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Mentoring the Responsible Conduct of Research

The Fordham University Center for Ethics Education received a $400,000, two-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in 2005. The broad long term goals of this project are to develop psychometrically sound instruments and data that can help psychology departments perform self-studies to improve RCR education and that other disciplines can begin to adapt to their unique own training needs.

Over the past twenty years a consensus has developed that the responsible conduct of research (RCR) is vital for the continued health, participant trust, and public value of the scientific enterprise. Lack of familiarity with RCR requirements undermines the overall integrity of the research enterprise. Statements by the Public Health Service, the Office of Research Integrity, and the Institute of Medicine have repeatedly stressed the importance of instruction in the socializing of students to and modeling the values and procedures essential to good and rightly practiced research. Although RCR mentoring is critical, it can only be of modest help if it is not conducted effectively and if there is no commitment or support for RCR training at the institutional level. Psychometrically valid instruments and data are thus needed to assist institutions in promoting and supporting RCR mentoring in ways that are appropriate for the unique empirical work in the area of RCR mentoring and institutional climate with a focus on graduate training in basic and applied psychological sciences.

  1. Mentoring the Responsible Conduct of Research (MRCR) Scales. The MRCR instrument consists of 2 subscales found to have good inter-item reliability and construct validity. The MRCR-Instruction subscale (MRCR-I) uses a 6-point Likert-type scale (1 = extremely unhelpful, 6 = extremely helpful) measures the extent to which mentors provided explicit instruction and practical guidance in 19 RCR areas including informed consent, confidentiality protections, appropriate storage and collection data, and fair and non-coercive payment incentives. The MRCR-Modeling subscale (MRCR-M) consists of 10, 6 –point Likert type items (1 = extremely false, 6 = extremely true) assessing the mentor’s implicit modeling of RCR behaviors and supervisory style.

  2. The Responsible Conduct of Research – Department Climate (RCR-DC) Scales. The RCR-DC consists of 2 subscales, both measured on a 6-point Likert-type scale (1 = extremely false, 6 = extremely true) that have been found to have good inter-item reliability and construct validity. The RCR Department Climate-Policy subscale (RCR DC-PY) begins with the stem “In my graduate psychology program….” Students respond to 15 items measuring explicit RCR departmental policies. The RCR Department Climate – Practices subscale (RCR-DC-PR) consists of nine items tapping implicit RCR climate through perceived departmental acceptance of student and faculty research misconduct.

  3. The Responsible Conduct of Research – Student Preparedness Scale. The RCR-P measures the degree to which current and recently graduated psychology students feel prepared to implement ethical procedures with respect to research activities. This 23-item scale begins with "A this point in my research career, I feel my graduate training has prepared me to..." and items are assessed on a six-point LIkert scale (from "extremely false" to "extremely true").

  4. The Responsible Conduct of Research – Field Integrity Scale. The RCR-FI scale measures the degree to which a student's training has influenced their views on RCR practices in the field of psychology. Beginning with the stem "Based on my psychology graduate training, I believe", this measure asks students to rate (on a 6-point Likert scale from "extremely false" to "extremely true") statements about the degree to which psychologists regularly engage in responsible researc practices.

  5. Fisher, C. B. Fried, A. F., Goodman, S. J., & Germano, K. K. (2009). Measures of mentoring, department climate, and graduate student preparedness in the responsible conduct of psychological research. Ethics & Behavior, 19, 227-252.

Fisher, C.B., Fried, A.F., & Feldman, L. (2009). Graduate socialization in the responsible conduct of research: A national survey on the research ethics training experiences of psychology doctoral students. Ethics & Behavior, 19, 496-518.