McGill has a long-held commitment to openness in academic research and international collaboration. Of equal importance is the University’s responsibility to ensure the security of its research and to implement protections against foreign interference. We all have a role to play in safeguarding Canada’s research ecosystem from efforts by foreign governments to misappropriate intellectual property and research findings.
What is foreign interference?
Foreign interference is considered any actions or activities by foreign governments and/or other entities that seek to exert undue influence or which infringe on core academic values. Such interference may include cybersecurity attacks or intelligence-gathering activities that relate to intellectual and idea property.
People from outside research teams or institutions could seek to access research and researchers for their own purposes or benefits, including visiting students and faculty, private sector collaborators, foreign government representatives, not-for-profits, activists, or commercial competitors. People from within research teams or institutions, including contractors, employees, or students, could be self-motivated, supported or pressured by others to inappropriately access or steal research or innovation.
Resources for limiting foreign interference
Working together with governments, granting agencies and other academic institutions across the country, McGill is taking important steps to limit foreign interference in research and innovation. McGill’s Foreign Interference Working Group, established in 2020, has taken on a leadership role in the pan-University efforts. The objectives of the Working Group are to educate and help McGill’s researchers to protect their research, intellectual property, and knowledge development as well as to implement protections against foreign interference.
Some helpful McGill resources for researchers include:
- Guidelines for proposing a MOU, campus visits, and opportunities for global engagement
- Guidelines for cybersecurity
- Regulations for reporting on conflicts of interest
- Resources for research data management
- Guidelines on research partnerships, protection of data, and international visitors (These documents are currently in development. If you have questions, please email research [at] mcgill.ca.)
In Canada, the federal government, the federal granting councils, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation are working with academic institutions to develop specific guidelines aimed at safeguarding research. Many resources have also been developed internationally. Some available resources are:
- Mitigating economic and/or geopolitical risks in sensitive research projects (U15/Universities Canada)
- Travel security guide for university researchers and staff (U15/Universities Canada)
- Safeguarding Your Research, Government of Canada Portal
- Actions Taken by Universities to Address Growing Concerns about Security Threats and Undue Foreign Influence on Campus (Association of American Universities/Association of Public and Land-grant Universities)
- Guidelines to counter foreign interference in the Australian university sector released (Australian Government)
- Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Public Report 2020
- Foreign Interference and You (CSIS)
- L’ingérence étrangère et vous (SCRS)
- Guidelines on the National Security Review of Investments
McGill Foreign Interference Working Group
- Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation (R+I) (Chair)
- Brian Bauer, Director, International Engagement, Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
- Howard Bergman, Assistant Dean for International Affairs, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
- Pierre Boisseau, Senior Director, Institutional Communications, Communications and External Relations
- Hugo Dominguez, Director, IT Infrastructure, Network and Communications Services
- Brett Hooton, Director, Communications and Operations, R+I
- Kalyna Kruczowyj, International Education Officer, Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning)
- Olga Naiberguer, Director, Office of Sponsored Research, R+I
- Elisa Pylkkanen, Director, Strategy and Operations, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
- Jean Saint-Vil, Special Advisor to the Vice-Principal (Government and International Relations), R+I
- Giovanna Sebastiani, Associate Director, Industry Partnerships
- Mark Weber, Director, Innovation and Partnerships, R+I
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you have a question related to foreign interference in university research? If so, please send it to research [at] mcgill.ca. We will do our best to provide guidance, and it will help us build an FAQ section on this website that will be of use and interest to the wider McGill community.