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Joint research with organisations and institutions that operate in nations with different political and legal systems to those within which the University operates is vulnerable to potential misuse.

It is important to have an understanding of the values and the legal framework and constitution of your research partner, their organisation and the country in which it operates.

You should also ask yourself and potential partners some questions before commencing a new partnership.

Who might be attracted to your research?

International collaboration is a route through which hostile state actors might attempt to benefit from research. Collaboration can provide access to people, IT networks, and participation in research that may be sensitive or have sensitive applications.

When preparing for a new international research partnership, be aware of potential interference or efforts to influence the direction of your work. When commencing a new agreement, it is essential to carry out due diligence checks on potential partners and the Research Office can help you with this. By carrying out appropriate checks, it is possible to review the background and connections of potential research partners. This will allow you to ensure the security and integrity of your research by considering what might happen if the wrong people had access to your work and reflecting on what they might be able to do with it.

How is your research being used?

Research may be applied in different ways than you had intended. Partners might be intending to use your research for unexpected activities. Think about how your research might be used and consider possible mitigations that might be put in place to prevent potential misuse.

In particular researchers should be aware of any potential for military use of their research. The UK government has restrictions in place relating to the sharing of military and dual-use academic research with overseas partners. The University has processes in place to help you meet export control requirements.

Who is funding your research?

Consider where the funding is coming from, what interests the funder represents and whether they conflict with your own ethical values or those of the University.

Review any controls that are put in place and whether there are any restrictions to the use of the research. Ensure it is clear who owns the research and what funders are able to do with it.

Appropriate ethical or legal issues related to ownership of the research, new processes or technologies should be formally addressed in advance of commencing a new partnership. Information on the setting up of research contracts is available through the University’s Research Operations Office and researchers are encouraged to contact Cambridge Enterprise early in the process to raise any questions they might have on how to protect, develop and disseminate the IP in order to maximise the impact of their research

How well do you know your research partners?

Through due diligence and contract checks (above) and utilising research networks and media, you should look into the background and connections of partners and consider whether they have any conflicts of interest with other research or through connections they have with other organisations/countries. If affiliations pose a potential risk to the integrity of the project information or outputs, then appropriate mitigations should be put in place to address these.

As with funders, consider whether a research partner poses ethical or national security concerns, such as through a relationship with a state or state military, and the nature of previous research undertaken.

Be open with your partners and discuss your security arrangements, and their security needs, regularly.