Frequently asked questions Managing Risk

How to undertake a Relationship Review

For GCRF projects, selecting the right partners to work with is crucial. As activities will take place in the developing world where there are greater financial and geopolitical risks, PIs and Departments should undertake a Relationship Review for each proposed partner and maintain an auditable record of the decision-making process.

With greater responsibility placed on institutions to manage Third Party relationships, it is recommended that Relationship Reviews are also undertaken for existing partners to ensure complete and up-to-date due diligence procedures have been followed.

PIs and departments should use the Relationship Review‌ and Conflict of Interest policies to determine the level of checks required based on the location of the collaborator, degree of pre-existing relationship and level of funds being transferred overseas. For high risk collaborations, College escalation routes are outlined in both policies.

When making and documenting decisions on partner risk, you should consider any issues that may damage the College’s reputation, especially whether the individual organisation or country have reported incidents of:

  • Bribery and corruption
  • Tax evasion
  • Fraud
  • Human rights violations
  • The supressing or falsification of academic research.

The following external indices and guides can help to highlight these issues in the countries where you would like to work:

As part of the relationship review assessment you should also consider and record how suitable each partner is for the proposed work as part of the decision-making process. Explain:

  • How the relationship with the collaborator was established
  • Why they are the most suitable partner to undertake this research
  • How you intend to build and monitor the relationship as the project unfolds.

It is highly advisable that you include this information on the reason for the relationship in your application as well.

Reviewing non-financial partners

Many research projects will include collaborations where no financial transactions take place, e.g. resources or support are given in-kind or voluntarily. In instances where there are no formal requirements to undertake a detailed Relationship Review, PIs and departments are advised to consider the risk to the College’s reputation and the research project when accepting non-financial support and working with such collaborators.

In particularly hazardous countries, a light-touch consideration of the issues outlined in the Relationship Review policy is recommended, including likelihood of bribery, corruption, tax evasion, human rights abuses and potential damage to the College’s reputation.

What if Imperial is not leading the project?

The lead partner should undertake the relevant due diligence checks, so if Imperial is a partner organisation, then we will not be responsible for undertaking checks on all the partners working on the project.

However, if Imperial subcontracts any part of its work or transfers money overseas, then we should undertake detailed due diligence checks as outlined above, examining the nature of the relationship and the financial probity of the recipient organisation.

How do we measure risk?

The College has developed assessment criteria for managing risk which may be useful in considering the potential pitfalls in any potential relationships. The process asks you to consider the potential ‘Impact’ if things go wrong and their ‘Likelihood’. Please visit the risk management webpage for guidance on using the assessment criteria.

PIs are advised to discuss the management and assessment of any risks relating to the project with their Head of Department and Department Manager / Departmental Operations Manager or equivalent in the first instance, and should take the size and value of the project into consideration. Any discussion determining the nature of the risk and decisions to accept it should be documented and made available for audit purposes.