Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

In the Fall of 2009, both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) made important revisions to their grant policies regarding the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).

Both the NIH and the NSF have stated that RCR training must now include training in a face-to-face instructional setting; while both sponsors still endorse online instruction as beneficial, it is now considered a supplement to acceptable RCR training and can no longer stand on its own.

These RCR training requirements pertain to the following groups:

  • For the NIH, it is all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, or dissertation research grant (i.e., the D, F, K and T type grants, as well as the R25, R36 and U2R mechanisms). The NIH recommends eight hours of instruction/training.
  • For the NSF, it is all undergraduate/ graduate students and postdoctoral fellows receiving support from any type of NSF grant. The NSF has not recommended a certain number of hours, wishing rather to leave it up to individual PIs based on their own projects' needs.

As much of our research funding comes from these two Federal sources, we are providing information and options to assist PIs in satisfying these requirements. But RCR or ethics training is not limited to just those sponsors; the below courses and websites can be helpful to anyone that is doing research, regardless of the source of funding.

NIH's notification outlining the changes in their policy (NOT-OD-10-019)
The relevant portion of NSF's Award and Administration Guide (Part IV, Section B)
NSF Frequently Asked Questions

In March of 2022, the NIH added a few new items to the list of topics that should be covered in a RCR program, including conflict of commitment and data security, listed in notice NOT-OD-22-055.

Classroom Instruction

While the face-to-face instruction can occur less formally, for example, in department or lab-wide seminars, formal classroom instruction might be the easiest and most thorough way to satisfy the training requirements.

The Center for Ethics Education at Fordham, headed by Dr. Celia Fisher, was created in 1999 and provides a broad range of multidisciplinary ethics education opportunities, including degree programs, major lectures and support for ethics research and scholarship.

The Center teaches a course cross-referenced with the Department of Psychology entitled, "Research Ethics & Social Justice" (CEED/PSYC 6010). This course is taught in the summer. PIs can elect to have their students/postdocs take this course -- graduate students may audit it, postdocs are on a case-by-case basis.

This course will examine approaches to responsible research practices in socio-behavioral research, with particular attention to research involving human participants. The course will provide foundations in research ethics and methods in research ethics decision-making that exemplify scientifically valid and ethically sound research method planning, implementation, and dissemination. 

Online Resources

Fordham's IRB office uses the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) modules, a training resource that is also specifically referenced by the NSF. To create a personal login and take courses on this website, please follow these instructions, supplied by the IRB.

Fordham's Center for Ethics Education suggests the NIH Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research. This online training was designed for NIH scientific staff, but gives the non-NIH user the choice to "Browse" the course and take advantage of the information and resources therein.

Fordham's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) recommends the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, a book which is provided online by the National Academy Press.

Fordham's Center for Ethics Education has a page of Resources and Links, which includes case studies, resources from the IRB, information on special topics and populations and links to ethics codes and websites of organizations you may find helpful in your studies.

The Practical Ethics Center of the University of Montana has put together a comprehensive Online Research Ethics Course (now hosted on the ORI website).  The sections include Ethical Issues in Research, Interpersonal, Institutional and Professional Responsibility, and Animals and Human Participation in Research.

The American Psychological Association has their own Responsible Conduct of Research website, which is geared primarily to psychological research, but is generalizable to other disciplines.

The Office of Research Integrity (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) presents The Lab, an interactive video on research misconduct where you get to play the different parts (PI, grad student, postdoc, research administrator) and help them choose the right way to avoid or deal with situations which could get them into trouble. If your setting is more clinical, you can use their interactive video The Research Clinic, where you can play the part of a research oncologist, clinical research coordinator, research assistant or IRB Chair.

The Office of Research Integrity has also created a series of videos centered around a particular lab and characters, exploring different aspects of research compliance and responsible conduct through case studies. There are currently 11 different scenarios to explore. You can find the video series here:

Columbia University has developed the Responsible Authorship and Peer Review training module. This online program concentrates on the ethical responsibilities involved in publication, whether it's from the author's or the peer reviewer's point of view.