Fundamental Research

For the purposes of export control regulations, the term Fundamental Research means:

Basic and applied research in science and engineering, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the scientific community, as distinguished from proprietary research and from industrial development, design, production, and product utilization, the results of which ordinarily are restricted for proprietary or national security reasons.

Harvard University’s research normally will be considered as fundamental research unless the university or its researchers accept sponsor restrictions on publication of scientific and technical information resulting from the project or activity.  Conducting fundamental research is key to maintaining an environment of openness in an academic setting.


Fundamental Research Exclusion

The results of research performed as fundamental research as defined above are not subject to export control laws and regulations.  No license is needed to share these results, even if they relate to items or technologies that are otherwise controlled. This exclusion permits Harvard University to allow foreign members of their communities (e.g., students, faculty, and visitors) to participate in research projects involving export-controlled information on campus in the U.S. without the need for a license. However, it does not permit the transfer of export-controlled information, materials, or items abroad, even to research collaborators, except under very limited circumstances

The Fundamental Research Exclusion applies only to the dissemination of research data and information, not to the transmissions of material goods.


The Fundamental Research Exclusion is Destroyed If…

…the university accepts any contract clause that:

  • Forbids the participation of foreign persons
  • Gives the sponsor a right to approve publications resulting from the research, or
  • Otherwise operates to restrict participation in research and/or access to and disclosure of research results.

“Side deals” between a PI and Sponsor to comply with such requirements, even though not stated in the research contract, may destroy the fundamental research exclusion and expose both the PI and the University to penalties for export control violations and may violate university policies on openness in research.

More information about Fundamental Research can be found in the FAQ.


Publicly Available/Public Domain Exclusion

Fundamental research is distinguished from research that results in information that is restricted for proprietary reasons or national security reasons (subject to Export Control Regulations, or EAR) or pursuant to specific U.S. government access and dissemination controls (subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR). However, the following public domain exclusions might apply.

  • Publicly available technology and non-encryption software, such as information that is the subject of an open patent application, published in a book or periodical, released at an open conference anywhere, available on a website accessible by the public with no access controls or information that will be published is not subject to the EAR.


  • Information which is already published and generally accessible to the public is not subject to ITAR.  Information that is available through books, periodicals, patents, open conferences in the United States, websites accessible to the public with no access controls, or other public release authorized by the U.S. government, is considered in the public domain.


Educational Information Exclusion

Further, information that is considered general educational material is also excluded from export control regulations:

  • EAR: Release of information by instruction in catalog courses and associated teaching laboratories of academic institutions is not subject to EAR.


  • Information concerning general scientific, mathematical, or engineering principles commonly taught in schools, colleges and universities is not subject to ITAR.