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More about knowledge safety

In which situations does knowledge safety play a role?

Knowledge safety is a broad term that applies to various issues:

  1. Undesired knowledge transfer
  2. Interference
  3. Ethics/integrity


Undesired knowledge transfer

Undesired knowledge transfer can assume different forms.

  • It could concern the transfer of knowledge that has an impact on national security, for example, because a hostile state deploys the knowledge to improve its weapons.
  • It could also concern economic impact, for example, if knowledge transfer harms the competitive position of the Netherlands and Dutch companies.
  • Partly overlapping the previous point, it could also concern the transfer of knowledge that contravenes the law by violating export legislation or sanctions, for instance.
  • And sometimes undesired knowledge transfer concerns the transfer of knowledge that has a negative impact on human rights. One such example is a situation in which a state uses stolen technological knowledge to survey a certain group in the population. Or a scenario in which information about the wrongdoings of a certain government falls into the hands of that same government and, as a result, the source of this information is possibly at risk.



Interference concerns (covert) influencing of academic education and research by and from within other states. As a result of this, academic freedom and the safety of students and researchers can be put under pressure.

  • An example is a situation in which a professor is requested not to include certain information in their lectures because this could have consequences for their career or research funding.
  • Or a researcher who investigates human rights violations by the government of their country of origin, subsequently receives threats to themselves and their family and therefore feels forced not to share the information via their research or even feels forced to stop conducting research altogether.



  • In this part of knowledge safety, it concerns issues that can emerge, for example, when collaborating with researchers in countries where the government does not, or does not sufficiently, respect human rights (see, for instance, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU).
  • It could also concern countries where Dutch principles of scientific integrity are not complied with (Read more on this topic in the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity).
  • Similar to undesired knowledge transfer mentioned above, an example here could also include stolen technical knowledge that is used by a state to monitor a certain group in the population.
  • Or it could concern a situation in which a foreign research partner contributes DNA data for which it is not clear whether or not this has been collected in an ethical manner.
Confidental Infomation