University Integrity and Compliance

Providing independent oversight of the university's compliance programs

International Trade Compliance

Submitted by the Export Control Office

U.S. laws that regulate distribution of strategically important goods, services and information are commonly referred to as “export control laws.” These laws apply to all activities, not just sponsored research projects. However, researchers are more likely to be impacted than any other group on campus. If your research involves high-level encryption products, satellites, or military technology, it is probably export controlled. Otherwise, export control issues usually result from one of the following activities:

  1. Transfer of controlled items or information abroad.
  2. Transfer of controlled items or information to a foreign person within the U.S.
  3. Traveling outside the U.S. with controlled items or information.
  4. Interactions with embargoed or sanctioned countries, organizations, or individuals.

It is important to keep in mind that export control laws impose licensing requirements. A license may be required for physical transfer of controlled items to foreign countries or for the transfer of “technical data” to foreign persons inside the U.S. Accordingly, if you are performing research in any of the “high risk” areas listed above, it is critical to know how export control laws impact your work.

In addition to controlling certain items and information, the U.S. also maintains economic embargoes against a number of countries whose governments consistently violate human rights or act in support of global terrorism. A license is required for most travel to, or transactions with, embargoed countries. As a result, a seemingly innocent transaction with certain nations, entities, or individuals may result in a violation. However, early identification of issues and advanced planning will prevent delays and help to achieve desired outcomes. For example, two recent academic trips to Cuba proceeded without delay due to proper planning by the departments.

Sufficient planning can also facilitate obtaining an exemption from the regulations. There are many exemptions, but the two most relevant for academic research purposes are “fundamental  research” and “public domain.” Fundamental research is basic and applied research where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community. This exemption applies to research data but does not apply to the transfer of material goods. Also, the exemption is lost if a researcher accepts restrictions on publication. Please note that all exemptions are fact specific and should not be used without analysis and documentation.

Violations of the export control laws, however inadvertent, may result in the loss of research contracts, monetary fines, and/or imprisonment. Both the University and the individuals involved can be subject to liability. Export control requirements can always be addressed with proper planning. For help understanding how these laws may impact your activities, please contact the Export Control Officer at or (502) 852-1708. The Export Control Office is available to help determine the appropriate solution for your individual situation.