What does export control have to do with me?

Export control regulations apply to information as well as things — and when controlled information is given to a non-US person it's considered to be an export to that person's country, even if it happens in the US, even if it happens on a university campus. If you collaborate with people in other countries, your emails are exports. When you travel, you're exporting everything you take with you. And, of course, you're exporting when you ship an item outside the US. These could all lead to export control violations with consequences for you and for MIT.

What is the purpose of export control?

To avoid equipping enemy forces, proliferating WMDs, missiles, and nuclear capabilities, or supporting terrorism.

How do I understand the regulations?

Material is regulated by:

  • International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) under the jurisdiction of the Department of State
  • Export Administration Regulations (EAR) under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce
  • Assistance to Foreign Atomic Energy Activities (10 CFR 810) under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy
  • Militarily Critical Technical Data Agreement (DD-2345) with the Department of Defense 

Most of MIT material falls under EAR jurisdiction. You need to know which definitions apply.

What does export control regulate?

The State Department and Commerce Department control items, including products, equipment, devices, organisms, components, parts, materials, software, etc. that the US (and often other countries) considers to be of military value, important to national security, capable of contributing to proliferation of missile or nuclear capability or to development of chemical or biological weapons, or of potential use in terrorism or disrupting regional stability. They also control equipment and materials required to make controlled items, as well as software and information required to develop, produce, or use controlled items.

The Commerce Department also restricts export of items to designated entities and individuals, or for purposes such as weapon or missile development. The Treasury Department controls the assets of sanctioned countries and designated individuals, as well as interactions with those parties.

What does export control not regulate?

Classes or research in the areas of literature, linguistics, philosophy, economics, history, languages, mathematics, music, and political science are not affected by the State and Commerce Department regulations. However, people working in such areas could be using tools that would be export controlled (such as computers). 

How can a university function under these controls?

The details vary among the export control regimes, but in general:

  • Publicly available information is excluded from export control
  • Education is excluded from export control
  • Fundamental research is excluded from export control

Activity that qualifies for these exclusions can be consistent with academic principles of open access.

How do I know whether my research is fundamental?

MIT's intent is that all campus research qualify as fundamental research, so that its conduct and results will be excluded from export controls and MIT's Open Access policy can be satisfied. RAS will work with you to avoid research provisions that would disqualify your research as fundamental (such as restriction on your right to publish).

How can I do what I want in campus with only fundamental research?

Technology you bring into your project, possibly from a sponsor or as a purchased item, may be export controlled. This extends to the use of export-controlled items in your research, if export-controlled technology could be acquired by inspection or use of the item. Items that originate outside the US are subject to US export controls when in the US. If you must use export controlled material to perform your research it will constitute an Exception to MIT’s Open Research Policy and must be approved in advance. MIT's policy only allows restricted material on Campus if the controlled items:

  • make a substantial or critical contribution to the research 
  • the impact of not using the controlled items has been evaluated and is severe or prohibitive
  • alternatives to using the controlled items have been considered and evaluated 
  • the possibility for only non-academic staff to work with the restricted items, leaving academic work unrestricted, has been considered

Being permitted to receive restricted material on Campus is a privilege! Before restricted material is allowed on Campus, the person responsible for the research will develop a practical and effective Technology Control Plan (TCP) in conjunction with the Export Control Officer. Get the template for a Request for Exception to Open Research Policy and Technology Control Plan. The status of your TCP project will be reviewed annually by ECO.

Need help?

Contact MIT Export Control Officer, Janet C. Johnston, or the Compliance Administrator, at exportcontrolhelp@mit.edu, by phone at 617-253-2762 (Janet), or visit in person at NE18-901.