Export Controls in Research

Universities and Export Controls

The Fundamental Research Exclusion

In recognition of the open nature of academic research, both the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have provisions that information that is published and generally accessible to the public through fundamental research is not subject to export controls. Under both regulations, no license is required to share the results of fundamental research, even if they concern technology or items otherwise controlled. This is often called the “Fundamental Research Exclusion” (FRE) and is what permits universities to allow foreign nationals to participate in research on U.S. campuses.  

The vast majority of research at Penn is Fundamental Research; however, it is important keep in mind that the FRE:

  • Applies to results of research, not to:
    • Confidential information
    • Tangible items (prototypes, equipment, etc.) 
  • Applies to information only
  • Does not apply to material shipments (or hand-carried items when traveling) anywhere outside the United States, even if it was created under the exclusion
  • University research is NOT considered Fundamental Research if: 
    • The university or its researchers accept restrictions on publication resulting from the project; or
    • The research is funded by the U.S. Government and specific access and dissemination controls protecting information resulting from the research are applicable; or
    • The research takes place outside the United States

Given these limitations, it is important to understand that an export license may be required when traveling or shipping internationally or if, during the conduct of fundamental research, export-controlled technology will be released to a foreign national both here and abroad. An export license or technology control plan may also be necessary if the use export-controlled items or technology is required during the conduct of fundamental research.

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