Fundamental Research & Contracts

"Fundamental Research" results are not subject to export licensing when:

  • The basic or applied research** in science or engineering is conducted in the United States.
  • The resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community.
  • There are no restrictions on the publication of research results, including no approval processes for publication.
  • There are no restrictions on the access and dissemination of information resulting from the research, including restrictions or approvals on the use of foreign national


The safe harbor of the "Fundamental Research Exemption" applies only to technology and software resulting from the project and does not apply to:

  • the export of physical items
  • a sponsor's technical data
  • encryption software or technology
  • classified information
  • Military/space-related research conducted overseas


In the spirit of open and transparent research, Duke University does not accept grants / contracts which restrict the freedom to publish research results or contracts which control the access and dissemination of research results.  As a result, the Office of Research Support often negotiates grants/contracts which include pre-publication or foreign national approvals as a these are considered to be a mechanism to control the access and dissemination of research results.   Duke policy supports open dissemination and participation in its research grants and contracts.

If Duke accepts any publication or foreign national restrictions/approvals for a project, the resulting research will not be considered "Fundamental Research" and would thus be subject to export controls.  Examples of restrictions which may nullify the fundamental research "exemption":

  • Research members accept restrictions or approvals for publications or the use of foreign nationals
  • Prepublication review with the right to withhold portions of the research results from publication
  • Approval required from sponsor to use foreign nationals on a project
  • Research, or portions thereof, must be conducted at a secure facility
  • Researchers and/or assistants must have a security clearance
  • Research is restricted to U.S. locations for national security purposes

*Note that a restriction that is accepted by informal means (email, conversation) is still a restriction even if it does not appear in a grant/contract

**The U.S. Department of Defense Financial Management Regulations define basic and applied research as follows:

"Basic Research is  systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products in mind.  It includes all scientific study and experimentation directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge and understanding in those fields of the physical, engineering, environmental, and life sciences related to long-term national security needs.  It is farsighted high payoff research that provides the basis for technological progress.  Basic research may lead to: (a) subsequent applied research and advanced technology developments in Defense-related technologies, and (b) new and improved military functional capabilities......" 

"Applied Research is systematic study to understand the means to meet a recognized and specific need.  It is a systematic expansion and application of knowledge to develop useful materials, devices, and systems or methods.  It may be oriented, ultimately, toward the design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet general mission area requirements.  Applied research may translate promising basic research into solutions for broadly defined military needs, short of system development.  This type of effort may vary from systematic mission-directed research beyond that in {Basic Research} to sophisticated breadboard hardware, study, programming and planning efforts that establish the initial feasibility and practicality of proposed solutions to technological challenges.  It includes studies, investigations, and non-system specific technology efforts.  The dominant characteristic is that applied research is directed toward general military needs with a view toward developing and evaluating the feasibility and practicality of proposed solutions and determining their parameters.  Applied Research precedes system specific technology investigations or development."