Tom has been working at a university lab for the past 15 years. His research work on contagious diseases has gained him significant international recognition. As a result, he has been offered a job at the world's leading research institution in his field of study, in a neighbouring country.
To support research at the new institution, Tom sends and brings partial samples of the relevant virus, which are not harmful to the public, as well as the research data and findings of his current research team and colleagues. These samples are proprietary to Tom's lab and are an export controlled substance.
Tom, who is familiar with standard procedures surrounding these samples, knows this is not the standard procedure, but does not wish to see the research hampered and believes it is in the interest of the greater good in working towards a cure. He does this without malicious intent, given that the samples are non-infectious, and believes that the outcomes of the research are of utmost importance, regardless of where it takes place.
Risks to Tom and the Institution
Regardless of motivation, Tom is in breach of legal requirements related to the export and transmission of controlled goods, as well as institutional policies and practices.
In this situation, the university's procedures and protocols for ensuring the security of controlled materials or proprietary samples will come under scrutiny and may have subsequent legal or funding consequences.
Possible Consequences for Tom
Not only could Tom's professional reputation be seriously damaged, but he could also be subject to compliance measures, including administrative measures and/or criminal charges in both host and origin countries.
Possible Impact for the Institution
The university could face administrative sanctions and/or potential criminal charges. Procedures and protocols, including monitoring and compliance regimes, would come under scrutiny and this could result in administrative measures up to and including loss of relevant licenses and certifications. The university's reputation would be damaged, thus prevent potential future research collaborations or eligibility for federal and other sources of funding.
Moreover, if the samples in question were proprietary the institution could lose access to their value and towards potential research benefits, including intellectual property claims and commercialization.
- The researcher has an obligation to be aware of and follow any laws, funding criteria, and conditions specific to their work, including controlled goods and export control regimes. They must familiarize themselves with and adhere to any national or institutional procedures when considering transferring, sending, or exchanging research samples, products, or knowledge.
- The institution has an obligation to ensure that all staff are trained and compliant with relevant laws, funding criteria, and conditions specific to work undertaken in their facility, including institutional policies and protocols.