1. Frith, Karen H.

Article Content

Research collaboration with international partners is becoming more prevalent in nursing because communication technologies are readily available, cheap, and effective. With international collaboration, particularly when the development of new technologies is involved, nurse scientists have a responsibility to understand the laws and federal regulations regarding exporting technology to foreign nationals in the United States and to individuals in other countries. Exports are regulated by the federal government as export administration regulations, the Export Administration Act of 1979, and its extensions and amendments (US Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security [BIS], 2018a).



Export control (EC) involves laws regulating the circumstances under which software, technology, information, supplies, and merchandise can be transmitted to non-US citizens, no matter where they are located geographically (BIS, 2018a). You may be surprised that EC pertains to a great deal more than to military and nuclear technology- and may even pertain to your research. For example, source codes for software, clinical decision support, mobile apps, and the like can be subject to export control under EC classification numbers as follows: 4.0, electronics; 5.1, computers; 5.2, telecommunications; and 6.01, information security (BIS, 2018a). Misunderstanding export control is costly and can result in the loss of research funding and possible criminal or civil penalties. Willful violations of EC laws have resulted in criminal penalties of 20 years of imprisonment and $1 million per violation (BIS, 2018b).


There are three important restrictions you must know about EC: technology, country, and people or entity restrictions (Export Administration Act of 1979). In other words, an export might be illegal because of what is being exported, where it is going, who is receiving it, and its ultimate use. Some countries are completely off limits - the federal government has embargoed all exports without a US license to countries including the Crimea region of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria (BIS, 2018a).


Information can be "deemed" an export and would then be regulated by export control. Information disseminated to foreign nationals within the US can be illegal and subject to penalties (BIS, 2018a). For example, even a tour of a laboratory by a visiting foreign researcher could violate EC laws, and any oral, visual, or written disclosures could be problematic if the technology is developed by a US citizen and is subject to export control. Disclosures to university research assistants or visiting foreign researchers can violate EC laws, depending on the information. In addition, US citizens serving on advisory boards of foreign universities must be careful to avoid disclosures and limit their discussions to publicly known information. Disclosures, whether purposeful or unintentional, are treated the same, so the best defense against breaking EC laws is to learn more about export control with regard to the research you are doing.


Training is likely available at your university in an office of research export compliance program. This training would be aimed at faculty and research staff rather than commercial entities. You could also attend a seminar offered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (, pay for a webinar with a company that supplies export control training, or work through publicly available training modules produced by universities with high activities in science and engineering, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



Research involving the development of a new technology or the integration of export-controlled technology into an innovation could fall under export administration regulations. Even teaching online to foreign nationals or to individuals living in foreign countries can be violation if it involves teaching about protected technology. When you travel to a foreign country, everything you take is an export, including the information on your laptop or cell phone. It is the responsibility of researchers to have a basic understanding of export control and to reach out to their universities to ensure compliance with all regulations.




Export Administration Act of 1979. Pub. L. 96-72, 93 Stat. 503, codified at 50 U.S.C. [S][S] 4601-4623. [Context Link]


US Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security. (2018a). Principal statutory authority for the export administration regulations. Retrieved from[Context Link]


US Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security. (2018b). Don't let this happen to you: Actual investigations of export control and antiboycott violations. Retrieved from[Context Link]