Export Control Compliance

Brown University is highly committed to complying with U.S. laws and regulations as they relate to University activities that may implicate export controls.  While Brown takes advantage of exemptions or exclusions available to us as an accredited U.S. academic institution that conducts Fundamental Research, it is important to recognize that there are activities to which these exemptions and exclusions do not apply.  Given that non-compliance with export controls can result in substantial monetary and criminal penalties against an individual and the University, the loss of research and government funding, and the ability to export items, it is imperative that all personnel at Brown be familiar with export control compliance.  Brown University’s Export Control Policy and Procedures are available here.

What is Export Control?

The U.S. government regulates the transfer of information, commodities, technology, and software considered to be strategically important to the U.S. in the interest of national security, economic, and foreign policy concerns.  Export Controls regulate the shipment or transfer, by whatever means, of controlled items, software, technology, or services out of the U.S.  Importantly, the U.S. government also restricts the release of certain information to foreign nationals here in the U.S.  This is called a “Deemed Export."

Export Controls involve a number of different regulations. The three major regulatory bodies governing Export Controls are

  • the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce;

  • the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) administered by the U.S. Department of State; and

  • the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

What may implicate export controls in a University setting?

Research in export-restricted science and engineering areas, such as military or Defense Articles and Services, High Performance Computing, select agents and toxins, encryption technology, space technology & satellites, can trigger export controls and require review by Brown’s export control officer. In many instances, Dual Use technologies - that is, technologies with both a military and commercial application – can also fall in the “export restricted” research category, and similarly require review.

Traveling overseas with high tech equipment, confidential, unpublished, or proprietary information or data. Traveling with certain types of high tech equipment including, but not limited to, advanced GPS units, scientific equipment, or with controlled, proprietary or unpublished data in any format, may require an export license depending on your travel destination. See International Travel for more information.

Traveling with laptop computers, web-enabled cell phones and other personal equipment. Laptop computers, web-enabled cell phones, and other electronics containing encryption hardware or software and/or proprietary software may require an export license to certain destinations. In general, an export license will be required to take any items to or through any U.S. sanctioned country (e.g., Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea).

Use of 3rd Party Export Controlled Technology or Information. University activities involving the use of export controlled information, items, or technology received from outside the university are not protected under the Fundamental Research Exclusion. All research involving the use of export restricted technology is subject to all export controls.

Sponsored research containing contractual restrictions on publication or dissemination. The vast majority of research done at the university is shielded from export controls under the Fundamental Research Exclusion. However, this important protection is lost whenever the university or the researcher agrees to allow any restrictions on the publication, dissemination, or access to the research by foreign nationals.

Shipping or Taking Items Overseas. University activities that involve the transfer of project information, equipment, materials, or technology out of the U.S. by whatever means will be subject to export controls and may require export license(s) depending on the item, destination, recipient, and end-use.  

Providing Financial Support/International Financial Transactions. University activities that involve the international payment of funds to non-U.S. persons abroad need to be verified to ensure that the university is not inadvertently providing financial assistance to a blocked or sanctioned entity. Examples include providing support via a subcontract to a non-U.S. university or providing payments to research subjects in other countries. Contact Brown’s Export Control Officer if your activity involves payment to persons or organizations outside the U.S.

International Collaborations & Presentations. University activities that involve foreign national faculty, students, staff, visiting foreign scientists or collaborator(s), or other foreign entities (e.g., non-U.S. company, university or other organization) or research that will include travel to international conferences to present unpublished results may be subject to export controls especially if any of the foreign nationals are from embargoed or sanctioned countries. See International Collaborations for more information.

International Field Work. Research projects where any part of the research will take place outside the U.S. (e.g., field work outside the U.S.) may not qualify under the Fundamental Research Exclusion  and may be subject to export controls.

How does Brown identify potential export control issues?

Brown has established a network of internal controls to alert compliance officers when an activity may require export control review.  The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) collaborates with several departments to carefully evaluate proposed transactions and determine whether they fall on the Commerce Control List (CCL) or the U.S. Munitions List (USML).  Additionally, departments screen the transactions for involvement with Restricted Parties. Here are some examples of ORI’s collaboration with other departments:

  • Reviewing research grants and agreements for potentially restrictive clauses: ORI works with the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) and the Technology Ventures Office (TVO) to ensure that all incoming research agreements are reviewed for potentially restrictive publication or participation clauses.

  • Purchasing equipment/technology/software: ORI collaborates with Purchasing Services to review and classify certain purchases to be made via a Purchase Order.  

  • Transfer of materials or animals that require Material Transfer Agreements: ORI works with the Technology Ventures Office (TVO) to review language for incoming MTAs, and to screen materials being shipped internationally by Brown personnel under an outgoing MTA.

  • Shipping biological materials:  ORI works with Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) to resolve any potential “hits” that EHS may encounter as it screens biological materials being prepared for shipment.

  • International Travel and Collaborations: ORI receives alerts from the Internal Review Board (IRB) and from OSP regarding studies that involve international travel or international collaborations. ORI screens potential international collaborators and provides the PI with additional information regarding export controls.

What am I required to do?

In order to ensure compliance with export controls, it is critically important for University personnel to be able to identify when activities may trigger export controls, and reach out to the Export Control Officer for assistance. When export controls apply, you must take the appropriate steps to ensure governmental licenses are obtained, to monitor and control access to restricted information, to complete any requisite training, and to safeguard all controlled materials.  Brown offers many types of training opportunities that can be tailored to your specific needs.  Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.