Export Control: International Collaborations: Sharing Information While Abroad


The exchange of scientific information with collaborators abroad, whether research, teaching, presenting, or working at another university, usually does not trigger an export control requirement unless it involves certain activities.

International collaborations that could trigger export control requirements include:

  • collaboration on controlled or restricted research
  • collaborators that include people or entities from a sanctioned country
  • collaborators that include people or entities that are considered a restricted party
  • research that involves the transfer of physical items, technical data, or software
  • any transfers that could meet the definition of a defense service

Screening should be performed at the outset of any international collaboration, to ensure that the collaborating entity does not appear on any of the U.S. Government Restricted Party Lists.

It is permissible to share the results of fundamental research or publicly available information with foreign colleagues, unless such recipients of this information are restricted parties or representatives of the government of a sanctioned country (e.g., North Korea). OFAC regulations may prohibit discussing even published research in some countries as the discussion may be considered providing a service. If there is any question as to whether you might be sharing research results that are not intended for publication, or you are transferring abroad any commodity or software that could be controlled under the EAR or ITAR, you should contact the Export Control Officer to determine export license requirements.

Presentations at International Conferences and Webinars

Travel outside of the U.S. to attend a conference, not to present, generally would not require a license. However, information presented at seminars must be limited to topics that are not related to controlled commodities, software, or technology unless that information is already published or that information is already in the public domain or qualifies as fundamental research. Open seminars are usually not problematic unless they are in a sanctioned country or involve restricted parties. Exchanges of technical information including academic discussions may require a license.

Generally, information that is accessible to the public through a conference or webinar is considered in the public domain or publicly available and not subject to export control regulations. Specifically, the webinar or conference needs to be open to the public, such that all technically qualified members of the public are able to attend, and that attendees are allowed to take notes or make a personal record (not necessarily a recording) of the presentations. A registration fee may be charged if it is reasonable to the cost of the event and reflects an intention that all interested and technically qualified persons are eligible. Attendance may be limited as long as attendance is based on those who have applied first or are decided on the basis of relevant scientific or technical experience or competence. Determination is case-specific so it is recommended that you contact the Export Control Officer to review your specific situation.

Best practices for attending a conference:

  • check that the host institution is not on a restricted party list
  • check that the destination is not an embargoed or sanctioned country
  • check that the conference is open to the public
  • check that the topics to be discussed are not related to export-controlled items or information that is not already in the public domain
  • bringing a clean laptop and cell phone (recommended)

Travelers should also pay attention to securing their laptop information and those presenting at conferences should also consider protecting their inventions before they publish or present them at conferences. See International Travel for more information and recommendations.

Conducting Research Abroad

Research, training, or field work that is conducted all or partly outside the U.S. may not qualify for the Fundamental Research Exclusion. The exemption is also nullified when there is a non-disclosure agreement signed by the faculty member. Export controls may apply until the work is published or is otherwise in the public domain. Before disclosing any information outside of the U.S., ensure that the information is not subject to export control regulations.

Technology under the EAR that was developed through fundamental research in the U.S. may be shared with collaborators in other countries. Technical data under ITAR and developed through fundamental research at institutions of higher learning in the U.S. is generally accepted to be excluded from the ITAR when it is in the public domain or it is publicly available. However, the sharing abroad of personal knowledge or technical experience acquired in the U.S. may be considered technical assistance and could constitute an export of that knowledge and experience, and is therefore subject to the EAR. In certain technical areas, an export license or a qualifying license exception may be required prior to sharing certain information or working abroad.

Providing a “defense service” to foreign persons is prohibited. A “defense service” involves providing technical “know-how” related to the design, development, production, manufacturer, assembly, operation, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of a defense article or dual use technology.

Please contact the Export Control Officer to review your specific situation.

Teaching Abroad and Online

Material released in catalog-listed courses are considered publicly available, therefore most educational instruction at universities in the U.S. or abroad are excluded from U.S. export control under Educational Information protection, enabling participation by international students and faculty. Before teaching a course outside of the U.S., it is important to ensure that the information is not subject to export control regulations.

Export control issues could arise in the context of online courses and teaching abroad, even if only for part of a course.

Export controls could be implicated in the following examples:

  1. The content includes use of controlled items, information, or software (e.g., if a course on nocturnal animal behaviors involves use of night vision goggles distributed by the University);
  2. Although the course description does not imply any export control area of concern, the faculty member strays outside of the topic into controlled topics (e.g., a course on microbiology that includes details on extracting and purifying viruses); or
  3. The course is delivered directly to students in a sanctioned or embargoed country (e.g., Iran, North Korea, and Syria – please check the list for current sanctions and embargoed countries).

To ensure that a course abroad or online does qualify for the educational exclusion, avoid instruction on advanced or sensitive technology, encryption, or nuclear technology, transfer of restricted or controlled technology, or instruction of any item where that instruction could be considered providing “defense service.”

If you are unsure if your instruction could be export controlled, contact the Export Control Officer to review your specific situation.

International Consulting

Providing professional consulting services overseas may require an export license, and providing professional consulting services embargoed or sanctioned countries (e.g., Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Ukraine [Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk Regions]) is, in most cases, strictly prohibited. Under export control regulations, U.S. citizens may not engage with certain foreign entities, including foreign persons, academic institutions, companies, governments, or other entities that are considered Restricted Parties. This means that researchers are not able to include these individuals or entities in research or other collaborations. Most activities with these restricted parties are prohibited, including business transactions, sending physical items to or on behalf of a restricted entity, or providing them with technology, software, or a service of any kind. As a reminder, these regulations apply to outside professional activities as well, including consulting and adjunct professorships.

When considering consulting overseas, things to be aware of are;