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EU consults on plans to enhance research security


Action is needed as member states have differing awareness of threats, Commission says

The European Commission has launched a consultation on its plans to support EU member states and the research sector in addressing research and innovation security threats.

Academics across the EU are increasingly confronted with risks when cooperating internationally, according to the Commission, due to growing international tensions and the rising geopolitical relevance of R&I.

But awareness of research security risks differs among EU member states, the Commission warned, meaning that EU-wide action is needed to reduce disparities in national research security measures.

On 6 December, the Commission opened a call for feedback on preliminary plans for a proposal it will make to the Council of the EU member state governments for a position on research security.

Emphasis on self-governance

The Commission said the proposal would set out guiding principles for internationalisation in research, as well as key policy actions in research security for national governments and the R&I sector. It will also include a list of supporting EU initiatives.

Guiding principles for responsible research internationalisation could include an emphasis on the self-governance of the sector “in full respect of academic freedom and institutional autonomy”, the Commission said. It added that the principles could include taking a country-agnostic approach, in which all foreign influence efforts are treated in the same way.

The proposal may recommend that member states support their national funding agencies in incentivising researchers to address research security in their projects.

It could also recommend that the EU facilitate coordination among member states for them to learn from each other on safeguarding against research security threats.

Guidance and monitoring

The bloc could support the development of practical guidance and due diligence tools for research organisations to use in their security efforts, while member states’ own efforts could be monitored at EU level.

When adopted, the proposal will offer “for the first time a joint definition of the problem and a shared sense of urgency, as well as a common understanding of what an effective policy response should look like”, the Commission said.

The deadline for providing feedback is 3 January 2024.