Things researchers need to consider when they intend to work abroad, including health and safety, UK travel advice and insurance. These would generally apply to most researchers going abroad.
- Researchers who are nationals of other countries than the UK should follow the same processes and policies, even if they are doing the research in their native country. While researchers might be aware of the risks, they might be more willing to accept them or have a false sense of safety.
- Who are you? How are you going to be perceived by the overseas community?
- Can your background, gender, beliefs, or status affect the research or research participants? E.g. Are you member of the LGBTQ+ community going to work in a country where it could be considered highly sensitive and/or illegal?
- Is there any risk of harm to you due to the research methods being used or topic being researched?
- Do you have a support plan for yourself here in the UK, and locally, to deal with any difficult situations? For guidance on safety when working in unfamiliar environments see Code of Practice for the Safety of Social Researchers.
- Does your research fall under the sensitive research criteria? Please see UCL definition of Sensitive Research.
- For research in resource-poor overseas settings please see the Global Code of Conduct.
- Local legislation
All countries have their own legislation which you must comply with.
Please note that while abroad you still need to comply with UCL policies and if you are a British citizen, UK law, e.g. Bribery Act 2010.
Be aware of local customs, traditions and practices as your behavior may be seen as improper, hostile or even illegal, e.g. requirement for carrying personal identification, dress code, alcohol consumption, smoking, jaywalking, etc.There may be serious penalties for breaking a law, including deportation or imprisonment.
For specific information on local requirements contact consular services of the relevant country.
- Research Permissions
Do you need research clearance from the government or local organization? This is not the same as local ethics approval. This might be required even if the researcher is a national of that country. Some countries mandate this, e.g. Tanzania.
Permit for field studies
Field studies should be conducted in accordance with local legislation and may require specific licences or permissions, e.g. excavation permit.
Do you need a travel visa? Is a Research Visa required in the country to conduct research? This is different from a Tourist Visa.
- Travel Policy
UCL provides a comprehensive Travel Policy, that outlines the principles to be followed, as well as responsibilities and incidence reporting. Please follow the guidance when planning your travel.
- Risk and Safety
Have you thought about potential risks to you and your participants and how they will be managed?
The Safezone App can support students and staff, and help people keep in touch with UCL when they are travelling internationally and get assistance in emergencies.
Working Abroad Checklist
Please complete the Working Abroad Checklist prepared by UCL Safety Services.
If a member of the research team (including staff, students, visitors and contractors ) will be working alone at any time during the research, such as visiting a participant’s home or other forms of lone data collection or working within laboratories, please follow the additional guidelines for lone-working.
UCL has a Business Travel Insurance policy for staff and students who are normally resident in the UK. No individual trip should exceed 12 months. You may not be covered if going to your home country.
Do you have individual medical insurance? If your trip is longer than 12 months you may need additional insurance.
Do you have travel insurance? Have you registered your trip?
Are you bringing any equipment that might need to be covered? –see UCL Insurance Policies.
Some types of studies require research insurance, e.g. some interventional and clinical studies. For more information see Insurance and UCL Sponsored Studies.
- Travel Safety
Check the British Foreign Commonwealth Office website for travel advice, both before and during your stay. See advice for the specific area of the country you are planning to travel to as there might be different local levels of risk. For guidance and advice see also UCL Global Engagement Office. Travel safety will be considered if you are applying for ethics approval.
Different levels of advice:
Check the Foreign Travel Advice before traveling for potential risks. Check the neighboring areas, e.g. will you travel through a red area to get to the green area?
Advice against all but essential travel. Carefully consider the risks. Research projects based in the areas marked as amber will likely not get approved for research done by undergraduate and masters students.
Advice against all travel. Please note that research in such areas is considered highly risky and will only be approved on a case-by-case basis.
It is likely that applications only from very experienced researchers will be approved.
- Health risks
Please check TravelHeathPro for information on potential health risks, including current outbreaks, food and water hygiene information.
Immunisations may be required in advance of the trip. Some immunizations must be administered weeks in advance to be effective. The Occupational Health Service (OHS) is able to advise staff on all aspects of work related travel health
Your personal health history
Consider what health care is available and how to access it.
Do you have a pre-existing health condition? How will this be managed? Medical supplies may be subject to different medical legislations or supply constraints, e.g. codeine containing drugs are banned in some countries. There may be serious penalties for breaking a law, including deportation or imprisonment.
- Local Contacts
Local collaborators/partners help bridge the cultural differences.
Do you have local collaborators or do you need to find a local contact? For guidance and advice see UCL Global Engagement Office.
It is important to establish balanced and fair benefit sharing with local communities/ researchers -see below for more information.
For reviewing, advising on, drafting and negotiating research related agreements for and on behalf of UCL contact Research and Innovation Services.
- Access and Benefits
Access by researchers to any biological or agricultural resources, human biological materials, traditional knowledge, should be subject to the free and prior informed consent of the owners or custodians. See Global Code of Conduct.
If you want to access such resources you need to comply with relevant regulations, find out more on research integrity Access and Benefit Sharing webpage.
- Due Diligence
Compliance and Assurance team is responsible for developing UCL's Due Diligence framework, and related procedures, guidance, and processes to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Find out more on Compliance and Assurance webpage.
LMIC due diligence
In response to funder requirements, UCL has produced operational guidance to undertake due diligence checks on partners in low- and middle-income countries when applying for funding with an Official Development Assistance component. For more information see Global Research Funding.
- Publishing risks
Are there any risk involved in publishing the results of the research? Consider if:
- The authors/ participants could be at risk of a backlash or personal attack from individuals or groups, such as activists or ‘hate’ groups., e.g. controversial topics.
- The results of research could be taken and used by others with the intent of causing harm, e.g. biomedical research being used to create biological weapons, technology used to restrict civil/ human rights or censorship. See UCL definition of sensitive research for more information.
- Open Access
Are you planning to publish your results? See our Open Access webpage for guidance.