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Trusted Research - what is it and why is it important?

Trusted Research - what is it and why is it important?

Trusted Research is advice and guidance that was originally created in 2019 by the National Protective Security Authority (NPSA) and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to support the integrity of the system of international research collaboration. The guidance was created in consultation with the academic sector and since 2019, the NPSA and the NCSC have continued to work collaboratively with the sector to develop further iterations of the guidance.

The guidance:
• Outlines the risks to UK research and innovation.
• Helps researchers, UK universities and industry to have confidence in international collaboration and make informed decisions around those potential risks.
• Explains how to protect research and staff from potential theft, misuse or exploitation.

Trusted Research does more than protect us as individuals, it protects the UK’s academic freedom by ensuring safety in international partnerships.

Our Research and Innovation office carry out due diligence to help academics here at Royal Holloway University of London to effectively identify and mitigate against research security risks. Whether you’re at the start of your career or a seasoned and well-published academic, it is urged you to explore the Trusted Research advice and guidance, and engage with our Research and Innovation office. There’s so much at stake which might not seem obvious even to researchers who are long into their careers. You can never be too proactive about protecting your research.

Why should I care?

  1. Is it important that my research doesn’t fall into the wrong hands?
  2. Am I working with parties outside the UK higher education sector?
  3. Does my research involve strict contractual and legal obligations?

For most academics, Trusted Research is something we need to know about, but not necessarily be anxious about.

  • But if our research is commercially or ethically sensitive, or could be used in ways we don’t intend, then this will matter.
  • If we are working with parties from other countries or other sectors, who may have different priorities for our research, this will matter.
  • If our research is subject to strict obligations to protect research data or control its movement or use, this will matter, particularly if it is in a ‘high risk’ sector such as quantum, AI, synthetic biology, cyber, etc.

All research can be at risk but joint and applied research can be particularly vulnerable.

Joint Research

Joint research can be corrupted by organisations and institutions based in nations whose interests, and ethical values are divergent from our own. Joint research can afford those individuals with hostile intent access to expertise, IT, research and networks.

Applied Research

Applied research is susceptible to misuse and interference particularly if the purpose is to solve definitive problems or create a commercial application. The potential for harm in applied research is great with consequences including loss of Intellectual Property and misuse of technology in either an unethical manner or a means which threatens national security.

Key Takeaways 

Collaborative research is vital

International research collaboration is fundamental to the university's strategy; good awareness and risk management can support research integrity, research impact and researcher reputations.

Trusted Research supports integrity

Protecting your research is important to you, your institution and your partners.

If your research is obtained by a hostile state actor, whether through legitimate means or not, you and your research could be affected.

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