Responsible Research

International research: keeping your work safe and complying with legal and regulatory frameworks.

Changes in the global geopolitical climate over recent years have resulted in an increased focus among universities, funders and government on the risks that researchers can be exposed to when sharing their work with partners overseas.  There has been a growing awareness that some countries with whom we have close economic and academic links have political and ethical values that differ significantly from our own.  Some of these nations have strategic outlooks that frame them as rivals, or even adversaries, of the UK.  In practice, those different ethical values can mean that hostile state actors target researchers in the UK.  Stolen personal data, research data or intellectual property can all be used by foreign governments or militaries to further their own economic, military or strategic interests.

A consequence of this shifting environment is that there is greater government scrutiny of arrangements that involve sharing potentially sensitive or valuable goods, software and technology with partners overseas.  This includes international research collaborations.  Legislation like the National Security and Investment Act, or legal frameworks like export control and sanctions regimes can impose compliance requirements on research collaborations, with criminal penalties for those who break the rules.

Advice, guidance and resources provided by government, HE sectoral bodies and the University of Edinburgh can help you to understand the risks, keep your work safe and stay on the right side of the law.

We want to help you make your research happen, but in a safe and secure way!


Understand the threat, risk-assess your proposal – and your partners

The UK government’s Trusted Research campaign highlights the threats posed to academic research, the methods used by bad actors to target researchers and offers practical tips on protecting your work from theft and improper exploitation.

National Protective Security Authority ( website)

Trusted Research Guidance for Academia ( website)


Responsible Global Engagement: Partnerships toolkit

The Partnerships toolkit is an information hub for University of Edinburgh staff providing resources on the principles of partnerships, how to develop new partnerships, due diligence checklists, risk management, internal governance and approval groups and staff contact points.

To access the Partnerships toolkit and for information on other topics relevant to international collaboration including safe travel for staff and students, information security and working globally, please visit Edinburgh Global’s Responsible global engagement webpage.

View Partnerships toolkit


Research Collaboration Advice Team (RCAT)

RCAT is a UK government unit that operates as a first point of contact for researchers seeking official advice about the export control and national security risks associated with international research. 

Research Collaboration Advice Team information on Gov.UK website

Should you have concerns about a partner, or a proposed collaboration, RCAT can work across government to provide advice that is specially tailored for academia.

To access RCAT, contact Edinburgh Research Office in the first instance:

Email Edinburgh Research Office to contact RCAT


Export Control and Sanctions

Export Control and Sanctions regimes are legal frameworks that exist in many countries worldwide, including the UK, to regulate the export of sensitive or strategically important goods, software and technology.  Exporting controlled goods, software or technology in breach of sanctions or without the required licence could assist in the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, perpetuate conflict or aid overseas powers in the repression of their populations.  Research outputs can be in scope and for researchers in the UK who break the rules, the result could be criminal prosecution.

You can find out more, and read the University of Edinburgh’s Export Control and Sanctions Policy and Procedure, by visiting our Edinburgh Research Office export control webpages.

Go to our Export Control webpage

We provide advice and guidance on how export control may affect your research and how to comply with the law. Contact us:

Contact the Export Control mailbox


Export Control Training

There is a range of export control training available to University of Edinburgh staff and students.  For information and to sign up, please visit our webpage:

Export Control Training


National Security and Investment Act 2021

The National Security and Investment Act gives government the power to scrutinise certain dealings in shares and intellectual property and to intervene in those dealings where there is a national security concern.

For more information on the legislation and links to university, sectoral and government guidance, visit our National Security and Investment Act webpages.

National Security and Investment Act 2021 information webpage


Information Security

The University’s Information Security Team provides training and guidance on how to keep your data and technology secure, both here in Edinburgh and while you’re travelling or working away.  Topics include the Clean Laptops Service, managing encryption, secure remote working and how to back up and securely delete sensitive information.

View guidance on Information Security webpages


Contact us

If you have any questions about the content on this page please contact us

Email Edinburgh Research Office