President's Corner is a regular column from President Deep Saini.
Dear Dal Community,
Last week, on March 24, the Government of Canada announced forthcoming guidelines intended to help protect Canada’s major investments in science and research. While previously the government focused its efforts on education and awareness, this announcement signals a move to the creation of more concrete safeguards and programs to improve security across Canada’s research community.
To achieve this goal, the federal government has tasked joint members of the existing Government of Canada-Universities Working Group to “develop specific risk guidelines to integrate national security considerations into the evaluation and funding of research projects and partnerships.” The hope is that these guidelines will complement work already underway at Canada’s granting councils and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and position researchers, universities, and government to apply consistent and due diligence in their assessment of possible research security risks.
As institutions where research of national and international significance is conducted, we have an obligation to respond to the changing risk environment. The unfortunate reality in this digital era is that all universities are at increasing risk of espionage, foreign interference, and information and data breaches. The sudden move to a remote work environment necessitated by COVID-19 exacerbated these dangers. While it can be onerous to adapt in the face of nebulous challenges like these, we must continue to evolve and work in collaboration with our government partners to improve and advance national security.
The security of Canadian research is an issue of vital importance to both the federal government and the post-secondary sector. The post-secondary sector has a strong history of working together with government to address security concerns, and I am very grateful that our federal partners are approaching the development of a framework collaboratively and with close attention to the varied impacts this work has. For example, the aforementioned Government of Canada-Universities Working Group is comprised of a broad array of research stakeholders and includes representation from the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, Universities Canada, and Vice-Presidents of Research.
In order to make an informed and robust contribution to this working group — and to ensure that we at Dalhousie are ready to respond to any new programs or guidelines — we are pulling together a group of internal stakeholders and experts under the guidance of the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation.
Thank you to those on campus who already work diligently every day to keep our information secure and support our research security infrastructure, including but not limited to our teams in Information Technology Services, the Office of Research Services, Libraries, and our Legal Counsel Office.