Safeguarding your research: We’re here to help

Research and Innovation
Research and innovation
Research affiliations and partnerships
Research agreements

By University of Ottawa

Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, OVPRI

Research security training
Didier Kabeya and Emma Clegg of the Research Security Directorate presenting to faculty research advisers at uOttawa's CyberRange on December 13, 2023.
Research security is the protection of researchers’ work from unwanted access, interference or theft, while preserving the openness and integrity of the research and innovation ecosystem.

University researchers must protect their work from being targeted by hostile entities (including state actors and state-owned entities) who intend to steal Canadian innovation and technology.

The new Research Security Directorate is here to help you safeguard your work and comply with the government-issued National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships.

What are the latest updates from the federal government regarding research security requirements?

On January 16, 2024, the Government of Canada released its Policy on Sensitive Technology Research and Affiliations of Concern.

The policy states that research funding applications submitted to the federal granting councils (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) involving a sensitive technology research area* will be denied if:

  • Any of the researchers involved in the grant-supported activities are affiliated with, or in receipt of funding or in-kind support from, a Named Research Organizations (NRO) or any other entity connected to military, national defence or state security entities that could pose a risk to Canada’s national security.

*Research that will merely use an existing technology is not within the scope of this policy. 

What resources or support does uOttawa offer on security requirements?

Our uOttawa Research Security webpage is a good place to start — it outlines the importance of research security and collates key resources for researchers. They include bilingual online Government of Canada training, risk assessment forms for federal or provincial funding applications, research security news and relevant uOttawa policies (e.g., on international travel).

We’re creating complementary tools, such as quick reference guides on completing a risk assessment form and navigating export controls.

We’ll also be offering recorded training sessions for research advisers and other uOttawa support staff, which will be available on our webpage. Additionally, we’re planning a research security briefing series involving visits to individual faculties to offer discipline-specific support and engagement.

As well, we’ve developed a strategic plan to inform research security at uOttawa and promote a secure research environment.

How do I conduct an early-stage assessment of risks when considering research partnerships?

Consider the sensitivity of your research, including whether it involves critical minerals or infrastructure, or could have dual-use (civilian and military) applications. Any of these could increase your risk of being targeted and your research misused. Consult the Sensitive Technology Research Areas on a regular basis.

Understand your partners’ motivation in participating in the research. Check their governance and ownership structures, search for current intellectual property (IP) or research outputs and look for news or government sanctions involving them. See this guide on Conducting Open Source Due Diligence and consult the list of Named Research Organizations (NRO).

Keep in mind that these lists are subject to future updates. Institutions that are not on the list may still pose a risk. 

What should I consider when assessing the risks associated with potential research partners, particularly those with state ownership or influence?

Any foreign ownership, staff affiliations or military links can indicate the risk of foreign influence, unwilling knowledge transfer or IP theft. The Research Security Directorate can help with advice and review risk mitigation plans. 

If I have security concerns about a current collaboration, what measures can I take to comply with federal guidelines without compromising the research project?

Report research security concerns related to foreign interference, spying or unwillingly knowledge transfer to the Research Security Directorate.

The RSD can help vet research partners, interpret government research security guidelines and review risk mitigation plans, which could inform your decision whether to continue a research collaboration.

Report IT security incidents to uOttawa’s IT team (through TOPdesk) and privacy breaches to uOttawa’s Access to Information and Privacy Office.

Report incidents related to campus health and safety, well-being or harassment to the appropriate contact using this campus safety quick reference.  

I’m new to export controls. How I can comply with uOttawa and government guidelines, especially in areas related to sensitive or dual-use technologies?

Export controls are laws and regulations that govern the transfer of goods, technology or funds across countries. These can be used for purposes counter to the interest of the exporting country and are controlled to protect national security and prosperity.

Make sure you know whether your research is related to goods or technology on the Export Control List. The list covers dual-use, military and strategic items. For more, see this Export and Brokering Controls Handbook.

Consider seeking advice from uOttawa’s Innovation Support Services. Depending on the situation’s complexity, you can also email the University’s legal team.

Given the importance of global collaboration, how does the University strike a balance between academic freedom and safeguarding against security risks from foreign entities?

Our ability to retain and commercialize data, IP and innovation depends on identifying and minimizing risk, while maintaining openness and collaboration.  

Attracting research talent and safeguarding our research interests aren’t mutually exclusive. The prosperity of Canada’s research and innovation ecosystem relies on that balance.  

We are committed to supporting our uOttawa research community pursue their work in compliance with the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships.

How can I stay informed about national security risks and changes in guidelines that affect my research?

We’ll continue to post news, government policy changes and support tools for researchers on our website. As we develop more support resources, we’ll publicize them via university newsletters and briefing events.

Useful links