University of Pittsburgh
Office of Research


Export Control Summary


For over 60 years, the federal government has enforced laws restricting the export of certain goods, technologies and information. There are two main sets of laws: the Export Administration Regulations (EARs), administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITARs), administered by the U.S. Department of State. Restrictions on transactions with certain specific countries under embargoes are enforced by the U.S. Department of Treasury through its Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC). Even some research activities that take place solely on the University campus may be subject to the provisions of the EARs and ITARs

The EARs and ITARs apply to both "exports" and "deemed exports" of certain items or information. Exports involve the transfer of certain physical goods, information, technologies or provision of services to persons or entities outside of the United States. Deemed exports involve the transfer of specific information or services to foreign nationals inside the United States. When university research activities involve the transfer of a physical item overseas or a deemed export within the United States, the activities then become subject to export control regulations, which in some cases triggers the need for an export license. Items and information that are regulated under the EARs and ITARs are contained on two lists, one maintained by Commerce and one maintained by State. Many of the items on both the Commerce and State restricted lists are dual use items, and are commonly used in university research (including such common items as GPS technology and fermenters for biological research). Many common biological or chemical materials were also added to the restricted lists of either Commerce or State following the anthrax attacks.

The EARs and ITARs provide for an exemption from the need to obtain a license for deemed export for universities engaged in the transfer of scientific, technical or engineering information to its foreign national students and faculty members. This is referred to as the "fundamental research exemption," pursuant to which a university can, without first obtaining an export license, perform research on campus involving foreign national students and faculty as long as the resulting information may be freely published. This exemption only applies to deemed exports to foreigners within the United States. It does not apply to actual transfers of physical goods or rendered services outside of our borders. This type of transfer still may require the securing of an export license.

Despite the existence of this research exemption, its application is still limited to our campus, and only if the research contract does not give the sponsor the right to limit publications. It does not, for instance, apply to agreements that allow sponsors to pre-review or edit the results, or any other language in an agreement that allows the sponsor to withhold the results of the research. In addition, awarding agencies have been insisting with greater frequency that restrictive export language and/or "No Foreign Nationals" clauses be placed within agreements that would otherwise be considered fundamental research. Any language which places restrictions on the University's ability to publish results or to include its foreign national faculty or foreign national students within a sponsored research project violates multiple University policies covering openness of research and non-discrimination and will not be accepted. Grants and Contracts Officers in the Office of Research will review each proposed research project, using the checklist that may be found at the Office of Research link below entitled "checklist." While the Office of Research will perform this review, ultimate responsibility for compliance with export control regulations will rest with the principal investigator, consistent with the responsibilities set forth in University Policy No. 11-01-02, Rights Roles and Responsibilities of Sponsored Research Investigators.

In addition to the regulations under the EARs and the ITARs, the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") of the U.S. Department of Treasury maintains both its own list of foreign countries against which the United States has issued economic or trade sanctions, and lists of suspected terrorists, drug traffickers or others engaged in illicit activities. See the OFAC website at for further details.

OFAC has the authority to control transactions with any of the persons or countries on its lists and to seize assets located in the United States of entities on the list. In addition, a number of corporate foundations and other grant-making organizations have begun to routinely require a certification from the University that it does not do business with any country or person on OFAC's Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List or other similar lists ("Designated Lists"). The Office of Research, in collaboration with the Office of General Counsel, will assist with the obtaining of any necessary certifications. If you have received a request to provide certification of compliance with OFAC restrictions, or if you believe that a funding party or a research collaborator for a project may be subject to these sanctions, please notify us.

In order to further help the research community with this topic, specific policy links and additional information can be found on the Office of Research website at: Specific questions regarding research export controls should be addressed to Allen A. DiPalma at 624-7405, If you are planning to transport a piece of equipment to a foreign country, please consult the University's Purchasing website at for further information concerning tangible exports and international sanctions.