Minimize Risk When Establishing Partnerships

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External partners (e.g., any industry/sponsors or other academic institutions and their affiliated researchers and staff) can play an important role in facilitating research initiatives at University of Toronto (U of T). When researchers and staff are initially considering working with an external partner, the guidance and questions below can help determine whether the partnership is likely to be suitable and mutually beneficial for all parties.

Due Diligence

Researchers are encouraged to have open discussions with potential partners and, where possible, conduct ‘open-source due diligence checks’ to identify possible or perceived concerns. ‘Open-source due diligence checks’ consist of finding, organizing and analyzing publicly available information – usually from the Internet – in support of important decisions.

For more information and training on how to conduct open-source due diligence, please see the Government of Canada’s resources Conducting Open Source Due Diligence for Safeguarding Research Partnerships and Safeguarding Research Partnerships with Open Source Due Diligence Training Course.

For assistance conducting due diligence, please contact the Research Security Team (RST) early in the partner consideration process, with the full name(s) of potential collaborators and their affiliated institutions (including departments) or organizations.

In addition to the questions below, researchers may want to consider the questions found in the Government of Canada’s resource Safeguarding Your Research Checklist and review other resources for assessing risk on the Safeguarding Your Research website.

Guiding Questions

Note: The intent of the guiding questions below is to support deliberation in the decision-making process and to help self-identify risks. They do not require a definitive answer to proceed.

  • Does this involve research in a Sensitive Technology Research Area (STRA) or a Named Research Organization (NRO)?
  • What does the potential partner intend to do with the proposed research in the future?
  • Is the potential partner on any restricted entity or sanctions lists, either by the Government of Canada or by the government of any other country with whom a researcher / U of T may seek future collaboration?
  • Could engaging with the potential partner limit future engagement with other international partners?
  • From where does the potential partner receive funding? What is the governance structure of the potential partner? What implications could these details have on how this potential partner is perceived? 
  • What are the potential partner’s terms/policies on research security? Data security?
  • Is the potential partner located in a region where there is no distinction between civil and military use applications?  Could this partnership pose any concerns for U of T, Canadian national security, intellectual property, personal and/or institutional reputation, human rights, or for Canada’s sovereignty or its economy? 

International Research Partnerships

Researchers and staff who intend to establish international research partnerships should review Engaging in International Research Partnerships: Principles and Approaches in order to develop productive and safe partnerships.

Prior to proceeding with a specific project, researchers may also use the Research Partnership Security Information Document for International Partnerships tool to help in assessing the suitability and potential risks of engaging with an international partner.

For guidance on assessing any potential risks of engaging with an international partner, please contact the RST. For assistance developing international partnerships, please contact the Office of the Vice-President, International (OVPI) or the Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO) with regards to potential research agreements and/or industry engagements.