Image from a laboratory for illustration

Specific research fields or research programmes may be targeted, and collaboration can provide easy access to people, IT networks, and participation in research which may be sensitive or have sensitive applications.

Individual academic or research staff may also be targeted, be that through an overseas government, academic institution, or through a commercial partner.  This may happen by engagement at a research conference or through academic visits or research placements.

Most research will not have sensitive application and so will not be a cause for concern but being clear on which areas of research are sensitive is critical. Consider whether your research is commercially sensitive, has potential for patent protection, is or could be related to sensitive defence or national security technology, and/or could have a second use in military/defence applications (dual-use).  Be aware of what is most sensitive in your work, as this is most likely to be a potential target.

Things to consider:

  • Could the research be of benefit to a hostile state or be supplied to other hostile state actors?
  • Are there any dual-use (military/defence) applications to the work?
  • Is any of the research likely to be subject to UK or other countries’ export licence controls?
  • Is there any sensitive data or personally identifiable information that should be protected? (This may include genetic or medical information, population datasets, details of individuals or commercial test data).
  • Are there any potential ethical or moral concerns for the application of the research?
    • Think about the application of the research or potential application.
    • Could the research be used to support activities in other countries with ethical standards different from our own, such as internal surveillance and repression?
  • Is the research likely to produce commercial or patentable results?