' Frequently Asked Questions about Export Controls | JHURA

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Frequently Asked Questions about Export Controls

  • Can I be held personally responsible, acting as a JHU employee, for violations of U.S. export control regulations?

    In some instances, yes.  If the U.S. Government believes that a tangible item or information has been exported to another country in violation of U.S. law, then it will investigate to determine how and why the export took place.  If it can be shown that you arranged for an unauthorized shipment of an item to another country, then you may be asked to account for your actions.  If it is then found that the unauthorized export was unintentional, for instance due to an oversight on your part, or insufficient training or screening practices generally at JHU, then JHU will likely be the only party that will be held accountable and may be subject to a warning or some kind of penalty (e.g., a fine).  If, however, it is found that you intentionally shipped an item, knowing that to do so was unauthorized, then you could be incarcerated and/or required to pay criminal fines.

  • How do U.S. export control regulations treat foreign persons who have Green Cards?

    U.S. export control regulations generally treat Lawful Permanent Residents (people who have “Green Cards”) as though they are Americans.  For instance, an Iranian citizen might not be able to access certain devices or technical know-how in one of our labs until she became a Lawful Permanent Resident.  The same approach would apply if she were lawfully in the U.S. under special protection, such as is offered to those who are allowed to stay in the U.S. as refugees, or those who have been granted asylum.

    However, please note that the U.S. Government may take an interest in Lawful Permanent Residents who are citizens of certain countries and with whom we expect to share certain controlled items or information that the U.S. Govt. believes an individual’s home country might use to undermine our national security.  It is for this reason that we will sometimes ask for an individual’s status in the U.S., as well as their current and past citizenships.

  • How do we know if our work involves “fundamental research?”

    Fundamental research is considered to be any basic or applied research in science and engineering with results that are ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community (see National Security Decision Directive 189).  For those who need definitions of basic research and applied research, we offer the following (taken from an OMB guidance document)

    • Basic Research: Systematic study directed toward fuller knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products in mind.
    • Applied Research: Systematic study to gain knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met.

    The application of knowledge acquired through basic or applied research to meet specific requirements, such as for the production of useful materials or the deployment of certain systems or methods is not considered fundamental research.

    Additionally, in order to qualify as fundamental research, the activity must be conducted free of certain kinds of publication (or other types of dissemination) or access restrictions.

    If you are still uncertain whether your activity is fundamental research, please contact the Export Control Office.

  • How will I know if my research project is subject to U.S. export controls?

    Whether or not U.S. export controls apply to your research or other work at JHU depends upon four, primary factors:  1) the subject matter associated with your work, 2) the foreign countries that are likely to be associated with your work, 3) the foreign entities or individuals with which/whom you expect to share certain items or information; and 4) how you reasonably expect those entities/individuals to use what you share with them.

    When you carefully and fully answer the Research Compliance Questions that are asked for each proposal that is submitted through Coeus, the Export Control Office has an opportunity to assess whether your project might involve exchanges with foreign parties that would require export licenses.  This, however, is not a foolproof way to filter out restricted subject matter, countries, entities/individuals and end-uses from the thousands of proposals submitted yearly through Coeus.  We must depend upon a variety of checks and information sources (not to mention training) to help us identify research projects that are impacted by U.S. export controls.

  • If our proposed research or other activity is expected to have some kind of connection to a sanctioned country, does that mean that we can’t go through with our proposal?

    No, not necessarily.  We are usually able to interact with citizens of sanctioned countries when they are lawfully working or studying with us in the United States, although there might still be certain subject matter that we cannot share with them without a license.  There are typically more restrictions upon the interactions that we can have with citizens of sanctioned countries when they are located in their home countries.  Even so…

    Some U.S. sanctions programs are more restrictive than others.  Your project may involve a country that is subject to a sanctions program but one that does not restrict the kind of transactions into which you will need to enter with its organizations or people.  For instance…

    Iran is a comprehensively sanctioned country, and the regulations that embody the Iran sanctions program generally forbid any export/import of goods, services or technical know-how to/from that country.  There are a few exceptions to this broadly restrictive policy towards Iran, but it is typically quite difficult (if not impossible) for us to involve Iranian entities and individuals in our research, technical assistance and educational activities, if they are not lawfully in the U.S.

    Zimbabwe, on the other hand, is also a sanctioned country, but unlike the Iran sanctions program, the Zimbabwe sanctions program only targets certain entities and individuals and does so in such a limited way as to rarely prevent us from being able to pursue our professional goals in or with Zimbabwean organizations and individuals.

    If your research project or other work will involve a sanctioned country, the Export Control Office can help you to determine whether any or all of your proposed activities are forbidden in the absence of a license.  If a license is required, we can advise as to whether submitting a license application would be worthwhile, and if it is, we can assist with application drafting and submission.

  • If we’re going to be performing fundamental research, then why does the Export Control Office need to know details about the subject matter connected with our project?

    Remember that it is only the results/findings of fundamental research that are excluded from export controls.  It is possible that certain devices, materials or information used in the course of performing fundamental research cannot be shared with foreign persons because they are controlled for export to one or more countries and, in the case of information, it was not the product of fundamental research.

  • My office needs to send some items to another country or have them sent to us from another country. Can the Export Control Office help us?

    The Export Control Office is charged with preventing items and information from going to other countries in violation of U.S. export control regulations, and for that reason it wants to verify that items leaving the U.S. have been properly screened.  The Export Control Office is not responsible for addressing the numerous other issues that you should consider when shipping internationally, including customs (both U.S. and foreign), proper handling and packaging (e.g., hazardous or perishable materials) and insurance.  However, we encourage you to visit our international shipping page, which offers resources that you can use to ensure that your outgoing and incoming international shipments are managed with minimal cost and maximum compliance with the numerous regulations that apply to international shipping.

  • When Export Control Office forms ask us to describe any “technology” or “technical data” that we will be sharing with foreign person, what does that mean?

    U.S. export control regulations tell us that certain devices, materials (organic or inorganic) and software cannot be sent to certain other countries without a license.  They also tell us that we should not share technical information about those items with citizens of certain countries when they are working or studying with us in the U.S.  The kind of technical information that the regulations are referring to is that which a person could reasonably use to develop, produce or understand (very intimately) the devices, materials or software that are identified as being controlled.  Such information is referred to as “technology” in the Dept. of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations (the “EAR”) and as “technical data” in the Dept. of State’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (the “ITAR”).  We ask JHU personnel to disclose any technology or technical data that they believe they will need to share with foreign persons at JHU so that the Export Control Office might identify any such information that cannot be shared with a particular foreign person without a license.

  • Why am I being asked to create a Technology Control Plan, even if there will be no foreign persons on my research team?

    Technology Control Plans (TCPs) are created in order to ensure that JHU personnel are aware of and committed to practices that are designed to control access to, and dissemination of, export controlled tangible items and information.  Although a given research project on our Homewood campus may not formally include foreign persons, there may still exist the potential for controlled items and information to be intentionally or unintentionally accessed by foreign persons who are not working on the project.  When the Export Control Office sees this potential, especially when ITAR-controlled items are involved, it requests that the leader of a research project collaborate in the development of a TCP.

  • Why do I need a license to include a foreign student in my research project, even if he is already studying and working at JHU under a valid visa?

    A visa issued by the United States Government authorizes an individual to study and/or work at JHU, but it does not confer on them a right to access any technology with which our faculty might be working at any given time.  As an entity subject to U.S. export control regulations, JHU is responsible for monitoring the tangible items and information that it shares with foreign persons, including those who have visas authorizing them to study and work with us.

  • Why is it important for us to determine whether our work is “fundamental research?”

    The results of research that qualifies as fundamental research are generally not subject to export controls.  What this means is that a JHU research team could lawfully share with their peers at foreign universities new findings about export controlled items – such as certain harmful viruses or bacteria – if the findings arose in the course of performing fundamental research.  If the research was not fundamental, perhaps because JHU agreed to the imposition of publication or access restrictions on the project, then a license would be needed to share the discoveries with foreign parties.


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