Risk assessment on international partnerships

The purpose of this guidance document is to provide an overview of the potential risks and challenges to be aware of when establishing or reviewing international collaborations on education, research and innovation activities.

The checklist intends to serve as a support for assessment where the nature of the collaboration and the background of the partner will determine which questions in the list to use. It should be used together with the similar document on Human rights assessment.

Conducting a risk assessment for a proposed new partner is important to help us understand the potential risks of the proposed collaboration. For an already existing partnership conducting a risk assessment on a periodic basis will help ensure that our university continues to collaborate responsibly.

The extent of the risk assessment will depend on the nature of the academic activity, and the background of the intended partner.

In case the initial assessment of a project and the potential partners raises concerns is not easily answered, or the answers indicate that risks can not be satisfactorily managed the individual researcher or administrative staff should discuss the issue with the Head of Department.

Topic and purpose of the collaboration

  • Why does the collaboration take place and which effects/outcomes are expected in the short and long term? What are the motives of the partner/s?
  • What is the topic of the collaboration and is it in any way restricted by international sanctions? Are there any, national legislative restrictions in Sweden or in the partnership country? For information visit the European Commission's Recommendation on critical technology areas and  Export controls.
  • Is the collaboration balanced e.g. in terms of funding and level of knowledge? Will you get as much out of the collaboration as the partner?

The partners involved in the project

  • Is the organisation associated with a country that has an authoritarian government, a recent history of internal or external violent conflict, high level of corruption, or ethical standards that deviate considerably from Swedish?  More information on support for risk assess ment on human rights in international collaborations
  • Which other strategic partners does the partner have? Are there potential conflicts of interest between the partner and our university's other existing or potential partners? Which?
  • What is the partner’s relation with the government, political parties or other important societal actors (e.g. military, police, ethnic, religious etc)? Is the partner reputable? Is there a risk /history of that government or other external actors will unduly influence the research or education topic, content or data?
  • Will you be providing existing intellectual property (IP), research data, or  confidential or personally identifiable data to the project? How will this be protected?)
  • Will the partner have access to KI's IT network? What level of visibility could this give?
  • Will any physical separation or other protection of research resources and data be required?

If university/HEI partner:

  • Does the partner have a functioning organization for research ethics? 

If funding partner:

  • How is the funding organisation financed? Sustainability? Autonomy?
  • What other activities is the funding organization involved in? Controversies? Potential conflicts?
  • Has the organisation funded other foreign universities? Experiences?

Financial and legal arrangements

  • Who is funding the project?
  • Does the funding model entail risks regarding independence, integrity, ethics or academic freedom?
  • What kind of contract will be made with the partners and does the contract ensure the proper protection? Ensure that you get the required support from Legal department.

Use of project outcomes:

  • How will the data produced by each partner be used? (How will you publish, with whom? )
  • How do you ensure the proper protection of intellectual property rights and data resulting from the project?
  • Does the partner have any procedures in place to secure that data will not be used for any other purpose than what has been agreed upon in the contract?
  • Is there a direct risk of dual use of research results
  • How will students and doctoral students who are actively involved in the collaboration be supported?
  • How will project outcomes be published? Do the publications live up to the Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and the Vancouver Guidelines for assigning authorship?