Responsible Conduct of Research

Certification Regarding Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR): The Authorized Organizational Representative is required to complete a certification that the institution has a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct research.

While training plans are not required to be included in proposals submitted to NSF, institutions are advised that they are subject to review, upon request. An institution must designate one or more persons to oversee compliance with the RCR training requirement. Institutions are responsible for verifying that students supported by NSF to conduct research have received training in the responsible and ethical conduct of research (RCR).

The NSF requirement applies to all new projects but will not apply to NSF S-STEM or Noyce programs where a stipend is provided to enroll in an academic program. The RCR requirement will apply to undergraduates engaged in NSF-funded research. The requirement will not apply to conference, symposium and travel proposals but it will apply to sub-recipients on NSF research projects. NSF does not provide specific format but it should include the nine core areas. Institutions are given the flexibility to determine appropriate training. On-line training, such as that provided by the CITI program can be used to satisfy requirements but the training plan is subject to review.
NIH requires that all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and dissertation research grant must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research.

  • Format: Substantial face-to-face discussions among the participating trainees/fellows/scholars/participants; a combination of didactic and small-group discussions (e.g. case studies); and participation of research training faculty members in instruction in responsible conduct of research are highly encouraged.

While on-line courses can be a valuable supplement to instruction in responsible conduct of research, online instruction is not considered adequate as the sole means of instruction. A plan that employs only online coursework for instruction in responsible conduct of research will not be considered acceptable, except in special instances of short-term training programs (see below), or unusual and well-justified circumstances.

Core Elements of Responsible Conduct of Research

There are a number of other lists of topics within RCR that have been written, and our list draws on these. For instance, the Office of Research Integrity of the US DHHS has identified nine core topics that are important for the responsible conduct of research.

  1. Data acquisition, management, sharing, and ownership
  2. Mentor/trainee responsibilities
  3. Publication practices and responsible authorship
  4. Peer review
  5. Collaborative science
  6. Human subjects
  7. Research involving animals
  8. Research misconduct
  9. Conflict of interest and commitment