Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Should Universities Worry About Export Control Laws?

When most people think of export compliance, images of large multinational corporations come to mind. Universities are in the business of education and they don’t sell products, so why would a university need export compliance procedures?

Since 9/11, the government has become increasingly concerned with preventing certain information and technology from disclosure by universities. Because of increased scrutiny, one inducement is the cost of non-compliance. Penalties range from 5 to 10 years imprisonment and fines of $250,000 to $1,000,000. Some of the recent violations include:

· Professor convicted for allowing unauthorized foreign citizens access to restricted technology in violation of the Arms Export control Act
· University fined for financial dealings with Iran and Cuba
· Universities cited for failure to obtain licenses for access by foreign nationals to military technology
· University involved in unauthorized export of biological materials.

Additional costs include loss of contracts, grants, employees and other collaborative efforts.

How can universities balance the mission of an open academic environment without regard to citizenship, nationality, or residency and academic freedom to publish and disseminate the results of research with the export regulations? Universities receive four exemptions to export regulation, fundamental research, educational exemption, employment exemption and public domain. Although most research conducted by universities is exempted under the fundamental research exemption
(15 CFR 734.8), export regulations apply to research activities, including grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. The regulations not only apply to activities, but also people, such as research assistants, students, visiting foreign researchers, etc. Because many of the export laws conflict with traditional foundations of academic freedom and openness in research and impose criminal and civil fines for noncompliance, it is important that universities implement export compliance programs. We’ve compiled the following information to get you started on the journey.

Basic Elements of a University Export Compliance Plan
Universities should consider the following items for inclusion in the export compliance plan.

• Identify and Assess Campus Risk Areas
• Implement Export Control Policies and Procedures
• Develop Best Practices Recommendations
• Provide Training
• Perform Restricted Party Screening
• Provide Travel Briefings
• Establish Export Recordkeeping Requirements – keep for at least 5 years

Activities Subject to Export Regulations
The following list identifies activities that may be subject to export controls.

• Foreign equipment & material purchase, usage & disposal
• Collaborative efforts involving foreign universities and students
• Sponsored research agreements
• International travel
• Encryption restrictions
• Defense services
• Hand-carried Items – laptops, memory devices
• Conferences
• Websites
• Visual inspections revealing technical data
• Email
• International agreements
• Material transfer agreements
• Nondisclosure agreements
• Software and other intellectual property licenses

Functional Areas Subject to Export Regulations
The following list identifies departments that may engage in activities subject to export controls.

• Legal
• Finance/Bursar
• Purchasing
• Shipping
• Grants & Contracts
• Travel & Reimbursement
• Environmental Health and Safety
• International Research, Education, and Development
• Research
• Academic Departments – Engineering, Medicine, Nursing, Sciences
• Information Technology

The information presented here only touches the surface of export compliance requirements and exceptions for universities. At a minimum, faculty, students, researchers and others as identified, need to know how to recognize that an export control issue may exist, and then whom to contact for assistance at the university.

Click on any of the following links to view the export compliance information provided by the university.

· John Hopkins University
· California Institute of Technology
· The University of Tennessee Knoxville
· Michigan State University


lara said...


I really liked your posting. My colleages and I, we work in a global trade management company, thought you gave great information about universities and it's importance for them to stay compliant. I wrote a bit about it in my blog too.

Wizard said...

Wizard to Lara

Glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you for the nice compliment and for mentioning us on your blog.

The Wizard wonders how many colleges and universities need, but don't have export control procedures.