Export Controls

What are Export Controls?

Federal export control laws restrict the export or transfer of information, goods, equipment, technology, related technical data, and certain services to foreign countries in the interest of protecting national security and the domestic economy. These laws have been in existence for many years, but the events of 9/11 have resulted in heightened concerns about national security and stricter interpretation and enforcement of export control laws and regulations by the federal government.

Federal export controls are accomplished primarily through the Export Administration Regulations (the "EAR," implemented by the Department of Commerce for items that have both a commercial and potential military use) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations ("ITAR," implemented by the Department of State for military items and defense services). In addition, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions to protect foreign policy and national security goals.

The restrictions inherent in these regulations are directly at odds with university traditions of open access and dissemination of knowledge and research.  Fortunately, most university scholarship and other activities are not subject to export controls, either because the activity does not involve export-controlled items or data, or because research involving such items or data qualifies for an exemption from the regulations.  However, where export control regulations apply, the penalties for non-compliance are severe (up to $1,000,000 per violation and imprisonment up to 10 years) and may be imposed against individual researchers as well as their institutions.

Who needs to know about Export Controls?

You must become familiar with Export Control regulations if you are a University faculty member, staff member, or administrator.  Students involved in high risk fields should also be introduced to the regulations.  In addition, all relevant external agreements or contracts should ensure that partners, service providers, and sub-awardees are aware of their obligation to comply with these laws.      

Activities most likely to involve Export Controls:

  • Providing to or receiving from a boycotted country;
  • Accepting restrictions from funders on publication of research;
  • Taking a GIS, laptop, or other equipment to another country;
  • Sharing computer technology or software with foreign colleagues or students;
  • Having foreign students work with technical equipment, software, or chemicals, or biologics outside of class; or
  • Sharing or presenting unpublished data or information with potential military use to any foreign national.

If you are doing or planning any of these activities, contact the Export Controls Coordinator as soon as possible, at emily.pittenger@uni.edu.  

If one of the above circumstances may apply to you, or to someone with whom the University has a subcontract or agreement, you must educate yourself on export control regulations and guidelines and consult with the Export Controls Coordinator to determine if your project is covered by or exempt from the regulations, and if covered, what your responsibilities are.  If the activity is covered and you do not respond appropriately, you may face very serious personal legal consequences and be subject to disciplinary action by the university should a violation of the regulations occur. 

To learn more, follow the links below:

Where can I get help?

First, please review our various web materials to develop a basic understanding of the requirements.  If you suspect you may have a potential issue with export controls, review the Export Controls Flow Chart (DOC).  Finally, take any questions about the application of export control regulations for a given project, event, or activity to Emily Pittenger, Associate University Counsel, who serves as the Export Controls Coordinator.  Moreover, if you believe that any project or activity in which you are engaged might involve export control regulations, you are obligated to report that to the Export Controls Coordinator so that s/he can work with you to make a determination if the laws apply in your situation, and if so, how to ensure your activities are in compliance with the law. 

Acknowledgments:  Language for these Export Control web pages has been drawn from a variety of sources, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and other institutional websites.  A particularly useful resource was a 2006 publication from the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) in Washington D.C.. entitled, "Negotiating the Mine Field: The Conduct of Academic Research in Compliance with Export Controls", by Carol T. Carr.