Canada’s open and collaborative academic research environment embraces discovery, creativity, and innovation while keeping Canadian research and training internationally competitive. Fostering national and international collaborations, partnerships and networks is essential for Canada in its ability to fully contribute to and benefit from world-leading research, as well as its potential social and economic impacts.
Unfortunately, open and collaborative research environments may be vulnerable to abuse through theft of data and cyber threats, as recently communicated by Public Safety Canada. Furthermore, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has outlined many risks and best practices that should be considered by researchers and research administrators traveling abroad. Breaches of sensitive or protected data can not only undermine the integrity of the research enterprise, but also impact Canadian national security, safety, and economic prosperity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised particular concerns, highlighted by recent warnings from the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. As researchers, innovators and institutions continue to lead Canada’s efforts to address the global COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impacts, the Government is encouraging them to be especially vigilant and alert to potential threats directed to their people and their work.
In coordination with federal government partners and university organizations, Canada’s three federal granting agencies – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) – and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) provide tools for the academic community to self-evaluate and, when necessary, take actions to mitigate any security, safety, economic, or geopolitical risks associated with their research, their research partnerships and their international travel. These resources are provided in the Safeguarding Your Research portal.
Researchers[i] and their institutions are encouraged to use their best judgement and to exercise appropriate levels of due diligence when managing their research and establishing and/or continuing partnerships with national, international, and multinational partners. While doing so, researchers should continue to follow the best research practices honestly, accountably, openly and fairly, in accordance with the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research and other Agency policies.[ii] Through these policies, the Agencies are committed to maintaining the highest levels of research excellence and integrity, academic freedom and openness, and the proper stewardship of public funds.
For more information on safeguarding your research, on conducting risk assessment and on best practices for traveling internationally, please consult the resources available on the Safeguarding Your Research portal as well as any guidance provided by your institution.
[i] The term “Researchers” refers to any person conducting research, including but not limited to principal investigators, research staff, and research trainees.