To: Graduate students at the University of Waterloo

From: Vice-President Research and International

Date: Thursday, May 4, 2023

Subject: Safeguarding research and researchers: an update

Safeguarding research and researchers: an update

May 4, 2023

I’m writing to share an update with you on the University’s progress towards safeguarding research at our institution.
First, I know that much has been made in the media in the past 24 hours about Waterloo ending its partnerships with the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei. The recent media attention implies an abrupt end to this long relationship, but in fact, nothing about the deliberate and careful process that is, and will continue to be, underway to manage our partnerships will change.
In discussion with the researchers directly engaged with this company, we implemented a pause on new partnerships. This pause allowed us to understand the implications of the risk assessment process by the federal granting agencies on current partnerships. Our decision to stop new activity was supported by the results of our institution’s NSERC Alliance grant submissions made under the new guidelines. 
As discussed in my message on March 29, both federal and provincial governments provided the sector with additional guidance in February.
On February 14, 2023, the Ministers of Innovation, Science and Industry, of Health, and of Public Safety noted that “grant applications that involve conducting research in a sensitive research area will not be funded if any of the researchers working on the project are affiliated with a university, research institute or laboratory connected to military, national defence or state security entities of foreign state actors that pose a risk to our national security.”
Shortly after, the Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities stated in a memo to Ontario institutions that the principles of safeguarding research go beyond federal and provincial grant funded research. The Minister noted: “We know that institutions undertake research activity outside of ministry-funded projects and we are concerned about any high-risk research activity taking place at Ontario’s postsecondary institutions. It is a key expectation of our government that postsecondary and research institutions respect and protect our national and provincial values and interests when participating in international research collaborations.”
We are committed to following government direction on safeguarding research. We are also committed to the pursuit of new, cutting-edge scientific knowledge and to safeguarding that knowledge to ensure Canada’s national security is not at risk. This is a balancing act, and it requires careful and thoughtful conversation within our own community here at Waterloo. 

We have been working hard to support our researchers across the University of Waterloo. This has included hiring the first Director of Research Canada in Canada, convening a cross-campus “Safeguarding Research Working Group,” and continuously engaging with our researchers on this important issue. This has included two workshops, memos, and meeting with researchers directly impacted by the loss of their funding. In addition, we have been meeting with the government to discuss the impacts on our community. This has taken the form of strong advocacy for transparency, as well as increased investments in these sensitive areas of research to ensure that the University of Waterloo and Canada remains at the leading edge of innovation. We have been increasingly concerned about barriers and racial profiling and have escalated our advocacy efforts to ensure the foundations of open science are upheld. 
The University of Waterloo approaches this work with the principles of transparency, predictability, academic freedom, equity and the norms of open science in mind at all times. 

The safeguarding research workplan outlines Waterloo’s priorities in safeguarding research, and numerous elements of university functions.

Learn more about safeguarding research

The world is changing. Geo-political considerations which didn’t touch the scientific endeavor 15 years ago are now top of mind for those of us in post-secondary education. We commit ourselves to an ongoing process, and open dialogue, to safeguard the research we produce.
Please reach out to any member of the safeguarding research team if you have questions about this work. Please look out for an invite to a campus-wide town hall with the safeguarding research team where we will soon come together to talk about this important work.

UW Crest

Charmaine B. Dean
Vice-President, Research and International
Office of the Vice-President, Research and International

2023 communications to graduate students