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Trusted Research: Protecting you and your research

How to mitigate potential risks of sharing information when undertaking international collaborations.

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:

  1. Assessing partner suitability
  2. Managing information and knowledge sharing
  3. Protection of intellectual assets

These areas come under the umbrella of the term Trusted Research, a phrase coined by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI). It refers to the need to ensure that international collaborations take place within strong ethical frameworks. It is about ensuring that those collaborations continue to be successful, while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

The advice below is designed to help protect theft and exploitation of researchers and/or their work, ensure that the work is safe and that reputations remain intact. In addition, CPNI has produced advice and guidance, in consultation with the sector. This includes a checklist to help you evaluate your potential research partners and develop better collaborations.

Partner suitability

Key questions to ask

  • why does a partner want to work with you?
  • is there any publicly available information about a partner which might give you cause for concern?
  • would the proposed partnership create any conflicts of interest for you or the University? And have you spoken with your existing partners about any potential conflict of interest?
  • will this research breach any existing contractual agreements that you, your department or university already have?
  • is the proposed partner linked to the military or to the state, in particular to a state whose democratic and ethical values are different from our own?
  • what information is available about the level of freedom and the state of law of the country where your research partner is based?
  • set within the context of any information gained from due diligence on potential partners, could your research be misused or have unintended applications which would be negative?

Processes and University guidance

Sources of support

Managing information and knowledge sharing

Key questions to ask

  • are you providing existing intellectual property (IP), research data, confidential or personally identifiable data to the project? If so, how is this going to be protected?
  • are appropriate information and cyber security measures in place in your research group?
  • is there any physical separation or protection required between research in similar fields?
  • what access will the research partner have to your IT network? If they do have access, what broader visibility might this provide?
  • will the collaboration lead to the physical movement of goods or the transfer of software, data, technology or know-how by any means from the UK to a destination outside the UK? If so, might this fall within the scope of UK Export Control Regulations?
  • will you be sharing any information or goods or materials which are subject to other restrictions such as US Export Control regulations (including those which may have been in the terms of funding or research agreements with third parties)?

Processes and University guidance

Sources of support

Commercial applications and the protection of intellectual assets

Key questions to ask

  • who will own any IP that is generated?
  • do you have plans in place for protecting the resulting IP?
  • does the collaboration maintain the ability to publish results and not restrict or interfere in normal academic freedom?

Sources of support