Russell Group and Go8 will resist ‘unnecessarily restrictive’ research security policies

The two university mission groups – representing research-intensive universities in Britain and Australia – say they want to ensure their universities and research “remain open to the world”

The UK’s Russell Group and the Australian Group of Eight (Go8) have pledged to work closely with security agencies to safeguard research – but promised to push back on “unnecessarily restrictive measures”.

The two mission groups represent the biggest research-intensive universities in their respective nations. In February, the two bodies announced a new committee to explore research collaboration between their collective 32 members.

The joint statement pledges the universities to “work[ing] with our respective governments and security agencies to continue developing effective and risk-based measures to protect future international collaborations”.

But the mission groups warned that they would work in concert to “prevent unnecessarily restrictive measures and ensure our respective nations remain open to the world”.

The warning of regulatory burden comes a month after the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) published a report that warned new UK national security legislation to protect research could prove “counterproductive” if its approach is not targeted precisely.

The new National Security and Investment Act (NISA) became law in January 2022. Among several recommendations, the Hepi report urged the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to follow American and Australian counterparts and produce a “targeted exemptions list” of trusted domestic investors or allied nation-states to reduce bureaucracy.

Public and private universities, trusts, spin-outs, subsidiaries, research institutions and private companies that work contractually with the HE sector are all in the scope of the act.

The joint statement from the Russell Group and the Go8 added: “The Go8 and the Russell Group produce a range of high-quality, world-class research that addresses these challenges and underpins the success and prosperity of both our nations.

“We recognise that, like any other valuable asset, this research, and the collaborations that drive it, need to be protected from rapidly evolving threats in a complex global environment.”

Read more: Cybersecurity threat a top priority, universities tell survey

Related comment: The National Security & Investment Act 2021: 10 things UK universities must do to prepare

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