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What are Export Controls?

Export control laws regulate the distribution, to foreign nationals and foreign countries, of strategically important technology, services and information to protect national security, foreign policy and economic goals. These laws apply to all activities - not just sponsored research projects. 

Northern Kentucky University (NKU) is committed to complying with U.S. export controls. NKU recognizes the importance of these laws and regulations and expects compliance from all of its personnel. Violations can result not only in significant civil or criminal liabilities for NKU and potentially the individuals involved, but also in damage to national security. No NKU faculty, staff or student may engage in any activity that violates U.S. export control laws and regulations.

Where export control regulations apply and where no regulatory exemption is available, an export license will be required before export-controlled items, or information, can be shared, abroad or on campus, with foreign nationals participating or collaborating in affected research projects. The following activities, among others, may be restricted:

  • The ability of foreign scholars and students to participate in export-controlled research at Northern Kentucky University.
  • The ability of Northern Kentucky University researchers to disclose or discuss previously unpublished research at conferences and meetings where foreign nationals are in attendance.
  • The ability of Northern Kentucky University researchers to engage in collaborations with foreign researchers, including restrictions on teaching foreign collaborators how to use export-controlled items in research.
  • The ability to transfer research equipment abroad.


An Export is:

  • Any oral, written, electronic or visual disclosure, shipment, transfer or transmission outside the United States to anyone, including a U.S. citizen, of any commodity, technology (information, technical data, or assistance) or software/codes subject to the Export Administration Regulations and identified on the Commerce Control List.
  • Any oral, written, electronic or visual disclosure, transfer or transmission to any person or entity of a controlled commodity, technology or software/codes with an intent to transfer it to a non-U.S. entity or individual, wherever located (even to a foreign student or colleague at NKU).
  • Any transfer of these items or information to a foreign embassy or affiliate.

The majority of research conducted on campus is not subject to export controls, either because the research does not involve export-controlled items or data or because research involving such items or data qualifies for an exclusion from the regulations.

There are two exclusions that are relevant to academic research: the fundamental research exclusion and the public domain exclusion. The fundamental research exclusion refers to “ 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 reasons. The public domain exclusion refers to information that is available through books, periodicals, patents, open conferences in the United States, websites accessible to the public with no access controls, or other public release authorized by the U.S. government.

These exclusions will be voided, however, if researchers sign side agreements (including material transfer (MTA) and non-disclosure agreements (NDA)) that contain publication restrictions or restrictions on who can participate in the research. It is vital that you do not sign any agreements that pertain to export controls, without first consulting with the Office of Research, Grants and Contracts. 

Particular care must be exercised in the negotiation and acceptance or research projects that may be subject to restrictions on the export of data and information. NKU may accept research agreements that: (1) indicate that technical data generated under the agreement may be subject to export control regulations; and (2) include the requirement that foreign nationals be identified to the sponsor prior to their involvement in the project. If the sponsor exercises further restrictions on the publication of these data or on the access to, or the participation in the research by foreign nationals, NKU may elect to decline or terminate the agreement if these restrictions are deemed unreasonable, under the circumstances. Any agreement that goes beyond these basic parameters, which specifically indicates that the technical data resulting from the project shall be subject to export control and/or reserves sponsor approval in connection with the hiring of foreign nations, must be evaluated on a case by case basis by the University.