Export controls are federal laws that regulate the distribution of controlled devices, software, and information when such items are designated as “defense articles” or "dual use" commodities. Although these regulations frequently do not affect research activities, they can apply to the following situations:

  • The nature of the technology in the research has actual or potential military applications,
  • Foreign countries, organization(s), or individual(s) involved in the research are prohibited by law,
  • The government regulates the potential end-use or the end-user of the technology resulting from the research.

How Export Controls Can Affect Research

Main impacts of export controls on Sponsored and Un-Sponsored research:

  • Sponsors can restrict foreign nationals (students, post docs and visiting scholars) from accessing or participating in on-campus research,
  • Sponsors can restrict the dissemination or publication of research results (i.e. via Distribution Statements on Technical Documents),
  • Sponsors can require implementation of security measures to handle export controlled items and technical data associated with research,
  • U.S. export control laws can limit shipments, exchanges of information, travel and financial transactions to certain countries and nationals of those countries.

General Areas of Concerns Where Export Controls Could Apply to Research

Technology subject to export control regulations:

  • Research involving technologies specified in the International Traffic in-Arms Regulations (ITAR) or the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) may be export controlled unless they qualify for an exclusion,
  • Technologies involving controlled pathogens, toxins, bacteria, fungi, select agents, or chemicals have different qualifications for exclusions.

Physical Exports:

  • A license may be required if the research involves the international shipping of export controlled equipment or data.

Deemed Exports:

Foreign Travel:

  • International travel with export controlled equipment or data may require a license or a “tool of trade” exception,
  • Travel to sanctioned/embargoed countries may require a license and limit the hand-carrying of certain technologies,
  • Provisioning financial support or services overseas in a sanctioned/embargoed country or foreign nationals of those countries is highly regulated.

Defense Research:

  • Unfunded research related to nuclear, chemical, biological, weaponry, missiles, unmanned vehicles, or strong encryption technologies is subject to the ITAR,
  • Contract and grants funded by the Department of Defense or NASA can be subject to the ITAR,
  • Restrictive clauses in defense research contracts can limit publication, foreign national access or participation,
  • Research involving the use of defense articles on the ITAR U.S. Munitions List (USML) or associated technical data does not qualify for an exclusion, and may require implementation of research security measures.

Exclusions to Export Controls

Three sheltering exclusions exempt most university research from export control regulations:

Certain qualifying criteria must be met for exclusion(s) to apply. If exclusion criteria are not met, ITAR or EAR technology, articles, software, or technical data may be subject to export controls.

Avoiding restrictions on access and dissemination of research findings in contracts with the U.S. Government and industry is a key strategy for minimizing export control issues in university and research laboratory settings.

Process for Determining if Export Controls Apply to Research

Sponsored Programs reviews proposals and award:

  • Determine if research qualifies for the “fundamental research exclusion,” or
  • If the research is otherwise subject to export controls,
  • Screen for restricted parties,
  • Negotiate restrictive or troublesome clauses with the Sponsor to ensure research qualifies as fundamental research.
  • Inform the PI and the Office of Export Compliance of projects that have export control restrictions, or that are suspect and require further determination.

PI’s assist Sponsored Programs and the Office of Export Compliance:

  • Assist Sponsored Programs to determine if the technology involved in their research is specified in the ITAR U.S. Munitions List (USML) or the EAR Commerce Control List (CCL) when requested,
  • Assist the Office of Export Compliance to develop Technology Control Plans (TCP) and implement research security measures if required,
  • Notify the Office of Export Compliance when new staff are added (students, post docs, visiting scholars) or there is a change in scope of an export controlled project,
  • Ensure foreign nationals are excluded from access to export controlled technology or data until the availability of an exclusion has been determined, or an export license has been obtained.

The Office of Export Compliance jointly works with Sponsored Programs and PI’s:

  • Disseminates compliance requirements for identified export controlled projects (e.g. notices, licenses, security measures, or participation restrictions),
  • Makes recommendations and provides alternative plans to Sponsored Programs for performing export controlled research with as minimal an impact as permissible,
  • Prepares license applications and Technology Control Plans (TCP).


Interpreting export regulations can be particularly complex because they require balancing national security with traditional concepts of unrestricted academic freedom. Contact UCB’s Export Control Officer for compliance assistance.