Research and ITAR compliance

This section will discuss some concepts and present some ITAR terminology that may help to figure out what kind of research may be subjected to ITAR compliance. Remember: the content of this section is only  a brief introduction to this subject. Legal advice from skilled experts is always essential when it comes to making decisions involving ITAR compliance.


The Fundamental Research Exemption


"The fundamental research exemption releases defense exports from the ITAR regulations when those services are in support of fundamental research and conducted by accredited U.S. institutes of higher education. (...) Although it is clear that an exemption exists for fundamental research, a significant portion of the debate and researchers’ uncertainty surrounding ITAR revolve around the definition of “fundamental research”.  ITAR defines "fundamental research" as "basic and applied research in science and engineering where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community." However, if researchers accept any restrictions on the publication of their work or if the U.S. government funds the research and mandates controls protecting the information, then the exemption does not apply. An important distinction regarding the fundamental research exemption exists between the export of information and the export of hardware. This is critical because the exemption covers information, and not hardware." 9


It is important to emphasize: research that is not classified as "fundamental research" cannot involve foreign persons without export licences. U.S research universities generally have a set of policies whose objective is to make the distinction between "fundamental research" and research projects that must be ITAR compliant. However, these directives can vary significantly. Click on the images below in order to have access to the MIT and Stanford documents containing the rules that regulate this distinction in each one of the universities. This small sample is enough to demonstrate that this is a sensitive issue, mainly due to the ambiguity involved in this classification. 


Figure 1: MIT and ITAR guidelines


Figure 2: Stanford and ITAR guidelines


ITAR and Universities: Important Issues

The presentation below will outline the main issues involving ITAR and academic research. 


Export Control Revisions and CubeSat Programs

As explained before, CubeSat programs and Atmospheric Balloon projects (depending on the balloon's payload) must observe ITAR compliance. Nevertheless, there were changes in regulations during 2014 and satellite technologies were reclassified. Therefore, the requirements may become less strict in some types of research. The "Universities Space Research Association" (USRA) conducted an informal survey in 2015 named "Export Control Revisions and CubeSat Programs", in order to know how much the academic community knew about these changes. Part of the results are presented below19 as they were released. This link redirects to the original source, containing the complete presentation.