Policy & Procedure for Responsible Conduct of Research


Public and regulatory demand for accountability has increased significantly in the past 20 years, and regulations in reaction to abuses and scandals, especially in the realm of human subjects, have been passed.

In recent years, however, Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) has been defined more broadly and federally funded research (and, in general, all research) must comply with regulations related to nine areas of research including: human subjects, vertebrate animals, research misconduct, and financial conflict.

The 2007 America COMPETES Act (America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science) requires that institutions applying for National Science Foundation (NSF) funding must have a plan for providing "appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research" to undergraduate students, graduate students, and post docs "participating in the proposed research". This certification is required for proposals submitted on or after January 4, 2010.


The purpose of our policy seeks to ensure compliance with Section 7009 of the America COMPETES Act of 2007. Further, training in responsible conduct of research is intended to encourage best practices in the conduct of all research and scientific investigations and to foster an ability to recognize an ethical choice and the ability to make a principled decision.


All undergraduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NSF to conduct research must complete Responsible Conduct of Research education.

Responsibility for compliance with the NSF RCR mandate rests primarily with the Principal Investigator (PI).


Travel grants, including conference, symposium and workshop travel are exempt from the RCR training requirement. All other individuals who work on or are paid from NSF funds must complete RCR training.


  • "Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)" is defined as the practice of scientific investigation with integrity. The NIH has specified nine areas for instruction in RCR: data acquisition, management, sharing, and ownership; mentor/trainee responsibilities; publication practices and responsible authorship; peer review; collaborative science; human subjects; research involving animals; research misconduct; and conflict of interest and commitment.
  • "Participants" are defined as follows for the purposes of this policy: All undergraduates who receive wages for, or academic credit about, or who otherwise work on either a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded or National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded project will be counted as participating in NSF-funded or NIH-funded research. Postdoctoral researchers who are involved in NSF or NIH research are also participants.
  • The "Principal Investigator or Investigator" is the lead faculty member on a research project and is the primary individual responsible for an external grant.
  • "Responsible Stewardship" is the obligation to use public resources effectively and efficiently.
  • "Public Trust" is the right of the public to have confidence in the reliability of research results.
  • "Respect for Living Beings" includes respect for human and animal subjects as well as colleagues and students.


The Principal Investigator is required to provide ongoing RCR training appropriate to the discipline, research project, and level of involvement for students, including instruction during the course of the project and in informal situations throughout the year.

When postdoctoral researchers are involved in research proposed to the NSF by a PI, a plan for mentoring the postdoctoral students will be included in the proposal itself.

There are currently three ways by which undergraduate student researchers can meet the RCR training requirement:

  1. By completing the CITI RCR course - please see below for details.
  2. By completing the CITI RCR course in conjunction with ethics instruction from the PI, relevant to the discipline.
  3. By taking CIS 391, the Research Ethics course taught by Professor Kristie Foley.

In most instances, a combination of methods will be used.


The Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) public access course in the Responsible Conduct of Research is available without charge to the research community. The CITI RCR module provides core instruction on responsible conduct in research in the following areas:

  • Research Misconduct
  • Data Acquisition and Management
  • Responsible Authorship
  • Peer Review
  • Laboratory Animal Welfare
  • Human Subjects Protections
  • Mentoring
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Collaborative Research

To access the CITI RCR course:

    1. Go to CITI
    2. Select RCR course from the menu at the top of the page. (Do NOT attempt to log in as a new or returning CITI user).
    3. Complete Steps 1-7 on the RCR page to register and click "Submit."
    4. Provide the Public Access information and click "Submit."
    5. Select the curriculum that fits your discipline of interest:
      • Biomedical Sciences RCR (for Biology students)
      • Social-behavioral Science RCR (for students in Psychology and the Social Sciences)
      • Physical Sciences RCR (for students in Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics
      • Arts and Humanities RCR (for students in the Arts and Humanities)
    6. Begin the modules. After the introduction there are nine modules which will each require 20-30 minutes. Please do not attempt to complete the course in one sitting. The most effective way to complete the course is with multiple log-in sessions of 60-90 minutes each.
    7. Print/Save the completion certificate and send it to the Director, Office of Grants and Contracts.

Tracking and Verification of RCR Training

Davidson College must meet the "oversight" portion of the RCR requirement, i.e. tracking and verifying that the requirement has been met.

For the CITI training, a certificate is available for users to print/save upon completion of the CITI RCR course. This certificate must be sent to the Office of Grants & Contracts (OGC).

For the other two methods, instructor training and the CIS 391 course, the professor will send communication to OGC indicating that the requirement has been met.

Note that no payments can be made on NSF grants until the certification has been received by OGC.

Administration of Policy

The Director of Grants and Contracts shall oversee this policy and review it at least once every two years. Changes to this policy shall be made in accordance with the college's Policy on Policies.

Related Davidson College Policies

Resource List

April 21, 2011

Last Revised: January 21, 2012