Research security

Tri-agency guidance on research security

Research security refers to the actions that safeguard the integrity of research domestically and internationally, with a particular emphasis on protecting against threats to national and economic security. This includes actions that safeguard against the theft and misappropriation of research, as well as the unauthorized transfer of ideas, research outcomes, and intellectual property.

Canada’s approach to research security has been informed by ongoing dialogue and collaboration with Canada’s research community and it aligns with international best practices such as the G7 Common Values and Principles of Research Security and Integrity. Following these best practices, it is the shared responsibility of researchers, research institutions, federal research funding organizations, and the Government of Canada to safeguard the integrity of our research ecosystem from activities that undermine its foundational principles of openness, transparency, merit, academic freedom, and reciprocity.

Accordingly, Canada’s federal granting agencies — the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) — and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) recognize the importance of research security in the conduct of research and research training, as well as in research funding opportunities and policies. This shared acknowledgement contributes to safeguarding Canada’s national security and its open and collaborative research ecosystem. In so doing, we are committed to ensuring that the research that we fund does not contribute to advancements in military, security, and intelligence capabilities of foreign state actors that could pose a risk to Canada’s national security.

This webpage provides guidance for the research community, with regards to the implementation of research security measures by the federal granting agencies. We encourage all members of the research community to familiarize themselves with this guidance, and as well as the linked policies, guidelines, and resources provided by the Government of Canada.

We will continue to support and work with the research community, to safeguard Canada’s research alongside our continued commitments to open science, international collaboration, and to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Together, we can cultivate a strong, globally competitive research and innovation system in Canada where the outcomes of Canada’s research and development are realized by those that conduct it and for the benefit of Canadians.

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Guiding principles

The research security measures developed by the Government of Canada and implemented by the federal granting agencies follow a set of combined guiding principles:

  1. Academic freedom: Freedom to teach and conduct research in an academic environment. It is fundamental to the mandate of research institutions to pursue truth, provide education to students, and disseminate knowledge and understanding. Academic freedom, like institutional autonomy, requires an environment of enabled autonomy in which researchers are free from undue external influence or limitations on scholarly inquiry.
  2. Freedom from discrimination, harassment and coercion: Freedom from discrimination is a fundamental and internationally recognized human right that is foundational to the success of all aspects of the research enterprise. Ensuring that everyone, regardless of background or identity, is able to freely participate in the research ecosystem—without fear of or undue influence, coercion, or harassment from actors—will help build an innovative, prosperous, and inclusive world. Accordingly, research security measures must never lead to discrimination against or profiling of a member of the research community.
  3. Equity, diversity and inclusion: Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is the active promotion of the principles of access, diversity and non-discrimination in all research activities – including recruitment procedures and career prospects. Achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to advance knowledge and understanding, and to respond to local, national and global challenges.
  4. Institutional autonomy: Research institutions are free to pursue inquiry and disseminate knowledge based on evidence, data, and peer review. Institutions must be free to pursue their own mission based on the oversight of their governance to meet community as well as local needs. Institutional autonomy—along with academic freedom and freedom of expression—requires a safe and secure environment in which all individuals and institutions are free from unwanted external influence.
  5. Open science and access to research: Open science is the practice of making scientific inputs, outputs and processes freely available to all with minimal restrictions. It is enabled by people, technology and infrastructure, and it is practiced in full respect of privacy, security, ethical considerations, and appropriate technology transfer and intellectual property protections. Open science and research security are, therefore, fundamentally interconnected. Accordingly, the federal funding organizations are committed to the principle that research should be as open as possible and as secure as necessary. Under this principle, the open sharing and exchange of research inputs, methods data and results should be maintained to the maximum extent, while appropriate mitigations should be applied to safeguard research that could have adverse ethical or national security implications. The implementation of research security policies by the granting agencies is intended to complement and be compatible with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications and the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy.
  6. Fostering public trust and research in the public interest: Openness, integrity and security in research are essential to fostering and maintaining trust in the scientific process and in the scientific knowledge produced across all research disciplines. Ensuring that Canada’s research ecosystem fosters public trust and serves to advance the public interest requires adherence to these values, as well as appropriate stewardship, oversight, and management at all levels and stages of the research. Therefore, as necessary, federal research funding should be guided not only by scientific and strategic merit assessment but also by the appropriate consideration and mitigation of risks to the national security of Canada and the safety of Canadians.
  7. Transparency: Fully transparent and reciprocal sharing of the methods, data, and outcomes of research—while maintaining confidentiality when appropriate—is crucial to research collaboration, integrity, and the free flow of ideas and information. This also extends to the transparent disclosure of interests, affiliations and sources of funding between the individuals and organizations involved in a research endeavour, to foster trust and alignment on research goals and to ensure that potential conflicts are appropriately mitigated.
  8. Freedom of expression: As provided for in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of expression is the protection of free speech and the open exchange of ideas that form the cornerstone of intellectual discourse and the engine of impactful discovery.
  9. Integrity: As indicated in the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR Framework), anyone who conducts or supports research activities throughout the lifecycle of the research project or program—including the proposing, designing, performing, evaluating, reporting and dissemination of research and development—is expected to behave according to the values of honesty, fairness, trust, accountability and openness in order to foster and maintain an environment that supports and promotes the responsible conduct of research. Such behaviours include, but are not limited to appropriately identifying and addressing any real, potential, or perceived conflict of interest in research that could impact research outcomes, and complying with Tri-Agency guidance and policies such as the Tri-agency Guide on Financial Administration and the RCR Framework, agency-specific policies (e.g., on intellectual property), applicable agency requirements for certain types of research (e.g., research involving humans), as well as applicable laws and regulations, institutional policies, and professional or disciplinary standards.
  10. Collaboration: Driving forward the frontiers of discovery, innovation, and knowledge requires collaborations with both domestic and international researchers, as well as partnerships with organizations from the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, who bring a diversity of talents, capabilities and perspectives. In tandem with the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy, research collaboration encourages the free flow of ideas and research. Research collaborations and partnerships must be encouraged and enabled between people, institutions and organizations who share common research goals and values.

Policies, guidelines, and resources

The Government of Canada has published policies and guidelines aimed at addressing research security vulnerabilities in the academic research environment, and which are being implemented by the federal granting agencies and the CFI. For more information on these policies and guidelines, consult the links below:

A complete list of resources, including key lists and forms, can be found under the Resources section.

The federal granting agencies and the CFI are also committed to the continuous development of resources and guidance to support researchers in understanding and mitigating their research security vulnerabilities. These tools are available on the Government of Canada’s Safeguarding Your Research portal. All Canadian researchers are encouraged to consult these resources and to exercise due diligence when managing their research and establishing and/or continuing international partnerships and collaborations.

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