Message from the Vice President for Research

University of Iowa Export Control Message from the VPR

Export Controls: Who Should Care and Why

Federal export control laws restrict the export of goods, technology, related technical data, and certain services in the interest of protecting the national security and 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). 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.

There are several exclusions, and two that are particularly relevant to academic research: the fundamental research exclusion and the public domain exclusion. Information about these exclusions and others is found at Export Controls Overview: Export Controls and University Research.

These exclusions can be lost, however, if researchers sign side agreements (including material transfer and non-disclosure agreements) that contain publication restrictions or restrictions on who can participate in the research. It is crucial that you not sign any such agreements--or any agreements that mention export controls--on your own.

The consequences for noncompliance are very serious for both the University and the researcher (including fines up to $1,000,000 and/or imprisonment up to 10 years for individuals). These penalties apply to single violations; multiple violations in the same project can easily result in enormous penalties.

"Export” is defined not only as a physical transfer/disclosure of an item outside the US, but also as a transfer/disclosure in any form of a controlled item or information within the US to anyone who is a foreign national (not a US citizen or permanent resident). This is called the “deemed export” rule. As a result, unless an exclusion or exemption is available, the University may be required to obtain prior governmental approval (in the form of an export license) before allowing the participation of foreign national faculty, staff, or students in affected research. In some cases, a license may not be available at all based on the country involved.

In addition to affecting who may participate in the research project on campus, the following are examples of situations in which a license may be required:

  • Presentation/discussion of previously unpublished research at conferences and meetings where foreign national scholars may be in attendance
  • Research collaborations with foreign nationals and technical exchange programs
  • Transfers of research equipment abroad
  • Visits to your lab by foreign scholars

Basically, any research activity may be subject to export controls if it involves the actual export or “deemed” export of any goods, technology, or related technical data that is either 1) “dual use” (commercial in nature with possible military application) or 2) inherently military in nature.

Work in the following areas is considered high risk:

  • Engineering
  • Space sciences
  • Computer Science
  • Biomedical research with lasers
  • Research with encrypted software
  • Research with controlled chemicals, biological agents, and toxins

In addition, any of the following raise export control questions for your project:

  • Sponsor restrictions on the participation of foreign nationals in the research
  • Sponsor restrictions on the publication or disclosure of the research results
  • Indications from the sponsor or others that export-controlled information or technology will be furnished for use in the research
  • The physical export of controlled goods or technology is expected

Any time you have a question about the application of export controls to any stage of a specific research project, contact the Division of Sponsored Programs ( sends e-mail)). 

Any time you have a question about the application of export controls to any stage of a specific research project, contact the Division of Sponsored Programs ( 

This is a flow chart that we have developed to help you identify two basic outcomes with an export controls issue: 1) where a license is likely not required and 2) where a license may be required, depending on the circumstances (at which point you should get help as indicated on the flow chart).

Export Controls at the University of Iowa

University policy requires that all research conducted within the institution be consistent with all of the following objectives:

  • The education of undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students
  • The advancement of knowledge through research and scholarship
  • The preservation and dissemination of knowledge
  • The advancement of the public welfare

University policy also requires that the purpose and results of any research conducted using institutional resources and facilities must be freely communicable.

Both of these policy statements support the fact that research conducted by the faculty, staff, and students of The University of Iowa is public domain fundamental research as that term is defined in National Security Decision Directive 189. As such, most University of Iowa research will be exempt from export controls. However, where export controls are applicable to our research activities, the University will require full compliance with the law.

The University of Iowa has developed a process to ensure that University research is conducted in compliance with export control regulations. This process involves:

  • Conducting a thorough review of projects and contract provisions to determine whether and how a particular research projected is affected by export control regulations
  • Managing export-controlled research to ensure that it is conducted in full compliance with the law

This process involves a cooperative effort between the Principal Investigator, the Division of Sponsored Programs, and the Office of the General Counsel. The role of each is described below.

The PI has the best understanding of his or her research and therefore the best information as to whether the particular technology, data, or information involved in that research is or may be covered by export control regulations. The PI is responsible for doing the following:

  • The PI should carefully review the information on export controls provided on this web site. Additional training on export controls is provided by the Division of Sponsored Programs and is available to PIs, their departments, and their departmental administrators.
  • Before beginning any research, the PI should determine whether any export control issues may be presented (see "What kinds of projects raise export controls questions" on Who Should Care and Why).
  • If any such issues are identified, or if any question exists, the PI should contact the Division of Sponsored Programs for help with determining whether any export control restrictions may apply to the research.
  • After work on the project has begun, the PI should notify the Division of Sponsored Programs ( prior to implementing any changes that may give rise to the application of export controls, such as a change in the scope of work or the addition of new staff to the project.
  • If any export control issues are identified at the contract or grant proposal stage by the staff in the Division of Sponsored Programs, the PI should cooperate fully with DSP to determine the application of export control regulations to the research.
  • If it is determined that export controls apply to the project, the PI must adhere strictly to any applicable restrictions and cooperate fully with the University’s efforts to monitor compliance. For example, DSP will advise the PI if a Technology Control Plan (TCP) is required.

The University has designated the Director of the Division of Sponsored Programs, as the senior-level administrator responsible for oversight of its export control compliance activities. On behalf of the institution, the Director will also sign documentation relating to export-controlled materials, serve as the custodian of any required records, and serve as the point of contact for communications with regulatory agencies.

The Director has designated the following as the DSP staff members primarily responsible for working with PIs and their questions about the application of export controls to their research: Patricia Cone-Fisher (335-3582, and Loren LeClair (335-2120,

In addition, the Division of Sponsored Programs is responsible for the following with respect to export controls:

  • DSP will work with PIs at the proposal stage to identify any export control issues presented by the proposed research and will assist the PI in determining whether export control regulations apply to the project.
  • Appropriate DSP staff will review research agreements, including incoming CDAs and MTAs, for export control language and for terms or provisions that restrict access to or prohibit publication of research results, limit the participation of foreign nationals in the research, or otherwise render the fundamental research exclusion inapplicable.
  • If such provisions cannot be eliminated through negotiation, and if it appears that no exclusions or exemptions from the export control regulations are applicable, DSP will consult with the PI to determine whether the technology or other material to be used in the research is included on the Commerce Control List or the US Munitions List.
  • In consultation with the Office of the General Counsel, DSP will make a final determination as to whether export control regulations apply to the project and will provide written notice of that determination to the PI, the department chair, the dean, and the Vice President for Research. This notice will also outline any recommendations from DSP and/or the Office of the General Counsel for compliance measures to be implemented in the research.
  • DSP, in conjunction with the Office of the General Counsel, will provide information and training on export control regulations to the University research community. For more information on these activities, contact the Division of Sponsored Programs (

The Division of Sponsored Programs is currently scheduling educational sessions on export controls for researchers, research administrators, departments, and any other UI group interested in knowing more on this topic. Contact the Division of Sponsored Programs ( to schedule a session.

The Division of Sponsored Programs is currently scheduling educational sessions on export controls for researchers, research administrators, departments, and any other UI group interested in knowing more on this topic. Contact the Division of Sponsored Programs ( sends e-mail)) to schedule a session.

Take a UI ICON Course on Export Control

Go to UI Employee Self Service, Learning and Development/My Training, and search for "Export Control."  This will bring up the currently available ICON course "Export Control Training."  To begin the export control training course, click on "Open Icon Course."  Learn at your own speed.  No pressure!

Export Controls and University Research

Federal export control regulations prohibit the export to foreign countries of certain goods, technology, and technical data without an export license issued by the government. These regulations were implemented many years ago for reasons relating to national security, economic and trade protection, and the advancement of foreign policy goals. The events of 9/11 in particular have resulted in stricter interpretation and enforcement of these regulations by the federal agencies that administer them.

University of Iowa researchers need to be aware of export control regulations and their possible impact on research. In summary, the term “export” as used in these regulations includes not only the actual export or shipping of goods to foreign countries, but also so-called “deemed exports”: the transfer/disclosure in any form (verbal, written, electronic, visual) within the US of export-controlled items or information to a “foreign national” (anyone who is not a US citizen or permanent resident). As a result, where export control regulations apply and where no regulatory exemption is available, an export license will be required before export-controlled items or information can be shared, abroad and even on campus, with foreign nationals participating or collaborating in affected research projects. These activities, among others, may be restricted:

  • The ability of foreign scholars and students to participate in export-controlled research at the University of Iowa;
  • The ability of University of Iowa researchers to disclose or discuss previously unpublished research at conferences and meetings where foreign nationals are in attendance;
  • The ability of University of Iowa researchers to engage in collaborations with foreign researchers, including restrictions on teaching foreign collaborators how to use export-controlled items in research (regulated as providing a “defense service”); and
  • The ability to transfer research equipment abroad.

Such restrictions are directly at odds with university traditions of open access and dissemination of research results. Fortunately, the vast majority of university research is not subject to export controls, either because the research 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.

The export control regulations most frequently encountered by the university research community are the following:

 A. Export Ad​ministration Regulations (EAR)

The Export Administration Regulations (EAR), 15 CFR §§730-774, are administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. They regulate the export of so-called “dual use” items -- i.e., goods and related technology that are designed for commercial purposes but could have military applications, such as computers, aircraft, and pathogens. The list of EAR-controlled items (the “Commerce Control List” or “CCL”) is published at 15 CFR §774, Supplement 1. An alphabetical list of CCL items is available here.

The CCL categorizes covered items into the following ten categories (which each have subdivisions):

 0) Nuclear materials, Facilities and Equipment, and Miscellaneous
1) Materials, Chemicals, Microorganisms, and Toxins
2) Materials Processing
3) Electronics
4) Computers
5) Telecommunications and Information Security
6) Lasers and Sensors
7) Navigation and Avionics
8) Marine
9) Propulsion Systems, Space Vehicles, and Related Equipment

For goods and technology listed on the CCL, a license will be required for export, unless an exclusion or exemption applies. Where embargoed countries are involved (presently Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria), a license will be denied.

There is an additional “catch-all” category in the regulations, the “EAR 99,” which covers any good or technology that is “subject to the EAR” as defined in 15 CFR §734.3(a) but is not on the CCL. Items in the EAR 99 category may or may not require a license, depending on the country involved and individual(s) to whom the export will be made.

B. The Inte​rnational Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) (22 CFR, Subchapter M, §§120-130) are administered by the US Department of State. They regulate the export of defense articles, defense services, and related technical data (“defense” meaning that the government has determined the article, service, or data to be inherently military in nature). The list of ITAR-controlled items is published at 22 CFR §121 (the “US Munitions List” or “USML”). The USML covers 21 categories (including chemical and biological agents in addition to various weapons, vehicles, missiles, equipment, and electronics) and is less specific than the EAR CCL. Again, the items on the list have been determined by the Department of State to be inherently military in nature (basically, items designed to kill or defend against death in a military context). Also, although they may not meet this definition, all satellites and related technology are controlled by ITAR as a result of the 1999 Congressional expansion of ITAR jurisdiction. Unless a specific exclusion or exemption applies, licenses are required for the export of an USML-listed item.

C. OFAC Bo​ycott Program

In addition to the EAR and ITAR, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The scope of the boycott program depends on the country involved and is subject to change.

Of particular note is the fact that the OFAC boycott program may prohibit conducting surveys of persons in boycotted countries. The complete and updated list of countries included in the boycott program may be viewed at here.

Export control decisions depend on a clear understanding of the following terms. When making specific application determinations, however, the official regulatory definition should be consulted.

Export: This term is defined very expansively in the export control regulations. Generally, an export includes any: (1) actual shipment of any covered goods or items; (2) the electronic or digital transmission of any covered goods, items or related goods or items; (3) any release or disclosure, including verbal disclosures or visual inspections, of any technology, software, or technical data to any foreign national; or (4) actual use or application of covered technology on behalf of or for the benefit of any foreign entity or person anywhere. Reference should be made to the official definition of export under the EAR and ITAR when determining whether a specific act constitutes an export. As “export” is currently defined, it precludes a foreign national (either faculty or student) from participating in research that involves covered technology without first obtaining a license from the appropriate government agency.

Deemed Export: An export of technology or source code (except encryption source code) is "deemed" to take place when it is released to a foreign national within the United States. See 15 CFR §734.2(b)(2)(ii) (EAR).

Defense Service (ITAR at 22 CFR §120.9): The furnishing of assistance, including training, to foreign persons, whether in the US or abroad, in the design, development, engineering, manufacture, production, assembly, testing, repair, maintenance, modification, operation, demilitarization, destruction, processing, or use of defense articles (those listed on the USML).

Furnishing any technical data controlled by ITAR to a foreign person in the US or abroad also constitutes a defense service under the regulations.

Foreign Persons: A foreign person is any natural person who is not a lawful permanent resident as defined in 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(20). It also includes any foreign corporation, business association, partnership, trust, society, or any other entity or group that is not incorporated or organized to do business in the United States, as well as international organizations, foreign governments, and any agency or subdivision of foreign governments (e.g., diplomatic missions).

Fundamental Research: Includes basic or applied research in science and/or engineering at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community. Fundamental research is distinguished from research which results in information that is restricted for proprietary reasons or pursuant to specific U.S. Government access and dissemination controls. “Fundamental research” is defined in the EAR at 15 CFR §734.8 and in ITAR at 22 CFR §120.11.


Public Domain: Information that is published and generally accessible to the public: (1) through sales at newsstands and bookstores; (2) through subscriptions available without restriction to anyone who may want to purchase the published information; (3) through second class mailing privileges granted by the U.S. Government; (4) at libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents; (5) through patents available at any patent office; (6) through unlimited distribution at a conference, meeting, seminar, trade show or exhibition that is generally accessible to the public and is in the United States; (7) through public release (i.e., unlimited distribution) in any form (not necessarily published) after approval by the cognizant U.S. government department or agency; and (8) through fundamental research. 22 CFR §120.11.

(ITAR at 22 CFR §120.10):

(1) Information, other than software as defined in 22 CFR §120.10(4), which is required for the design, development, production, manufacture, assembly, operation, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of defense articles. This includes information in the form of blueprints, drawings, photographs, plans, instructions and documentation. 

(2) Classified information relating to defense articles and defense services;

(3) Information covered by an invention secrecy order; or

(4) Software (see 22 CFR § 120.45(f)) directly related to defense articles.

Excluded from this definition is information concerning general scientific, mathematical or engineering principles commonly taught in schools, colleges and universities or information in the public domain as defined in 22 CFR §120.11. It also does not include basic marketing information on function or purpose or general system descriptions of defense articles.

Exclusions/Exemptions from Export Control Regulations

There are several common exclusions and an exemption that may remove University research from the application of export control restrictions.

Fundamental Research Exclusion

Fundamental research (basic or applied research in science and/or engineering at an accredited institution of higher learning in the US that results in information that is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community) is excluded from export control regulations. This means that where University research meets this definition, information (but not materials or technology) resulting from that research may be disclosed to foreign nationals and that disclosure is not subject to export control restrictions.

University research will not qualify for this exclusion if: (1) the University or researcher accepts any restrictions on the publication of the information resulting from the research, other than limited prepublication review by research sponsors to ensure that proprietary information is not inadvertently disclosed in publication or to ensure that publication will not compromise the patent rights of the sponsor; or (2) the research is federally funded and specific access and dissemination controls regarding the resulting information have been accepted by the University or researcher.

It is important to remember two things about the fundamental research exclusion: 1) it applies only to information and 2) it does not apply to a sponsor’s existing proprietary information when some or all of that information is required to be held confidential.

In addition, it is important to note that the exclusion may not apply to information relating to export-controlled equipment used in research projects and classes. Universities have assumed that they could share such information with foreign nationals without a license, since the information is being used while conducting fundamental research. However, recent interpretations by the federal government would seem to require that an export control license be obtained in a fundamental research project before information about the use of controlled technology can be shared with foreign nationals working on the project. This is a currently developing issue and we will update these materials as the issue evolves.

Export control regulations do not apply to information released in academic catalog-listed courses or in teaching labs associated with those courses. This means that a faculty member teaching a University course may discuss what might otherwise be export-controlled technology in the classroom or lab without an export control license even if foreign national students are enrolled in the course. This exclusion is based on the recognition in ITAR that “information concerning general scientific, mathematical, or engineering principles commonly taught in schools, colleges, and universities, or information in the public domain” should not be subject to export control restrictions.

Information that is published and generally available to the public, as well as publicly available technology and software, is outside the scope of the export control regulations. This exclusion does not apply to encrypted software, to information if there is reason to believe it may be used for weapons of mass destruction, or where the US government has imposed access or dissemination controls as a condition of funding.

Exemption for Disclosures to Bona Fide Full-time Employees

Export control regulations exempt disclosures of unclassified technical data in the US by US universities to foreign nationals where 1) the foreign national is the University’s bona fide full-time regular employee, 2) the employee’s permanent abode throughout the period of employment is in the US, 3) the employee is not a national of an embargoed country, and 4) the University informs the employee in writing that information disclosed may not be disclosed to other foreign nationals without governmental approval.

This exemption is likely to be less available than the three exclusions discussed above. In addition, most graduate students are not regular full-time University employees and disclosures to them will not qualify for this exemption.

Export Controls Overview

The following provide more detailed information on export controls and how they may apply to your research:

Export Administration Regulations (ERA) Resources

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) Resources

Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAO) Resources

Administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries, terrorists, international drug traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

Additional Resources on Export Controls