Researchers decry a lack of clarity under national security risk assessments

Dr. Chad Gaffield, CEO, U15 Canada quoted in “University Affairs”, article by Brian Owens | March 21, 2023.

Concern rises about potential research chill as new rules are extended across federal research-funding agencies.

A pilot project by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to identify and minimize national security risks in federally funded research will soon roll out at all federal research-funding bodies. But researchers whose grants were rejected under the pilot say the process was confusing and lacked transparency.

The pilot required some applications for NSERC’s collaborative Alliance Grants to undergo an additional screening by national security agencies. The research council reports that around four per cent of the more than 1,000 applications received by the program were sent for extra review to identify potential national security risks, under the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships. National security officials determined that most of those – 32 out of 48 – should not be funded.

Chad Gaffield, head of the U15 group of research-intensive universities, co-chaired the working group that developed the guidelines. He said that while research with foreign partners is a particular strength of Canada, better oversight of those partnerships is needed. “Sometimes collaborations can be used against us, and have unintended negative consequences,” said Dr. Gaffield….

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