Rice to lead first NSF-funded workshop on research security, uniting national experts to shape future research and policies

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Rice University, in collaboration with the University of Houston, IPTalons and the Society of Research Administrators International, will host a first-of-its-kind national workshop to examine the burgeoning field of research on research security to inform future laws, policies and guidelines aimed at enhancing research security around the world.

Supported by the National Science Foundation’s Office of the Chief of Research Security, Strategy and Policy, this two-part invitation-only workshop will allow participants to attend a virtual workshop held May 2, followed by an in-person workshop held May 23-24 at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston.

In recent years, concerns have mounted over persistent compliance failures which sometimes lead to the exploitation of national and international science and technology research by foreign governments, particularly China and Russia.

Tam Dao
Tam Dao

“Notably, there is little available data or public understanding of these activities due to the sensitive nature of the information and the desire of research-producing entities to avoid reputational risk,” said Tam Dao, assistant vice president for research security at Rice and the workshop’s lead organizer.

“Establishing trust between the intelligence community and the scientific research community requires examination of the nature, scope and impacts of potential threats and expanded sharing of data,” said Chris Bronk, professor of computer and information systems at the University of Houston.

On July 12, 2023, the NSF launched its Research on Research Security Program (RoRS) designed to study the field of research security as required in the CHIPS and Science Act and following the federal requirements outlined in the National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 and its accompanying implementation guidelines.

“An increased understanding of research security across all sectors will develop positive strategies and inform policy that ensures international research collaborations are as open as possible and secure as needed,” said co-organizer Mike Shannon, former director of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Management Assessment and current vice president at IPTalons.

The Rice-led workshop will feature a diverse array of experts from both the public and private sectors, spanning disciplines such as public policy, mathematics, physics, computer sciences, engineering and the social sciences. Participants will engage in discussions to identify current themes, major issues and challenges to studying research security and chart a roadmap for the future of NSF’s RoRS program.

Research example

“This workshop provides a unique opportunity for scientists and research administrators to engage directly with national and international policymakers and offer guidance on NSF’s new research on research security program,” said co-organizer Kenneth Evans, a scholar in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute and assistant director for innovation policy at Rice’s Office of Innovation. “As the policy landscape surrounding research security continues to change, we need new approaches to make sure future policies don’t place undue burden on researchers and research universities.”

“The diverse viewpoints and academic backgrounds of workshop participants, along with their expert networks, will offer an independent, nonpartisan strategy,” said co-organizer Evan Roberts, executive director for the Society of Research Administrators International. “This strategy aims to advance data and analysis on the nature of research security threats and the impact of current and future research security policies affecting global scientific collaborations.”

The findings and recommendations from the workshop will be summarized in a comprehensive report to be shared with the NSF and published by the Baker Institute for broad distribution. To learn more about the workshop, click here.