The MIT campus only performs fundamental research as defined by the US Government. The government defines fundamental research as basic or applied research in science and engineering meeting the following criteria:
- Places no restrictions on publication, and is done with the intention to publish
- Places no restriction on who may participate
- (If ITAR-regulated) is performed at a US institution of higher learning
Fundamental research is excluded from export controls, so researchers can freely exchange and publish their results.
Activities still subject to export controls
The Fundamental Research Exclusion only applies to results. Other activities and material are still subject to export controls:
- Tangible products (other than software) of fundamental research, such as prototypes
- Encryption software
- Teaching as a service
- Training/technology transfer, defense services
- Some tools, software, and data needed to perform the research
- Consulting-type assistance or services
How to conduct fundamental research
MIT intends for all research on campus to qualify as fundamental. (Export-controlled and classified work is performed at Lincoln Laboratory.)
Avoid restrictions on publication and access
MIT's Open Research and Free Interchange of Information Policy requires campus research to be publishable without prior permission and that foreign researchers not be singled out for restricted access to research. (Limited review by the sponsor for information that's proprietary or would compromise patent rights may be acceptable. In this case a limited delay before publishing is allowed.)
Review of sponsored research proposals and awards
RAS will flag sponsored research proposals and awards for Export Control review where needed, to ensure that research complies with MIT’s Open Research Policy and export control regulations. For instance, if there is a project deliverable such as a prototype robot to a foreign sponsor, export control will check that the export control regulations permit such an export.
Avoid using highly-controlled technology or software
Using restricted tools, software and data is permissible and sometimes required in fundamental research. However, if their use effectively eliminates the ability for work on the project to be open to any nationalities, then the project no longer qualifies as government-defined fundamental research.
Fundamental research has been defined by several regulations and agencies.
"Fundamental research" means research in science, engineering, or mathematics, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the research community, and for which the researchers have not accepted restrictions for proprietary or national security reasons.
Basic and applied research in science and engineering where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community, as distinguished from research the results of which are restricted for proprietary reasons or specific U.S. Government access and dissemination controls.
“Fundamental research means basic and applied research in science and engineering, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the scientific community, as distinguished from proprietary research and from Industrial development, design, production, and product utilization, the results of which ordinarily are restricted for proprietary or national security reason.”