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Principles for Establishing International Research Collaborations

The principles for enabling and facilitating research collaborations whilst taking proactive steps to ensure we engage in a safe, open, and responsible way.

To live our mission and achieve our vision fully, our community must be outward facing. An external focus will help us forge new collaborations, benefit from different perspectives to enrich our knowledge and enhance research quality. Our ambition is to continue to encourage greater research alliances through the creation of strategic collaborations with a focus to grow support for research and innovation. To do this well we must carefully consider our role in society and evaluate our engagement with our various partners, stakeholders, and communities both within the UK and internationally. This evaluation must include proper consideration of the risks, be they ethical, reputational, or legal. Furthermore, in recognition that legal, financial, ethical, integrity and reputational issues can also arise from external funding offered to support a range of activities, we must devote similar attention to our sources of funding.

Our principles

The University will continue to enable and facilitate research collaborations whilst taking proactive steps to ensure that we engage in a safe, open and responsible way. On managing these collaborations, the University will:

  • protect our community. We will exercise our duty of care towards all staff, students and collaborators. To achieve this, we will develop a due diligence framework as detailed below

  • raise awareness of the trusted research agenda to enable researchers (staff and students) to pro-actively identify risks and protect themselves from undue influence

  • uphold professional standards and preserve academic freedom by taking measures to mitigate risks, protect IP and security-sensitive data or technology

  • facilitate open collaboration and knowledge sharing by establishing processes to avoid exploitation or hostile interference and retain our independence from funding sources, sponsors and collaborators free from conflict of interests

  • respect our partners and collaborators by ensuring that we are mindful of cultural approaches to ethics, political and cultural sensitives

Responsible collaboration

Trusted Research

The importance of ‘Trusted Research’ in supporting the integrity of research collaborations can be seen in the guidance recently published by the National Protective Security Authority (NPSA) and UKRI. Further, the introduction of new national security legislation such as the National Security Investment Act 2021 , the establishment of the Research Collaboration Advisory Team (RCAT), and of the Higher Education Export Control Association (HEECA) all highlight the importance of this agenda.

Detailed guidance for institutions on the considerations and measures they should take to guard against hostile interference and promote academic freedom has also been published by UUK.

Researchers undertaking international collaborations should consider the potential implications and risks of sharing information and actively take steps to mitigate these potential risks. There are three key areas to consider:

  • assessing partner suitability

  • managing information and knowledge sharing

  • protection of intellectual assets

These areas come under the umbrella of the term Trusted Research, a phrase coined by the NPSA. It refers to the need to ensure that international collaborations take place within strong ethical frameworks with all potential risks anticipated. It is about ensuring that those collaborations continue to be successful, while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

The University has detailed guidance about how to mitigate potential risks of sharing information when undertaking international collaborations. Find out more here.

Due diligence for new research relationships & non- philanthropic projects

A key component of Trusted Research involves the requirement to conduct appropriate ‘due diligence’ on research collaborators and funders. Due diligence is the process by which one assesses the suitability of an external partner. The university has adopted a framework for ‘due diligence’ of research relationships.

The framework incorporates the following core principles:

  • legal compliance

  • financial impact: current and future

  • research integrity

  • potential undue influence by collaborators and/or their associations

  • reputational impact

This framework involves the introduction of new internal due diligence questionnaires that should be completed for all engagements with new collaborators and funders. Further details of the process can be found here.

In addition to due diligence, individual research projects ought to be screened for export control compliance. These checks will be carried out in line with the University's checklist for export control as detailed within the Export Control Policy. Project level checks will be carried out depending on the context of the research and in line with the University guidance. Projects are screened during applications for ethical review. Technology or items should not be exported before export control requirements have been established.

Due diligence for philanthropic donations

The Advancement Office manage donations on behalf of the University. All those involved in fundraising for charitable organisations, including universities, whether they are fundraising professionals or volunteers, have a responsibility to donors, to the organisation, and to the cause that is being supported. At the heart of fundraising ethics lies the need to ensure that our mission, our sense of personal and organisational integrity, and the trust of the donor are not violated. This requires openness, transparency and respect. Further, there is a need for the University to ensure that it does not expose itself by accepting donations from questionable or inappropriate sources. To this end this Ethical Fundraising Policy has been created for use by the University of Bath, and in particular its Advancement Office. More information can be found here

Conflict of interest

Researchers should all be aware and comply with the University’s expectations for declaration of conflicts of interest. More information can be found here

Research governance

Export controls

The University of Bath is committed to upholding the highest standards of research integrity and business conduct. The University’s Export Control Policy reiterates the University's commitment to complying with Export Control Law. The policy applies to all members of University staff and all students intending to transfer:

  • items on the military or dual-use lists

  • items to individuals, entities or countries on the sanction list

And relates to all research activity in controlled areas, whether related to a formal partnership or not. More information on the University Export Control Policy can be found here

Should you have any questions relating to export controls as they apply to research, please contact the Research Governance & Compliance team at

Data protection

The University is committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of all individuals in relation to the processing of their personal data and provides the Data Protection Policy for everyone to follow. The policy details special considerations for when conducting research. For guidance in developing data management plans please see here

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is a UK government scheme for international students and researchers who plan to study or research certain subjects in the UK. The ATAS certificate must state the institution where an individual plans to study or work, along with details of the course or topic of research. The University has designated webpages to help you find out if you need an ATAS certificate to get your visa, how to apply for your certificate and what to do when you have it. Find out more here

Compliance with local legislation

If you are collaborating with an international partner there may be laws and regulations with which you will need to comply in your collaborator’s country. Be aware any different legislative frameworks under which they operate, and how this might impact on partnership agreements.

For more information

Email the Research Governance Team

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