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Scientists in the United States are protesting against proposed changes to US export laws that could have impacts on foreign researchers working there.

If the US Department of Commerce (DOC) makes the changes, researchers from countries including China, India and Pakistan might need a licence to operate 'controlled' equipment in US academic laboratories.

The US National Academies are holding a workshop this week to encourage scientists to express their concern.

Universities had believed that, unlike industry, they were exempt from the rules, which are intended to stop the transfer of technology from the United States to countries of 'military concern'. But an independent watchdog of the DOC said last year that the rules applied to universities too.

Academics are worried that laboratories lack the capacity to deal with the level of bureaucracy the proposed rule change would create.

In addition, the DOC proposes applying the rules by country of birth rather than by country of citizenship, a change that some fear could alienate foreign-born researchers who are now citizens of the United States.

The DOC says it has not made its final decision and is calling for comments on the proposed changes. Academics and researchers wishing to add their input have until 27 May to do so.

Link to full Nature news story