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Fall 2010, Issue 12

Your Research May Be Governed by Export Controls

U.S. export controls regulate the export of security-sensitive materials, information, and technology to countries or citizens of foreign countries. Most university research is not subject to export control because one or more of the following exclusions apply:

  • Fundamental Research Exclusion: “Fundamental research is basic and applied research in science and engineering where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community.” This exclusion applies only to the dissemination of research data and information.

    This exclusion does not apply to the transmission of material goods.

    This exclusion does not apply to research if the source of funding:
    • forbids the participation of foreign persons,
    • gives the sponsor a right to approve publications resulting from the research, or
    • restricts participation in research and/or access to and disclosure of research results.

  • Employment Exclusion: Employees are excluded from export controls if all of the following are true:
    • The employee is a full-time, bona-fide employee of the university.
    • The employee is not a national of certain countries of concern.*
    • The employee has a permanent address in the U.S. while employed at the university.
    • The employee has been informed in writing not to transfer the information to other foreign nationals.

      *Countries currently sanctioned (6/6/07): The Balkans, Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Zimbabwe.

      This exclusion does not apply to graduate or undergraduate students.

  • Education Exclusion: Graduate or undergraduate students, including students who are foreign nationals, may be provided with general scientific, mathematical or engineering principles commonly taught in universities. Foreign students using controlled equipment to conduct research are required to be registered for a research credit class.

Examples of Controlled Export
(Adapted from the University of Pennsylvania website)

  • A professor of engineering has developed a website containing technical information related to communication technologies with possible military applications. The website can only be accessed through a secured connection requiring a password supplied by the professor. Several researchers in Norway, South Africa, and Turkey have access to the website. This situation is subject to export controls since it allows access to export-controlled information by foreign nationals.

  • A researcher in the Department of Chemistry is working on organic compounds that have possible applications as toxins. The research is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Sending draft manuscripts describing the organic compounds for comment to foreign researchers outside the U.S. would be subject to export control since the information involves organic compounds with possible applications as toxins and potential for terrorist use.

  • A professor of art history is seeking to travel to Iran for an archeological dig. None of the equipment she is taking is listed on any export-controlled list. The findings of the archeological dig will be published and widely available. The professor will need to obtain a license from the Office of Foreign Assets to travel to Iran and engage in research there since Iran is a sanctioned country and the professor’s activities will involve payment of funds to Iranian citizens.

  • A faculty member has a contract from the Department of Defense for basic research in a scientific field. The contract contains the following clause:
    Disclosure of Information: University shall not release to anyone outside the University’s organization any unclassified information, regardless of medium (e.g., film, tape, document), pertaining to any part of this contract or any program related to this contract, unless the Contracting Officer has given prior written approval or the information is otherwise in the public domain before the date of release.

    The clause would be a restriction on publication, removing the research from the fundamental research exclusion; hence, the work would be subject to export control.

Penalties for not complying with export controls are severe and include seizure and forfeiture of articles, loss of export privileges, fines of up to $1M per violation, and 10 years in prison.

For more information on export controls, please see the Office of Research Administration webpage. If you have questions on export controls, please contact Paul Murphy, director, Office of Research Administration, at (617) 636-3819, (617) 627-3886, or paul.murphy@tufts.edu.



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