Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

The responsible and ethical conduct of research (RCR) is critical for excellence, as well as public trust, in science and engineering. Consequently, education in RCR is considered essential in the preparation of future scientists and engineers. 

As of January 2010, the National Science Foundation will require that at the time of proposal submission Dartmouth has a plan to provide “appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research.”

Institutional Responsibilities

An institution must have a plan in place 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 to conduct research. As noted in Chapter II.C.1.d, an institutional certification to this effect is required for each proposal.

NSF's RCR requirement applies to the breadth of research disciplines that the Foundation funds. The training provided should be effective and must be appropriately tailored to the specific needs and circumstances at each institution. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of each institution to determine the content, focus and the delivery method for the RCR training.52 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.

An institution must designate one or more persons to oversee compliance with the RCR training requirement.

Institutions are responsible for verifying that undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers supported by NSF to conduct research have received training in the responsible and ethical conduct of research.

Source: NSF Award and Administrative Guide, Chapter IV, Grantee Standards

Graduate Students

All first year graduate students at Dartmouth are currently required to complete the Professional Ethics Program. This is an institution-wide program of training in the basics of professional ethics. Information can be found in the Graduate Studies Office and on-line at:

This program has been in place for several years and meets the requirement for NSF RCR training for graduate students.

Post Docs

There are three options to fulfill the RCR requirement.

  1. Complete the Graduate Student Professional Ethics Program (described above) or complete the "Train the Trainer" portion of Professional Ethics Program.
  2. National Postdoctoral Association RCR Toolkit
  3. Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI)
        1. Dartmouth has been a member of this on-line training program for several years. The program has recently added Responsible Conduct in Research modules for: Biomedical; Social & Behavioral Studies; Physical Science; and Humanities. Within each module are seven sections: Introduction; Research Misconduct; Data Acquisition and Management; Peer Review; Mentor & Trainee Responsibilities; Conflict of Interest; and Collaborative Research. Each section will take approximately 20 – 30 minutes to complete. The modules does not need to be completed all at once.

Undergraduate Students

CITI Training will fulfill the undergraduate requirement. The PI has the responsibility to help the student register for the option that she/he wishes to take.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is RCR?

The NIH Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has recommended nine (9) core areas for RCR trainings:

  • Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership;
  • Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities;
  • Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship;
  • Peer Review;
  • Collaborative Science;
  • Research Misconduct; and
  • Communication and Difficult Conversations

Why is RCR a good idea?

As stated in the NSF Federal Register Notice regarding RCR, "The responsible and ethical conduct of research is critical for excellence, as well as public trust, in science in engineering." According to a report by the National Postdoc Association, "Despite recent moves at the federal level towards requiring training in RCR [1], many postdocs still do not receive guidance on these issues. Sigma Xi's 2005 nationwide survey of postdocs found that nearly a third (31%) of respondents indicated having received no training in research ethics, with another third (33%) having received only informal, 'on-the-job' training.  In the specific areas of intellectual property and conflict resolution skills, however, they found that almost two-thirds had received no training [2]. Other studies find similar results [3]."

How do I address RCR in my grant applications and progress reports?

The new RCR training requirements do not require that you add a section to specifically address RCR. Effective January 4, 2010, the institutional certification of the proposal will signify that Dartmouth 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.

What is required of Principal Investigators?

Most, if not all, faculty will agree that training in responsible conduct of research starts with effective mentorship. The role of the PI is to oversee all aspects of the conduct of the research including assuring oversight and supervision of research personnel. In terms of fulfilling the requirement for RCR training, the PI is ultimately responsible for informing lab personnel of the NSF RCR requirements and directing them to institutional resources designed to meet the requirements. While the Office of Sponsored Projects will have mechanisms of tracking participation in programs, the responsibility of communicating RCR training requirements is the responsibility of the PI.

What is required of undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows paid on NSF funds?

All undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows must complete one of the programs listed on the RCR training options list. The individual should complete the program upon hiring and no later than 60 days after starting work on an NSF funded project.

How will OSP track that requirements have been met?

The Office of Sponsored Projects certifies that Dartmouth has implemented an RCR training plan when signing grant applications submitted to NSF. Since OSP is not generally involved in the hiring process, the PI will be responsible for informing new hires of the requirements. OSP will have to access to data available from the approved RCR training options. OSP will periodically review the data for compliance in comparison to payroll records and notify PIs or departments of non-compliance. OSP will make this data available upon request from a sponsor or individual faculty member. OSP will periodically send out reminders concerning the general requirements to NSF funded Principal Investigators. OSP will not send out reminders directly to undergraduate students, graduate students, or postdoctoral fellows paid from NSF funds.

Who should I contact if I have questions?

Henrike Frowein, Assistant Provost
Jill Mortali, Director, Office of Sponsored Projects


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