Responsible Conduct of Research

The responsible conduct of research (RCR) in the sciences has been defined in relevant guidelines 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.”

Today’s research environment presents increasingly complex ethical and regulatory issues. As a result, many research sponsors and scientific organizations now consider the formal instruction in the responsible conduct of research to be an essential component of research training in the sciences.

In keeping with this view, two key federal awarding agencies, NSF and NIH, have specific requirements around RCR training.

NSF: all undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral student researchers paid on an NSF grant must take RCR training. At Northeastern, this training may be completed online via CITI. Additionally, researchers may elect to participate in the in-person trainings.

NIH: postdoctoral researchers paid on specific training and early career grants (i.e. F, T and K series of awards) must take RCR training, which includes both in person and online modules.

Sample language for NSF and NIH grant proposal narratives related to RCR: The in-person Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) course is open to all Northeastern faculty and students. The RCR course is offered in Boston twice a year, beginning in January and August. The course is approximately eight hours long, with significant researcher facilitation and administrative support, and uses discussions and case studies to examine basic ethical and regulatory requirements for conducting research. RCR is a highly recommended “best practices” course for those desiring to deepen their knowledge of ethical research and responsible conduct. It is also an excellent professional opportunity for anyone interested in furthering a career in research. This particular course fulfills the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) requirements for formal RCR instruction.
Topics covered include research misconduct; responsible authorship and publication; mentor-mentee relationships; lab safety; conflicts of interest; peer review; data acquisition and management; stewardship; sexual harassment, diversity and inclusion; and working with institutional regulatory bodies (i.e. IRB, IACUC and IBC).

Course requirements include attendance at 7 workshop sessions, participation in class discussions and a capstone presentation. A certificate will be issued to all participants upon successful course completion.

Northeastern adheres to professional practices that encompass scholarly and research integrity and promotes, actively endorses, and participates in RCR instruction for all faculty, students and staff, regardless of status, discipline, or source of funding. Our goal is to develop and provide programs and materials that will increase the knowledge of and facilitate the practice of responsible research at Northeastern.

Online: Information on the CITI modules is available here.

In Person: Northeastern’s RCR instruction requires the participation in 7 workshops (each 1-2 hours in length), plus the completion of a Capstone project (the presentation on a specific issue covered during the workshops). Upon completion, students will request a Certificate of Completion through this online form.

RCR workshops are led by through a collaborative effort between NU-RES, faculty and senior administrators from across the University. In person RCR workshops will include the following topics:

  • Mentor and trainee responsibilities;
  • Authorship, publication & peer review;
    Lab safety;
  • Grant stewardship;
  • Data acquisition, storage & management;
  • Research misconduct & conflicts of interest;
  • Human, animal & biological materials research;
  • Harassment, bullying in the workplace, diversity & inclusion;
  • The CITI online module may be taken in place of one workshop;
  • Students may apply to NU-RES to substitute one external workshop in lieu of the Northeastern RCR class (i.e. attending a symposium on data management in lieu of the RCR workshop on the same topic);and a
  • Capstone Project.

NU-RES will work with the colleges to confirm those NIH Trainees and Fellows who must complete Certification to satisfy applicable grant conditions. NU-RES will notify any such Trainees and Fellows of the next available RCR instruction courses and priority seats will be given to such Trainees and Fellows.

Additionally, any undergraduate, graduate, or fellow funded under an NSF award may complete this course in lieu of or addition to the online course.

Other students or faculty who wish to participate are always welcome to join us if there is room.

Each workshop is capped to thirty (30) participants to facilitate discussion. Sign up for upcoming workshops here.

Engineering students may elect to complete Professor Abigail Koppes’ Research Ethics Course (CHME 5985) in lieu of the RCR trainings described on this page. All the required topics are covered in CHME 5985.

All students, faculty and staff who complete any format of RCR training should keep a copy of their Certificate of Completion for their records.

When RCR training is required by the grant, it is a best practice for the PI/college to maintain copies of the certificates for any students paid off of applicable NIH and NSF grants.