Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

NIH requirements / NSF requirements / RCR Programs at Brown / RCR and Research Ethics Resources / RCR Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) / Rigor and Reproducibility Resources and Training / Contact
 

Responsible and ethical research behavior of researchers and research institutions has historically relied on a system of self-regulation based on shared ethical principles and commonly accepted practices. In response to a rising number of cases of questionable research practices at major research institutions in the 1980s, the Institute of Medicine noted in a report in 1989 that “instruction in the standards and ethics of research is essential to the proper education of scientists.” In subsequent years, both NIH and NSF implemented requirements for certain grant programs to provide training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR).

Research sponsors view RCR as an essential component of research training. They require investigators to describe RCR instruction in certain types of grant proposals, and expect that institutions will provide appropriate courses of instruction. Sponsors also expect that research faculty from the institution will participate in instruction in RCR and serve as effective role models for their trainees, fellows, and scholars.

 NIH RCR Requirements

All trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grant, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, or dissertation research grant must receive instruction in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).  More information regarding this NIH requirement can be found here.  

  • Responsibilities for PIs on NIH Awards with RCR Requirements
    PIs on NIH awards with RCR requirements have a number of responsibilities, including developing an RCR instructional plan and maintaining RCR records. Click here for further information, guidance, and instructional plan templates.
     
  • NIH’s Policy on Rigor and Reproducibility
    More information on NIH’s new Rigor and Reproducibility requirements can be found here
     
  • Brown University RCR Programs that fulfill NIH RCR Requirements
    Click here for a list of RCR programs at Brown that fulfill NIH RCR requirements.
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NSF RCR Requirements

NSF requires certification that Brown 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 receive NSF support to conduct research. Certification of University compliance is done by an authorized Brown University representative as part of the institutional proposal approval process. More information about NSF requirements can be found here.  

  • RCR Responsibilities for PIs on NSF Awards
    PIs on NSF awards are responsible for ensuring that all students and trainees on their award complete RCR training. For more information and guidance on PI responsibilities, click here.
     
  • Brown University RCR Programs that fulfill NSF RCR Requirements
    Click here for a list of RCR programs at Brown that fulfill NSF RCR requirements.
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RCR Frequently asked questions

1. What is RCR training?
2. Who is required to take RCR training?
3. How does the NIH define "participants" that must receive RCR Training?
4. How often does RCR training need to be taken?
5. How do I know if an RCR course offering at Brown meets NIH requirements and is consistent with what I described in my instructional plan?
6. What are the responsibilities of a PI with respect to RCR training and associated record-keeping?

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1. What is RCR training?

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) is defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as "the practice of scientific investigation with integrity [and] involves the awareness and application of established professional norms and ethical principles in the performance of all activities related to scientific research.”

Research sponsors view RCR as an essential component of research training. They require investigators to describe RCR instruction in certain types of grant proposals, and expect that institutions will provide appropriate courses of instruction. Sponsors also expect that research faculty from the institution will participate in instruction in RCR and serve as effective role models for their trainees, fellows, and scholars.

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2. Who is required to take RCR training?

The NIH and the National Science Foundation (NSF) require RCR training for early career investigators, although each defines a different population:

  • NIH: NIH requires that “all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training grant, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, or dissertation research grant must receive instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).”
  • NSF: The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires that “the institution 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.”

Brown’s BEARCORE course gives priority seating to those individuals required by NIH or NSF to take RCR training to fulfill grant requirements.

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3. In addition to trainees, fellows and scholars, the NIH requires that “participants” on NIH training, career development, and research education grants receive RCR training. How is that term defined? Does it mean my research or administrative assistants must go through RCR training?

Unfortunately, NIH does not provide guidance regarding its term, “participant.” In the absence of such guidance, we recommend that PIs start by consulting the instruction plan that they submitted with the original training grant application. Does this plan list specific people or groups of people that will receive RCR training? If yes, then this plan should be followed and serve as guidance as to who should be trained.

Aside from this, we recommend that PIs look at the role of each individual and assess whether he/she is performing predominantly administrative duties or whether he/she is also involved in the actual conduct of research. If the latter, we recommend that the participant receive RCR training. That said, if those participants with purely administrative duties have an interest in receiving RCR training, such training is encouraged. While priority seating for the in-person BEARCORE course is given to those individuals required by NIH or NSF to take RCR training to fulfill grant requirements, others can sign up and be placed on a waiting list or complete the CITI RCR training course online.

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4. How often does RCR training need to be taken?

  • The NIH requires that RCR training be completed at least once during each career stage (i.e., undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty levels), and at a frequency of no less than once every four years.
  • The NSF has left it to each institution to determine the frequency of RCR training for its NSF-supported trainees. At Brown, we require that RCR training be completed at least once by all NSF-supported trainees consistent with NSF expectations, and encourage refresher training at least once every four years.
  • Note that faculty can fulfill RCR training and refresher requirements by teaching or co-teaching an RCR course.  Please contact Juliane Blyth if you’re interested in teaching a BEARCORE course.
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5. How do I know if an RCR course offering at Brown meets NIH requirements and is consistent with what I described in my instructional plan?

  • NIH has set forth requirements for educational content, training format, and frequency of an effective RCR program, which can be reviewed in detail here. Importantly, NIH requires that an RCR program involve at least eight face-to-face contact hours and recommends substantive contact between trainees and facultyOVPR’s BEARCORE program, the Division of Biology and Medicine’s RCR program, and the School of Public Health’s RCR course fulfill NIH requirements by covering the following core topic areas:
  1. conflict of interest – personal, professional, and financial
  2. policies regarding human subjects, live vertebrate animal subjects in research, and safe laboratory practices
  3. mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships
  4. collaborative research including collaborations with industry
  5. peer review
  6. data acquisition and laboratory tools; management, sharing and ownership
  7. research misconduct and policies for handling misconduct
  8. responsible authorship and publication
  9. the scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research
  • NSF does not have the same contact hour requirement as NIH. NSF leaves it up to each institution to determine course content and training format for its RCR training (for more details on NSF’s requirements, click here.) Brown strongly encourages NSF-supported students and trainees who have not previously taken any RCR training to opt for an in-person course. RCR training for NSF trainees can also be satisfied by completing the CITI online Responsible Conduct of Research course but trainees should confirm with their PIs and departments. If your specific grant and/or your department/center requires that RCR training be completed via an in-person course, then you must abide by that requirement. Please note that this CITI course is separate and distinct from human subject research training, which cannot be substituted for the CITI RCR course.
  • As part of a grant proposal for NIH training, education or career awards, PIs will have developed discipline-specific, tailored plans for RCR education. Such plans may include additional or discipline-specific modules, seminars, or trainings beyond the general requirements set forth by NIH. PIs should adhere to the training plan outlined in their grants applications.
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6. What are the responsibilities of a PI with respect to RCR training and associated record-keeping?

PIs are responsible for ensuring that all individuals who are required to complete RCR training have done so at the specified intervals.

NIH outlines additional PI responsibilities with respect to development of an RCR training plan, record-keeping, and reporting requirements, as follows:

  • The PI must develop a discipline-specific, tailored plan for RCR training that meets the NIH requirements. The instructional plan is evaluated as a component of the NIH funding proposal.  Applications without an RCR instructional plan may be delayed in the review process or not reviewed.
  • The PI is responsible for maintaining RCR training records to document that all NIH-supported trainees, fellows, and scholars received the required instruction.
  • The PI must comply with specific reporting requirements in continuation applications.

PIs of both NIH and NSF awards are expected by Brown to maintain RCR training records (i.e., copies of RCR completion certificates) for their awards. Such documentation is subject to audit by Brown’s Office of Research Integrity to ensure fulfillment of institutional obligations and by funding agencies.

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Questions about RCR at Brown?

Juliane Blyth, Associate Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (401) 863-3295

Contact the Office of Research Integrity (ORI)
Telephone Number: (401) 863-3050
South Street Landing (SSL), 5th floor
350 Eddy Street
Providence, RI 02903​

Please contact us if you…
Have any questions about RCR requirements;
Would like assistance developing a course that meets NIH RCR requirements or would like ORI to spread the word about your RCR course; or
Need a subject matter expert from the Office of Research Integrity to talk about conflict of interest, human or animal subject research, or research misconduct as part of a class or as part of an RCR course.