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SEAL is a secure data lab that provides a safe environment for hosting confidential data. Current research is in the areas of education, consumer behavior, health economics, charities, pharmaceuticals, poverty and international trade.

Originally founded in 2004 by Abigail Payne (Economics), SEAL is operated by the McMaster Department of Social Sciences and is part of Centre for Research in Empirical Social Sciences (CRESS) at McMaster.  Since its inception, the lab has shifted focus from economics research to broader support of social science research.  Researchers working in SEAL come from many fields including Economics, Health Research, Nursing, Sociology, Social Work, Political Science and Education Studies.  Our researchers are based at McMaster University and other universities located in Canada, US, Asia, Middle East and Europe.

Researchers may use the physical lab which is located in a restricted access location at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario, or they may use the lab remotely through the use of a MobiKey.  The lab is open on a 24/7 basis. 

The lab has statistical and qualitative data analysis tools to meet most researcher’s needs.  SEAL uses server based thin client technology which provides very large data storage and memory capacity.  Users have the option to choose between standard performance machines that have 20GB of memory or high performance machines with 32GB or 64GB of memory depending upon the user’s needs.

SEAL security is maintained by several layers of protection which include physical access controls, video monitoring, firewall isolation from the internet, and data access controls.  Remote access uses the MobiKey system which is a non-VPN based secure remote access system used by governments and military organizations.

Researchers may bring in their own datasets or datasets obtained from third parties under a Data Sharing Agreement (DSA).  The SEAL lab will administer the data security elements of the DSA.  SEAL also has a number of research ready datasets mainly in the area of education and charitable giving.  We also offer a variety of public use datasets that can be merged with research datasets.

The SEAL lab also hosts large research projects involving many researchers.  We have collaboration tools that allow researchers to share data and results even if they are in widely dispersed locations.

We have resources available to provide data analysis should researchers need assistance. 

You do not need to be affiliated with McMaster University to use the SEAL facilities.

For questions regarding SEAL contact us at