Safeguarding Research Institutional Strategy

Executive Summary

In Spring 2021, the Government of Canada released a policy statement to enhance research security and encourage all involved in research to take precautions to protect their research. At Queen’s University, the Vice-Principal Research portfolio will support researchers through the process of due diligence with information, resources and support services that actively assess and mitigate risks to research and intellectual property. Queen’s is prepared to engage in awareness-raising activities, the training of staff and providing access to safeguarding tools, resources, and infrastructure. Awareness of safeguards and actions will be shared via the Resources for Researchers series and the internal Safeguarding Research webpage. Staff will receive training to navigate policy requirements and support researchers assessing risk, and internal units, including Partnerships and Innovation, Research Contracts, the Library, and the Centre for Advanced Computing. Efforts to support researchers will ensure research integrity, excellence and impact. 

The ideal state is that this strategy applies to all researchers, including students, staff, and faculty in all disciplines, at the University. However, in the first instance, our focus is to ensure that potential Tri-Council-funded researchers comply with any documentation required to complete grant applications, including but not limited to, the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships  now being utilized in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Alliance Grants Program application. A demonstration of conducting due diligence in this manner will lead the transition to manage security risks in research and innovation at Queen’s.

Oversight and Review

Dr. Kent Novakowski, Associate Vice-Principal Research (VPR) will oversee the implementation of the strategy. Dr. Novakowski is supported by a team, including staff in the VPR portfolio. 

The strategy will be reviewed by the Associate VPR and presented to the executive team and staff in the Vice-Principal Research portfolio on an annual basis.

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Introduction

In Spring 2021, the Government of Canada released a Research Security Policy Statement outlining plans to “balance openness and collaboration with appropriate safeguards for Canadian researchers’ knowledge, data and intellectual property”.

New guidelines were implemented for researchers working with partners in the private sector and applying for the NSERC Alliance grant. It is anticipated that similar guidelines will apply to all Tri-Agency and Canadian Foundation for Innovation grants that have collaborative partnerships.

The Government of Canada encourages all involved in research to conduct due diligence, attending to potential security risks and taking precautions to protect their research. Ensuring research is not exploited or misused requires a commitment to precautionary measures to mitigate risk, thus ensuring the benefits of research to the research community and beyond. 

Importance of Safeguarding Research 

Taking precautions to mitigate risk in research is part of best practices to discovery-driven and partner-based research.

  • Queen’s values the production of research and innovation for the betterment of society. Safeguarding research is important to our institution because Queen’s values the safe and secure, fair and inclusive management of research partnerships and intellectual property;
     
  • Queen’s values the use of risk-targeted due diligence by members of the research community to minimize potential security risks such as “theft, interference and unwanted transfer of knowledge and results” (Safeguarding Research , Government of Canada 2021);
     
  • Queen’s values open communication of research, embracing the exchange of ideas in the local, provincial, national, and international spheres.

It is these values that form the foundation for our desire to support our researchers in secure research practices, when practical and possible, in all manners and in all disciplines.

Institutional Support

To support the adoption of our Safeguarding Research Institutional strategy and to enhance the use of best practices in improving the security of research investments among researchers, Queen’s is prepared to engage in awareness-raising activities, the training of staff and providing and/or supporting access to safeguarding tools, resources, and infrastructure. The following practices are part of our institutional support:

Confidentiality, Ethical, Legal and Commercial Considerations

The institution supports researchers in adopting and complying with confidentiality, ethical, legal, and commercial obligations through various channels:

  • Best efforts to secure personal health or other confidential data in research are needed by researchers and research staff. This includes a meaningful consideration of how data is used, stored and shared. For example, identifiable data must be encrypted if stored outside a secure server (i.e. when stored on a portable device). The University Research Ethics Office and the Research Contracts Units assist researchers in the ethical considerations and legal agreements required to work with sensitive data. The Centre for Advanced Computing at Queen’s offers secure repository options for sensitive data. A multi-unit collaborative team is in-place to develop best practices and procedures for the use and storage of confidential data. 
     
  • Research complying with relevant legal and commercial obligations falls under the Partnerships and Innovation unit under the VPR portfolio. The Research Contracts Unit supports researchers with research related agreements required in research with legal implications. This includes but is not limited to resources for safeguarding research, data sharing and data transfer/access agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and confidentiality agreements.
     
  • The University Research Ethics Office supports issues of ethics and compliance. Best practices in research follow the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (2016) . Research projects involving human participants are reviewed by either the General Research Ethics Board or the Health Sciences Research Ethics Board. In addition, the Tri-Agency's Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2) is a resource for researchers to consider ethical conduct of research involving human participants. 

Oversight and Review

Dr. Kent Novakowski, Associate Vice-Principal Research (VPR) will oversee the implementation of the strategy. Dr. Novakowski is supported by a team, including staff in the VPR portfolio. 

The strategy will be reviewed by the Associate VPR and presented to the executive team and staff in the Vice-Principal Research portfolio on an annual basis.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity in Research

Integrating equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII) into safeguarding considerations enhances research management practices and impacts research quality and excellence. The Indigenous Community Research Partnerships training program is an open online resource that consists of four modules, with a fifth module being designed specifically for the Queen's University local context. This resource considers ethical partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, communities and organizations in research. The three module Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research training program, collaboratively developed by the Vice-Principal Research portfolio, the Human Rights and Equity Office and Viswali Consulting, helps the Queen’s research community implement EDII policies and practices into their respective research programs, projects and research environments. 

Safeguarding your Research Resources

Definitions

A ‘researcher’ can include any individual who worked on the research project that could legitimately claim intellectual contribution of the research project if the results of the research project was to be published in a scholarly work (Queen’s University Library). 

A ‘research project’ can be defined as the research associated with investigating a hypothesis or group of hypotheses (and applicable set of predictions) aimed at answering a distinct or specific research question. A single research grant may support one research project or multiple research projects, or the converse. In the context of this survey, a research project may be associated with a distinct set of research data and would be a subset of a research program, research activity or research area you may investigate (Queen’s University Library).
 

‘Research data’ can be defined as any data that are collected, observed, created or analyzed to produce research results.

Research data could include: 

  • Observational data such as sensor readings, telemetry, survey results, images;
  • Simulation data such as climate models and economic models;
  • Derived or compiled data such as text and data mining, compiled database, 3D models which can come in many forms including text, numerical, multimedia, models, software, discipline specific or instrument specific (Queen’s University Library).

‘Research security’ refers to “the ability to identify possible risks to your work through unwanted access, interference, or theft and the measures that minimize these risks and protect the inputs, processes, and products that are part of scientific research and discovery.” (Safeguarding Research, Government of Canada 2021).

Looking Ahead 

Currently we are resourced to assist researchers applying for Tri-Agency funding. That said, the institutional strategy is a living document and the VPR team will revisit the strategy based on researcher response and Tri-Agency requirements. We will plan for an annual review of Queen’s Institutional Strategy by the Associate Vice-Principal Research and the VPR Executive team. 
 

For more information, please contact: 
Dr. Kent Novakowski, Associate Vice-Principal Research at  kent.novakowski@queensu.ca

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