Ensure Comprehensive Oversight By University Export Control Leaders
University Export Controls Enforcement
And so it continues…the latest case of university export controls enforcement involves a professor from Ohio State University. This was announced just months after the preceding academic case involving a Physics Department Chair. The case has familiar elements as previous ones: sensitive U.S. technology (this time related to the NASA Mars program, potential unauthorized transfers (this time to the Chinese government), potential willful wrongdoing, and a well-respected university. The unique aspect is that the U.S. government does not know where Li is at the moment…he is thought to be somewhere in China.
This puzzling case is another reminder of the need for all institutions in higher education to have effective oversight of the activities of their faculty members and other researchers in relation to export controls compliance. The basic questions of “Where are they traveling?” and “What international collaborations are they engaged in?” can be quite challenging for university export compliance officers to fully dive into, given the typical academic culture where professors operate very independently. Furthermore, central travel approval systems can be non-existent…or may only provide post-travel information. Creative means by which to educate department-level administrators, faculty, post-docs, and graduate students can be adopted so parties across an institution are sufficiently knowledgeable to raise red flags early on…before unwanted situations develop.