International travel and conferences
Academic staff and students at the College travel for various purposes including, but not limited to, conferences, exchange programmes, field work, teaching, and secondments. While international travel is common practice in academia, it is important to assess the risks of doing so, taking into consideration whether the risks and potential value justify travelling internationally for a particular activity.
Necessary protective measures will also depend on the country you plan to travel to as this will highlight the level of security threat you have to prepare for.
Similar processes to assess risk level would apply to international travel for work as have been described so far when considering a new research or funding collaboration such as carrying out due diligence, conflict of interest considerations and contractual considerations. However, international travel requires additional risk management.
The level of protective measures you need to take when travelling abroad for work will vary depending on the activity you have planned. For example, there are generally more complex procedures in place if you are considering a secondment abroad versus a short trip to attend an international conference. Necessary protective measures will also depend on the country you plan to travel to as this will highlight the level of security threat you have to prepare for, if any, as well as whether the democratic and ethical values of the host country might raise concerns for academic freedom, integrity and security of your work.
Another element of working abroad that may be overlooked, but is crucial to be mindful of, includes travelling for personal reasons and working on your project during that time. It is important to continue applying protective cybersecurity measures to prevent your work from being compromised. This is particularly important if your work is of sensitive nature and would pose a threat to the UK’s national security if it were to be compromised; especially since some governments have surveillance systems in place. Trusted Research guidance aims to help you assess whether your research is sensitive. If you are unsure, you may speak to the Research Office for advice.
Accordions intl travel
Factors to consider when undertaking international travel
To protect yourself, your work and the College, consider the following factors and review the additional resources before formalising plans to undertake international travel for work.
- The duration of travel and the activities you plan to undertake, as this will indicate the degree of risk you could be exposed to and the level of risk assessment you are required to conduct, by the College.
- The purpose and intended outcomes of your visit and whether this may be subject to legislation both in the UK and in the host country. This would include UK legislation highlighted in the legislation section of this Trusted Research guidance.
- The political status and potential security threats in the country you plan to travel to – see the latest country specific travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
- Whether you are being asked to sign any type of agreement, no matter how simple the document looks, even if it is a simple online form. Ensure that you seek advice from your Research Services Team before signing anything.
- The nature of your work and the information you intend to share on your visit and how you plan to circumvent potentially sensitive questions or conversations.
Steps to take in preparation for international travel
General steps to take in preparation for international travel:
- Take a clean laptop and store only the documents you need to carry out your planned activity. If you are unable to take a clean laptop, implementing device-wide encryption adds a layer of protection to the data you have stored on your device.
- Determine which areas of your work you can discuss and cannot discuss ahead of time. It is often easy to overshare details about the work we do, especially with those who share similar interests.
- Have a plan in place to manage interactions that become concerning. For example, if you interact with someone who persistently asks for details about your work that you are uncomfortable or not permitted to share, you may need to respectfully refuse to answer. It may be difficult to do this in the moment, particularly more so for junior researchers. Thus, it may be helpful to have a plan in place for how you will respond to such conversations.
- Determine whether your research is subject to export controls or security requirements pertinent to data protection as this will inform you whether and what you are able to present your research at a conference, deliver lectures or share your work in any other format when travelling abroad.
- Ensure that all IT security measures are in place to protect your work before you travel. This will include using VPN, encryption, 2-factor authentication and limited use of external hard drives. Contact the ICT Service Desk if you have IT security questions or concerns.
- Review the College Off-Site Working Policy which outlines the College’s expectations of all those involved in managing and undertaking international travel for work, as well as the additional resources provided below.
The following list of resources provides internal and external guidance on managing risks involved in international work-related travel. These also present essential procedures to follow when travelling for work.
- Overseas Research Toolkit
- Country guidance
- Offsite Working:
- Meetings and conferences
- Personal safety
- Working overseas - consult this guidance if your plans for international travel involves long-term work overseas
NPSA guidance on countries and conferences provides detailed security steps to follow: Countries and conferences