicant’s institution, not from all of the institutions of the members of the project team.

What are the fees for access to CLSA data?

Currently the charge for partial cost recovery per application is CAD $3,000 for researchers based in Canada, and CAD $5,000 for researchers based at institutions outside of Canada. This includes access to the Baseline, Follow-up 1 or both datasets. Due to the additional work required to make some data research ready, additional fees apply for access to image files, raw data and datasets that require more complex customization. Please see the table of additional fees on the Fees page of our website. The fees are payable for the retrieval and preparation of the dataset per approved project, not for each project team member.


Do trainees have to pay for access to CLSA data?

Graduate students (MSc or PhD) who wish to obtain the CLSA data for the sole purpose of their thesis, and postdoctoral fellows (limit 1 waiver per postdoc) who wish to obtain the CLSA data for the sole purpose of their postdoctoral project who are enrolled at Canadian institutions for their graduate degree or postdoc, can apply for a fee waiver. Canadian trainees working outside Canada but funded through a Canadian source are also eligible for a fee waiver. The request for a fee waiver must be checked in Part 1 of the CLSA Data and Biospecimen Access Request Application. Trainees eligible for a fee waiver are also waived the supplemental data fee for images and raw data. Applications made through the CIHR Catalyst Grant for the Analysis of CLSA Data are not eligible for trainee fee waivers.

If I have a student or trainee as part of my project team, am I eligible to get a fee waiver for data access?

No, simply having trainees as part of the project team does not satisfy criteria for eligibility for a fee waiver.

When will data from the Follow-up 1 be available?

We anticipate first release of Follow-up 1 alphanumeric data in late spring 2019. Applications to access data from Follow-up 1 are accepted as of the first data access application deadline in 2019, on February 25.

If I already have an approved CLSA project, do I get access to Follow-up data as well?

When the Follow-up data are released, current users and new applicants will be required to complete a new CLSA Data and Biospecimen Request Application to access Follow-up 1 data. Follow-up 1 data cannot be requested through an Amendment to an existing project.

Can I apply for data that are not yet available, but will be later?

The CLSA only accepts applications for data that are available at the time of submission. To know what data are currently available, please consult the CLSA Data Availability Table which is regularly updated as data become available. Applications proposing the use of data that are not available at the time of submission will not be considered for review, and you will need to reapply once those data become available.