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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Research Security Program identifies risks and provides tools and strategies to prevent and mitigate them

John Miller

One year into his role as interim director of the Research Security Program, John Miller is working across campus to apply research security principles and best practices to safeguard research domestically and abroad.

The program, housed in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, uses an integrated approach, including monitoring the changing research security landscape, providing education and building systems to better evaluate and mitigate risks, Miller says. Operating a successful research security program protects the public’s investment in research as well as UW–Madison’s stake in federal research dollars.

To meet the evolving research security landscape and federal requirements, Miller leads a team with representatives from across campus — from legal services to risk management, International Safety and Security, export control, cyber security and Research and Sponsored Programs ­— who play a role in key research security areas.

The Research Security Program helps researchers safeguard their research and innovation in both the short and long-term. Having a strong research security program helps UW–Madison maintain its excellence in cutting-edge research and innovation on the world stage by fostering international collaborations essential to solving complex issues.

Since December of 2021 and the adoption of National Security Presidential Memorandum 33, UW–Madison has been required to operate its Research Security Program as an institution receiving more than $50 million annually in federal grants. But prior to NSPM-33, UW already had many aspects of a research security program in place, says Miller, and has a good foundation for meeting federal requirements such as in the areas of export control, conflict of interest, outside activities reporting and data security.

But in response to NSPM-33, there is more work to do. An initial step was to develop a research security webpage to provide a one-stop shop with resources for the university community. The webpage also serves as a platform for ongoing program development and implementation.

The webpage includes links to:

  • A researcher toolkit that points to campus policies and procedures as they relate to laws, regulations and policies in science and security; data retention guidelines; disclosure requirements; and more.
  • Outside activities reporting
  • International Division’s unit of International Safety and Security for help when preparing for international travel.
  • DoIT’s guidance and resources to protect data and devices when traveling.
  • Office of Cybersecurity resources for protecting against intellectual property theft and academic espionage, protecting sensitive personal information and preventing undue foreign government influence or actions that infringe on core academic values such as free speech and scientific integrity.
  • Research and Sponsored Programs, which reviews agreements that support sponsored research. Faculty also are required to report connections with foreign institutions and to report on research funding which does not flow through UW–Madison.

Miller says new federal guidelines will necessitate new and revised university policies and procedures that will need to be in place by 2025, and he opened the door for developing new educational opportunities related to research security.

“Our goal is to offer guidance to researchers on how to protect their work, enhance transparency and collaboration, responsibly disclose research findings and take other proactive steps to ensure the integrity of our research enterprise,” Miller says. “That means — together — implementing a continuous cycle of identifying vulnerabilities, recommending and implementing solutions and assessing our effectiveness in these areas.”

By Natasha Kassulke,