The following guidance outlines the key risk areas, how risk is measured within the College and the possible mitgating actions that could be put in place to manage risk:
Frequently asked questions Managing Risk
1) What are the key risk areas to consider?
When planning research activities which involve working with a new or existing partner, PIs should consider potential risks in the following key areas:
1) Financial Probity
A partner's financial stability and governance structure is important for both the management of the research and to ensure the organisation can receive payment from Imperial and manage expenditure related to its share of the work. To minimise the financial risk, the proposed partner is expected to:
- Operate in a country that can receive funding from foreign sources
- Hold a bank account in its legal name which can be reconciled against a finance management system
- Be able to identify individual transactions and retain supporting evidence of income and expenditure
- Have financial procedures in place to govern the management and control of income and expenditure
- Undergo an institutional-level financial audit on an annual basis
2) Ability to Deliver
It is important to consider why the organisation is suitable for the project, how the original relationship was established and how governance will be managed during the lifetime of the relationship. To minimise the risk of scientific non-delivery (especially when a partner does not have an established relationship with the College), the proposed partner is expected to:
- Have a track record of working with other universities and managing and delivering research activities
- Set up a project governing board which is responsible for overseeing project performance, decision making and risk management
- Have suitable processes for the collection, management, analysis and dissemination of data
3) Ethics and Integrity
It is important to consider how the organisation manages standards of conduct and the integrity of its staff. Where possible, copies of relevant policies should be obtained (or weblinks provided to online versions) so they can be checked against UK standards of ethics and integrity. To minimise the associated risks, the proposed partner is expected to have suitable processes to:
- To manage research integrity, ethics and misconduct
- To prevent fraud, bribery and corruption
- To prevent and mitigate conflicts of interest
- To promote equality and diversity
- Corruption Perceptions Index collated by Transparency International
4) Political, Economic and Geographical
It is important to consider any potential risks resulting from the location of the partner organisation, such as the wider political and economic status of the host country, as well as the safety of Imperial staff or local workers employed by the project. Further guidance can be found on the College’s Offsite Working webpages.
2) How do we measure risk?
The College has an established assessment criteria for managing risk which may be useful in considering the potential pitfalls in any third party relationship. The process focusses on the potential ‘Impact’ if something occurs and the ‘Likelihood’ of it occurring. Visit the risk management webpage for guidance on applying the assessment criteria to your project.
The Research Office risk assessment process, uses the College's risk scoring criteria to provide a robust and consistent assessment of the risks. Mitigating actions are then recommended to PIs, Departments and Faculty Contracts teams to lessen the College's exposure to risk.
PIs should discuss the management of any risks identified by the Research Office process with their Head of Department and Department Manager / Departmental Operations Manager in the first instance, taking account of the size and value of the project. Any discussion determining the nature of the risk and departmental decisions to accept or mitigate it should be documented and retained for audit purposes.
3) Possible mitigating actions
Any risk idenitfied by the Research Office risk assessment process will be given a risk score and the recommended mitigating actions will depend on the severity of the risk. Examples include the following:
- Requesting detailed transaction listings to accmpany partner invoices
- Credit checks for high risk organisations
- Payment terms specified as quarterly in arrears
- Requirement to provide ethical policies or to abide by Imperial's or the Funder's own policies
- Limiting travel to high risk countries or regions
- Follow-up review of the partnership at a later date
- Escalation to the Faculty Dean, Director of Financial Services or the College Risk Manager