Research Security in Ontario

Principals, Deans, Academic Directors, and Chairs Professor, Faculty Member Research or Financial Administrator

How to Mitigate Economic and Geopolitical Risks?

The Government of Ontario is taking active steps to ensure that the benefit of research undertaken in Ontario universities, colleges, academic hospitals and research institutes through its funding programs is safeguarded to protect Ontario's long-term economic security and interests against risks that could result in the loss or misuse of publicly funded knowledge. The Ministry, in partnership with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, will undertake a review of proposals submitted to the competition to assess potential economic and/or geopolitical risks associated with the project and reserves the right to seek additional information to support the applicant's responses. Results of this review may be shared with members of the Ontario Research Fund Advisory Board and others involved in the adjudication process and may impact funding decisions. In addition, consider potential controversy or negative views that may result from any existing or planned association with all partners, including, private sector partners that may ultimately impact the reputation of Ontario. Failure to disclose recent and/ongoing collaborations with foreign institutions and commercial entities or positions on various international committees and boards may impact funding decisions. Further considerations when assessing potential economic and/or geopolitical risks:

  • Could the results of your project be used to support activities in other countries with ethical standards different from Ontario e.g. such as, internal surveillance and repression?
  • Are there any dual-use (both military and non-military) applications to the research being undertaken?
  • Is any of the research likely to be subject to Canadian or other countries' export license controls, particularly Ontario's closest trading partners and allies?

Applicants to the Ontario Research Fund are required to complete the Mitigating Economic and Geopolitical Risk Checklist and submit it to the Ministry as part of their application.

Risk Mitigation Measures

Examples of Risk Mitigation Measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Training (research security, cyber security, and intellectual property training)
  • Guidance and best practices from Government of Canada departments and Ontario
  • Partnership agreements that include intellectual property and technology transfer clauses that address national security risks
  • Data management plan
  • Cyber security plan
  • Establishing access restrictions for partners and personnel to an “as needed” basis
  • Regular reporting to your institution on the implementation and effectiveness of the proposed risk mitigation measures

Build a strong project team

  1. Verify all team members' professional history and assess alignment with the research priorities for this project.
  2. Assess existing or potential conflicts of interest or affiliation that would impede collaboration with any team member.
  3. Discuss and agree on clear goals and measures of success for the project.
  4. Discuss project risks internally and make a plan for their mitigation, involving external team members as appropriate.
  5. Assess whether the practices of your collaborator(s) and/or collaborating institution(s) are consistent with your institutions' standards on ethics and research conduct.

Assess Non-Academic Partners

  1. Ensure the motivations of all partners are clear and aligned with the goals of the research team, including any expectations about intellectual property.
  2. Assess if the partner's governance structure is transparent and whether the ultimate beneficiary of their collaboration on your project is clear.
  3. Assess the reputational risk associated with involving the partner.
  4. Explore if other academics have had positive experiences collaborating with this partner.
  5. Assess whether the practices and contributions of your partner(s) are consistent with the standards on ethics and research conduct at your own institution.

Cybersecurity and Data Management

  1. Verified all team members have completed cyber hygiene and data management training.
  2. Assessed if data management and cybersecurity measures needed to adequately protect research integrity are in place across all partners.
  3. Focused on addressing divergent cybersecurity and data management practices and decided on a mutually acceptable approach to securing your research project.
  4. If professional or personal international travel is expected during the project, agreed to a protocol for device management.

Review use of Research Findings

  1. Agree to a plan regarding how and when project details will be shared, including through publications, conferences, teaching, mass media, social media, and personal communications.
  2. Assess the potential value of any project-related intellectual property (IP) and how to protect it.
  3. Ensure all collaborators and partners have agreed on how to handle IP.
  4. Discuss how restrictions on academic freedom or commercial interests may impact the research project and the communication of research results.
  5. Ensure all collaborators and partners are comfortable with the likely uses of any research results.
  6. Ensure all mechanisms exist to guarantee that any graduate students involved in the project are able to use the results to complete their studies.

Definitions Currently used by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities

A relationship/collaboration may be determined high risk when the collaborating researchers and their affiliated institutions are linked to a hostile state actor''s military, intelligence or national security apparatus, state-owned or influenced national research organizations, state laboratories or state-owned enterprises. An entity and/or individual may also be determined high risk when they are sanctioned by the Canadian government and/or identified as end users of concern by other like-minded jurisdictions.
Funding beneficiaries include anyone identified in the application who would be a partial beneficiary to the funding, primarily a Principal Investigator (PI), Co-PI, collaborating researchers, industry and commercial partners, visiting scholars or students and staff who may become HQP.
A conflict of interest may occur when funding beneficiaries have undeclared appointments, roles and any material relationship with a foreign entity, including participation in a foreign-funded talent program.
A conflict of commitment may occur when a PI's time, or the time of a researcher supported by the PI, becomes committed to two different activities or to the same activity that is funded by two different sources.
Non-disclosure occurs when collaborations, relationships, conflicts of interest and/or conflicts of commitment are not disclosed on the application as required, and the due diligence uncovered material evidence to support the existence of such conflicts.
Implies scientific collaboration, including but not exclusive to co-author, co-publication, joint research or joint funding recipients.
Includes a formal memorandum of understanding, a partnership, a joint venture, joint funding, joint degree/exchange programs, graduate student supervision or a visiting scholar.
A material collaboration in most cases within two years of submission.
An identified individual partaking in the proposed research in a given application and/or anyone who engages and/or collaborates with individuals identified in an application on research-related activities.

Other Resources

General Inquiries:

Rahul Banerjee, Research Security Coordinator