Export Controls

What’s Essential

Export ControlsMany items and technologies involved in research at MIT, including some that are readily available in the U.S., are subject to U.S. export control regulations intended to prevent proliferation of chemical or biological weapons, of nuclear or missile capability, to avoid arming adversaries or supporting terrorism, and to support national security policies.

As a PI, you will need to consider these when you transfer items or information outside the U.S., travel, or collaborate with international partners and also when you transfer restricted information to a non-U.S. person in the U.S., which is considered an export that may not be allowed without authorization.

As a PI, you’re also expected to comply with MIT’s policy of Open Research and Free Interchange of Information, which requires that MIT students, scholars, and faculty not be restricted from access to research because of their nationality.

Why It’s Important

MIT’s policy is to comply with all U.S. laws and regulations, including the U.S. export controls. As a PI in the U.S., you are also individually subject to U.S. export control regulations, regardless of your nationality, and consequences for violating them can be substantial. At the same time, “encouragement of research and inquiry into intellectual areas of great promise is one of the most basic obligations MIT has to its faculty, to its students, and to society at large. The profound merits of a policy of open research and free interchange of information among scholars is essential to MIT’s institutional responsibility and to the interests of the nation as a whole.”1

We’re able to conduct research on the MIT campus while complying with U.S. export controls and our own policy of open access by making sure that our research qualifies as fundamental research, which is excluded from export controls, and by avoiding the use of export-controlled items or technology from elsewhere that would restrict access. We must also be careful to restrict interactions with potential collaborators—persons and institutions-- who may for various reasons appear on restricted parties lists and/or are subject to U.S. sanctions. It is easy to look them up on these lists using the Visual Compliance tool.

Each of the export control regulations excludes fundamental research from export controls. The exact definitions vary from agency to agency, but the consistent elements are that there can be no restrictions on publishing the results of the research, except brief review for proprietary information or patent rights, and for government-funded research there can be no restrictions on access or dissemination.

1  Open Research and Free Interchange of Information

How to Comply

  • Answer the export control certification questions in the proposal process as accurately as possible. Make sure OSP has a complete description of research you propose, including international shipments, field deployments, travel, or collaboration (official or informal), visiting scientists, international teaching, and the possible use of tangible items, software or technology subject to U.S. export controls. OSP review is intended to assure that your research qualifies as fundamental research and that tools required to conduct the research do not unduly limit participation by non-US persons.
  • Be careful of items and technology from outside MIT that may be subject to export controls that would restrict participation in the research. While you and MIT are responsible for any misuse of restricted items, sponsors and vendors are often in the best position to identify the export control classification of their items and technology. Ask them to provide the export control classification, and let them know that use of items or technology that would restrict access to the research is contrary to MIT’s open research policy. If the use of highly restricted material is critical to the conduct of your research, and if it’s approved, a Technology Control plan can be developed with the Export Control Officer to make sure the item is handled correctly according to its classification. Remember that items or technology that originate outside the U.S. are subject to U.S. export controls when they’re in the U.S.

The tangible products of fundamental research, such as prototypes, materials, and samples, are subject to U.S. export controls and may require authorization to ship outside the U.S. Consult the MIT Export Controls website before shipping, or when teaching or traveling internationally. Follow up with the campus Export Control Officer if you have any questions.

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