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University of Houston Key Part of First National Workshop on Research Security

Experts To Focus on Both Human and AI External Influence

By Kevin Quinn 713-743-7898

In a first-of-its-kind national workshop, The University of Houston, Rice University, IPTalons and the Society of Research Administrators International, hope to shape the future laws, policies and guidelines that will enhance research security.

In recent years, concerns have grown over persistent compliance failures which sometimes enable foreign governments and entities, particularly China and Russia, to exploit national and international science and technology research.

“UH is an integral partner in the Rice-led, NSF-funded workshop where the goal is to take a rational approach to research security that is based on evidence and balances the various risks without jeopardizing our highly valued international collaborations,” said Claudia Neuhauser, interim vice chancellor/vice president for research at UH. “We are excited to be a part of this group and to contribute to this developing field of research.”

 “With our colleagues at Rice, we are convening with global academic and government leaders to come up with ideas for protecting the fruit of research projects from theft by malevolent parties,” said Chris Bronk, associate professor at UH’s Hobby School of Public Affairs and a cybersecurity expert. “But more importantly, we are engaging in a dialog on research ethics and international collaboration at the frontiers of science.”

Supported by the National Science Foundation’s Office of the Chief of Research Security, Strategy and Policy, this two-part event  included a virtual workshop held May 2 and an in-person workshop scheduled May 23-24 at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston. Rebecca Keiser, NSF chief of research security strategy and policy, will deliver a keynote address at the in-person event.

“People assume our primary concern is to guard against forms of espionage, but this is a much bigger issue than mere spying,” Bronk said. “At UH, we have a degree program in the cybersecurity of transportation, and as we integrate AI into that sector, we must protect code and algorithms from outside manipulation. So, to me, research security is a cybersecurity problem as well.”

“Notably, there is little available data or public understanding of these activities due to the sensitive nature of the information and the desire of research-producing entities to avoid reputational risk,” said Tam Dao, assistant vice president for research security at Rice and the workshop’s lead organizer.

On July 12, 2023, the NSF launched its Research on Research Security Program (RoRS) designed to study the field of research security as required in the CHIPS and Science Act and following the federal requirements outlined in the National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 and its accompanying implementation guidelines.

The findings and recommendations from the workshop will be summarized in a comprehensive report to be shared with the NSF and published by the Baker Institute for broad distribution. To learn more about the workshop, click here.

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