weapons, human subjects, and so forth—is heavily regulated in the United States and elsewhere. In some countries, provincial or state regulations have more weight than national level rules. And changes in national or provincial governments that result from elections may affect the regulatory environment or the funding for research. Even if these changes cannot be predicted, it is important to consider the possibilities.

Dr. Velez de Berliner pointed out another emerging reality. U.S. institutions are not the only ones launching collaborative research efforts in countries such as Brazil and Columbia. Chinese researchers and institutions are also pursuing collaborative research agreements.

As has been mentioned by other speakers, it is important to understand the cultural and institutional context of potential partners when agreements are negotiated. Even with a detailed written agreement, enforcement may vary in different countries. It is always important to ask “what can go wrong here,” and “what is the worst that can happen”? The BP oil spill of 2010 showed how difficult it is to cope with low likelihood-high consequence risks.


The context for the Risk Management breakout session was set by a paraphrase of the Sufi sage Mulla Nasrudin: “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” The context for managing risk in international research collaborations includes the global challenges addressed by collaboration, the greater ease of communications, and the possible impact of negative consequences.

Individual participants made a number of points during the discussion. This is a non-exhaustive list, and is not intended to represent consensus views of the workshop or the breakout session:


  • Organizations and researchers cannot eliminate risk, they can only minimize and mitigate it. Participants in collaborations are challenged to prepared to deal with risks that were not anticipated, while trying to imagine all the eventualities that they can.
  • It is helpful for participants in international collaborations to understand their international counterparts as fully as possible. A shared vision among collaborators can be important. Establishing relationships can be vital to establishing successful collaboration, and is preferably done prior to a formal contract.

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