Office of Research Export Controls in Research - Office of Research

Export Controls in Research

Export control


Overview of Export Controls

Federal export control laws govern the international shipment or transmission of certain controlled or sensitive physical items, technology, information or software as defined by the U.S. State Department International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the U.S. Commerce Department Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or foreign entities.  These laws also apply to “deemed exports” where there is a “release” or sharing of export-controlled information or technology to any foreign national in the United States, which may include individuals working at UC Davis in your lab or facility.

The United States export controls exist to protect the national security and foreign policy interests of the United State, and is governed by the U.S. State Department International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the U.S. Commerce Department Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or foreign entities.  Due to concerns about homeland security, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and unauthorized releases of technology to U.S. economic competitors, the federal government has recently increased its scrutiny of export control compliance by colleges and universities.

It is important to understand that export control laws can potentially apply to ANY shipment, transmission, or transfer of your research-related physical items, information or software outside the United States.  Depending on the type of item or technology and country involved, the U.S. government may require an export license prior to transferring certain items to certain countries, foreign nationals or entities, even (as noted) within the U.S.

The Federal Government can (and has) imposed serious criminal and civil sanctions against Institutions, entities, and individuals who violate these expert control rules. Thus, UC Davis and its individual faculty and research must exercise due diligence in complying with U.S. export control laws while preserving one of the University of California’s core values, openness in research.


Export Control Areas

Frequently Controlled Technologies

Categories of technologies that typically are subject to export control laws include, but or not limited to: Chemical, biotechnology and biomedical engineering; Materials technology; Remote sensing, imaging and reconnaissance; Navigation, avionics and flight control; Robotics; Propulsion system and unmanned air vehicle subsystems; Telecommunications/networking; Nuclear technology; Sensors and sensor technology; Advanced computer/microelectronic technology; Information security/encryption; Laser and directed energy systems; Rocket systems; Marine technology.


International Shipments

It is essential that you not ship anything outside U.S. before ensuring that you have complied with the applicable export control and potential licensing requirements. For sponsored research, you will be asked to answer export control-related questions on the initial Data Sheet that you submit to the Sponsored Programs Office or in Section 7, Foreign Activity that is submitted in Cayuse. It is important that you answer these questions completely and accurately so that the Research Compliance & Integrity Unit can work with you in determining if your research activities trigger any export control requirements.

In addition, you should watch the brief video(s) below that provide an overview of export control rules generally, University General Export Control Video and a separate video that specifically addresses export control on Shipping OverviewShipping Documentation and related laws and rules associated with international shipments.

Contact the Research Compliance & Integrity unit


 International Travel, Research, and Collaborations

Additionally, certain types of international travel, research, and other activities may trigger export control rules.  This includes travel, shipments, collaborations with, and other activities to and/or in embargoed countries such as Iran, Syria, and Cuba (SeeActivities Involving Embargoed Countries” below). These rules carry equally serious if not more onerous civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance.

Accordingly, it is also imperative that you not engage in any international travel, research, or collaborations until you first determine that your activities are exempt from export control licensing or you have obtained a license.

In addition, you should watch the brief video(s) listed below that provide an overview of export control rules generally, University General Export Control Video and a separate video on Traveling Abroad that specifically addresses export control and related laws and rules associated with international travel and related activities.

Contact the Research Compliance & Integrity unit


Travelling Overseas with Electronic Devices

Many researchers have recently raised questions about their rights and responsibilities regarding travel with electronic devices, specifically by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at the United States territorial border and ports of entry.  UC Systemwide Information Security has created a useful FAQ that addresses many of these questions. Please contact Research Compliance & Integrity for additional guidance and best practices for taking electronics overseas in the course of research.

Traveling with Electronic Devices Resources

Cybersecurity for the Travelling Scientist


Acquisition of Equipment and Items

As part of your research and related activities, you will undoubtedly seek to purchase research equipment and other items to facilitate your projects. As you and/or your staff investigate vendors and suppliers for your items, it is important that be aware of language in their written materials (such as product brochures or purchase orders) that indicates the equipment or item is or may be controlled under export-controlled laws.  For instance, if the vendor or supplier (or manufacturer) informs you or you read written product information that indicates the item is “subject to export control laws,” or is controlled under “ITAR” or “EAR” (or other information to this effect), you should contact the Research Compliance and Integrity Unit prior to finalizing the purchase or sending the purchase request to UCD Procurement and Contracts.


The Fundamental Research Exclusion (FRE)

Because UC Davis embraces the concepts of academic freedom and open publication and dissemination of research findings and results, most research at UCD is excluded from the “deemed export” rules under the Fundamental Research Exclusion (FRE) as long certain criteria are satisfied. Importantly, however, the FRE generally only applies to the results of the research and then only when such results are ordinarily published and shared with the scientific community.   To qualify under the FRE, the research must be free of any publication or access restrictions.  Thus, even if your research qualifies for the FRE, a “deemed export” is still possible if you used controlled, especially ITAR-controlled, equipment or technology as part of your research.

In addition, the FRE does not apply to the actual physical export (e.g. shipment or transmission) of control items, data, or information outside the United States.). Even if your research is fundamental research as defined by federal law, any and all actual shipments or exports of research items outside the United States should be vetted to determine with a license is required.


Activities Involving Embargoed Countries

Traveling to, collaborating, or conducting research or educational activities with entities or individuals in embargoed countries may also trigger advanced license obligations from the Federal Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Exporting (and importing) any goods or services to such countries also may require an advanced license.  For instance, if you plan to travel to Iran to attend a conference or export (or import) a research item or sample to or from a colleague in Iran, you may need a license from OFAC.  Embargoed countries include, among others, Iran, Syria, Cuba, and North Korea. A current list of embargoed countries can be found on the U.S. Department of State website:

Accordingly, you should NOT travel to, conduct research or educational activities with, or export or import any items to or from embargoed countries without first checking with the Office of Research to ascertain whether a license from OFAC is required.

In addition, you should watch the brief video(s) below that provide an overview of export control rules generally University General Export Control Video and a separate video on OFAC that specifically address export control and related laws and rules associated with engaging in activities in and with individuals or entities in embargoed countries.

Contact the Research Compliance & Integrity unit

Export Control Videos

Several brief export control videos are available that provide a brief overview of export control laws, and provide summaries of these rules in connection with various activities (e.g. international shipping, international travel, etc.) The full list of videos can be found by CLICKING HERE.

These videos are listed below:

[Note: Please also refer to the Research Compliance Guide for more detailed explanation of the purpose, definitions, “do and don’ts,” and scope of the various export control laws and regulations].


Additional Resources

Federal Resources

  • Department of Commerce – BIS
  • Commerce Control List
  • Department of State – ITAR
  • Office of Foreign Assets Control – OFAC
  • U.S. State Department Embargoed Countries List

Contact the Research Compliance & Integrity unit

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