Responsible conduct of research (RCR) is defined as "the practice of scientific investigation with integrity." It involves the awareness and application of established professional norms and ethical principles in the performance of all activities related to scientific research.

Ethical and responsible conduct of research is critical for excellence, as well as public trust, in science and engineering. Consequently, education in the responsible and ethical conduct of research is considered essential in the preparation of future scientists and engineers. The America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act of 2007 focuses public attention on the importance of the national research community's enduring commitment and broader efforts to provide RCR training as an integral part of the preparation and long term professional development of current and future generations of scientists and engineers.

National Science Foundation (NSF) Requirements

The America COMPETES Act of 2007 directed that the National Science Foundation require that each institution that applies for financial assistance from the Foundation for science and engineering research or education certify 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. 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.

In responding to this requirement, the NSF published a revision to its NSF Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide requiring that beginning January 4, 2010, institutions must certify that, at the time of proposal submission, 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 are supported by NSF. UCSB has developed a Training Plan that complies with this NSF requirement.

All undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers supported by the National Science Foundation must complete mandatory RCR training.

Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars
For graduate students and post docs, the UC Santa Barbara RCR training program will involve three components; 1) mandatory online RCR training, 2) an ethics seminar series, and 3) one-on-one mentoring from your faculty advisor.

The online course is available through the CITI homepage at Students and post docs who may have used the CITI site for their animal subjects training can use their existing username and password to access the site and add the RCR course to their “grade book.” Here are additional login instructions.

Undergraduate Students

For undergraduate students supported by NSF grants, principal investigators will be responsible for ensuring that these students read a handout, Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR): A Summary for Undergraduate Researchers, which was developed by UC San Diego for general use throughout the UC System.

Content Areas

In several presentations, NSF has indicated the following content areas could be included in responsible conduct of research education:

  • Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership
  • Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship
  • Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities
  • Peer Review
  • Collaborative Research
  • Time Management and Personal Responsibility
  • Research Misconduct
  • Conflict of Interest and Commitment
  • Whistleblowing
  • Dispute Resolution
  • You and the Literature
  • Lab Note Books and Graphical Presentation of Data
  • Data Ownership and Inventions
  • Posters and Oral Presentations
  • Attending Scientific Meetings
  • Writing Grant Proposals/Obtaining Funding
  • Writing a Research Article
  • Peer Review, Problem Selection and Problem solving
  • Legal Issues in Research and Research Misconduct
  • Teaching Skills
  • Job Skills and Life After Grad School and Postdoc Appointments

Other Information

All PIs on NSF-funded projects should review UCSB's training plan for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers.


National Institutes of Health (NIH) Requirements

On Nov. 24, 2009, NIH updated its policy for instruction of trainees in the responsible conduct of research. The new updated policy states:

"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. This policy will take effect with all new and renewal applications submitted on or after January 25, 2010, and for all continuation (Type 5) applications with deadlines on or after January 1, 2011. This Notice applies to the following programs:  D43, D71, F05, F30, F31, F32, F33, F34, F37, F38, K01, K02, K05, K07, K08, K12, K18, K22, K23, K24, K25, K26, K30, K99/R00, KL1, KL2, R25, R36, T15, T32, T34, T35, T36, T37, T90/R90, TL1, TU2, and U2R. This policy also applies to any other NIH-funded programs supporting research training, career development, or research education that requires instruction in responsible conduct of research as stated in the relevant funding opportunity announcements."


UCSB Resources

  1. UCSB NSF RCR Training Plan
  2. UCSB RCR Training FAQ
  3. Responsible Researcher: UCSB hosted resource on Gauchospace (UCSBnetID login required)

Other Resources

  1. NSF Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity - Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research
  3. On Being A Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition
  4. NIH Office of Research Integrity
  5. Ethics Education and Scientific and Engineering Research: What's Been Learned? What Should Be Done? Summary of a Workshop
  6. Council of Graduate Schools: Project for Scholarly Integrity
  7. National Postdoctoral Association Responsible Conduct of Research Toolkit
  8. Online Ethics Center