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tionals—even when the disclosure takes place inside the United States, a practice sometimes called “deemed export”—has been considered the same as the export of the technology itself and thus requires an export license.

Some recent reports40 suggest that implementation of the rules that govern deemed exports should be tightened even further—for example, by altering or eliminating the exemption for basic research and by broadening the definition of “access” to controlled technology.

The academic research community is deeply concerned that a literal interpretation of these suggestions could prevent foreign graduate students from participating in US-based research and would require an impossibly complex system of enforcement. Given that 55% of the doctoral students in engineering in the United States are foreign-born and that many of these students currently remain in the United States after receiving their degrees, the effect could be to drastically reduce our talent pool.

The United States is not the world’s only country capable of performing research; China and India, for example, have recognized the value of research universities to their economic development and are investing heavily in them. By putting up overly stringent barriers to the exchange of information about basic research, we isolate ourselves and impede our own progress. At the same time, the information we are protecting often is available elsewhere.

The current fear that foreign students in our universities pose a security risk must be balanced against the great advantages of having them here. It is, of course, prudent to control entry to our nation, but as those controls become excessively burdensome they can unintentionally harm us. In this regard, it should be noted that Albert Einstein, Edward Teller, Enrico Fermi, and many other immigrants enabled the United States to develop the atomic bomb and bring World War II to an earlier conclusion than would otherwise have been the case. In addition, immigrant scientists and engineers have contributed to US economic growth throughout the nation’s history by founding or cofounding new technology-based companies. Examples include Andrew Carnegie (US Steel, born in Scotland), Alexander Graham Bell (AT&T, born in Scotland), Herbert Henry Dow (Dow Chemical, born in Canada), Henry Timken (Timken Company, born in Germany), Andrew Grove (Intel, born in Hungary), Davod Lam (Lam Research, born in China), Vinod Khosla (Sun Microsystems, born in India), and Sergey Brin (Google, born in Russia).


Reports from the inspectors general of the US Departments of Commerce, Defense, and State. As an example, see Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Inspections and Program Evaluations. “Deemed Export Controls May Not Stop the Transfer of Sensitive Technology to Foreign Nationals in the U.S.” Final Inspection Report No. IPE-16176-March 2004.

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