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Confusion Surrounding Export Control Regs Leading to Research Issues at Universities, Association Says

A lack of understanding of export controls in university settings is delaying or sometimes preventing research, the Association of University Export Control Officers said in a Sept. 17 letter to the Department of Defense. The group said the confusion is particularly a problem surrounding export restrictions on fundamental research: research that is widely published and shared within the scientific community.

“We have experienced the challenges faced by DOD [officials] and academic researchers as they try to navigate” regulations “and their impact on whether or not affected federally funded research meets the definition of ‘fundamental research,’” the AUECO said. The group said “many members” can point to situations in which a “lack of nuanced understanding of the export regulations delayed research or even prevented research from occurring.”

The group said it believes it is “well positioned” to help DOD address recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office in a May report, which called on the administration to improve export control guidance for universities (see 2005120053). AUECO invited DOD to participate in a virtual webinar “regarding fundamental research contracting issues.”

AUECO also echoed concerns outlined in its August letter to the Commerce Department (see 2009010046), saying the GAO report did not capture all the issues university export control officers face. In addition to the Export Administration Regulations and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the group said, its officers must also comply with regulations for nuclear technology overseen by the Department of Energy and sanctions programs run by the Treasury Department. “The study … did not address the breadth of export control regulatory compliance that universities often face,” it said.