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Responsible Conduct of Research Training

The responsible conduct of research (RCR) is essential to good science. RCR promotes the aims of scientific inquiry, fosters a research environment that enables scientists to work together toward common goals, and promotes public confidence in scientific knowledge and progress for the public good. However, there are several serious detrimental effects of research not conducted ethically and responsibly. These include, for example, data fabrication and falsification of results which undermine the pursuit of valid knowledge by misleading scientists to accept and further study false hypotheses or unreliable data. Likewise, plagiarism and harassment negatively impact the research environment by harming respect and trust among scientists. Fraudulent or socially irresponsible research undercuts the public’s trust of and support for science.

Training and education in RCR should occur not only during undergraduate or graduate studies in science, but throughout one’s scientific career. RCR education can take place in seminars, workshops, or conferences on research ethics, as well as through informal conversations during mentoring, training, and laboratory meetings about ethical conduct and practices. 

The goals of RCR education and training are to:

  • Develop, foster, and maintain a culture of integrity in science;
  • discourage and prevent unethical conduct;
  • empower researchers to hold themselves and others accountable to high ethical standards;
  • increase knowledge of, and sensitivity to, ethical issues surrounding the conduct of research by researchers with diverse backgrounds;
  • improve the ability to make responsible choices when faced with ethical dilemmas involving research;
  • provide an appreciation for the range of accepted scientific practices for conducting research;
  • inform scientists and research trainees about the regulations, policies, statutes, and guidelines that govern the conduct of U.S. Public Health Service-funded research and promote compliance with the same; and,
  • promote a career-long positive attitude toward research ethics and the responsible conduct of research.

The subject matter of RCR training and education includes:

  • research misconduct and questionable research practices;
  • data management - i.e., data acquisition, record-keeping, retention, ownership, analysis, interpretation, and sharing;
  • scientific rigor and reproducibility;
  • responsible authorship and publication;
  • peer review;
  • conflicts of interest in research;
  • mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships;
  • collaborative science;
  • civility issues in research environments, including but not limited to, harassment, bullying, and inappropriate behavior;
  • policies regarding laboratory safety, biosafety, and human and animal research subjects;
  • views about scientists as responsible members of society;
  • social and environmental impacts of research; and,
  • contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research.

If intramural NIH researchers transition to academia, they will be required to provide RCR training for their trainees per the NIH’s Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research. One key goal of the intramural RCR training program is to help prepare our trainees for this important ongoing career responsibility.

RCR Training Requirements

All NIH intramural researchers who have direct and substantive involvement in proposing, performing, reviewing, or reporting research, or who receive research training, are required to participate in some ongoing RCR instruction. This includes Senior Investigators; Tenure-Track Investigators; Staff Scientists and Clinicians; Emeritus Researchers; Research and Clinical Fellows; Pre- and Post-doctoral Fellows, including Visiting Fellows; Technicians; Research Nurses; Contractors; and Special Volunteers or Guest Researchers involved in these activities (see chart, below).

All NIH intramural researchers are required to participate in the following:

  • NIH Research Ethics Course: Online training module, within 3 weeks of arrival (1 hour; tracked by OIR)
  • Annual Ethics Case Studies: Institute/Center (IC)-facilitated discussion session review of cases provided by the Committee on Scientific Conduct and Ethics (CSCE) each year (1 hour per year; tracked by Institute/Center).

All NIH intramural trainees are required to take at least 8 hours of RCR instruction (6 hours in the first year) while at NIH, including:

  • NIH Research Ethics Course: Online training module within 3 weeks of arrival (1 hour; tracked by OIR)
  • Annual Ethics Case Studies: Institute/Center (IC)--facilitated review of cases provided by CSCE each year (1 hour per year; tracked by Institute/Center).
  • Ethics in Research Training Workshop: Face-to-face Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) workshop tailored specifically for either Postbaccalaureate Fellows/Pre-doctoral Fellows or Post-doctoral Fellows (IRTA/CRTA/VF, Research Fellows) within the first year of arrival (5-6 hours; tracked by OITE). ICs may substitute a comparable, IC-specific workshop that has been approved by OIR.
Intramural Professional Designation (IPD) Online RCR Training Modules
(new hires)
Annual Ethics Cases
(either as facilitator or attendee)
5-hour RCR Workshop Provided by OITE or IC
(in 1st year)
Scientist Emeritus  
Senior Investigator  
Senior Clinician  
Senior Scientist  
Assistant Clinical Investigator (ACI)  
Staff Clinician  
Staff Scientist  
Research Assistant  
IRTA / CRTA: Postdoc, Predoc, Postbac
Visiting Fellow (VF) Postdoc, Predoc
ORISE Fellows
Senior Clinical Fellow1
Clinical Fellow1
Senior Research Fellow1
Research Fellow1
* Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP)
Summer Intern    
Special Volunteer1  
Guest Researcher / On-Site Collaborator1  

* This position represents a NIH trainee or other category.
1 The IC may deviate from the requirements for these positions, depending on whether they are deemed appropriate for a specific person in a specific role.

In addition to the above requirements, trainees may take the following elective courses:

Research Training Resources

The page was last updated on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 - 11:11am