Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

The responsible and ethical conduct of research is critical for the practice of scientific investigation with excellence and integrity. Two of the largest US sponsors of research have established regulatory requirements in this regard. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has long required RCR education for anyone funded on their training grants (see NIH Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research). More recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has established an RCR training requirement for postdoctoral researchers and students at any level funded by that agency (see NSF information page).

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs provides oversight of this mission in an effort to offer appropriate training and resources in the responsible and ethical conduct of research. In accordance with the SFSU RCR Compliance Policy, any undergraduate or graduate student or postdoctoral trainees who will be conducting research on behalf of NSF or NIH, whether as an employee or in any educational capacity, must attend the appropriate RCR training per funding agency.

Addressing Regulatory Requirements

The National Science Foundation requires that, at the time of proposal submission, the institution has a plan to provide appropriate Responsible Conduct of Research training and oversight to all students (undergraduates, graduate, and postdocs) who will be supported by NSF to conduct research. All student or postdocs who will be conducting research as part of an NSF funded project must complete a online training course appropriate to their project available through CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative). Students should choose the relevant module of RCR within the offered disciplinary tracks.

Since July 1990, the National Institute of Health has required all applications for Institutional National Research Service Award (NRSA) Research Training Grants (T32, T34) to include a description of a program to provide instruction in the responsible conduct of research. NIH requirements indicate that any student and postdoctoral trainee must be engaged in a rigorous training program with the Principal Investigator in order to request funding from a grant solicitation. Moreover, in the event of an NIH award, the PI must oversee all training of staff and students towards NIH policies as part of the funding requirements. Note that completion of one of the CITI modules does NOT satisfy the NIH requirement.

For Principal Investigators Conducting Research

Principal Investigators (PIs) must document and certify on a per award basis, that all students and postdoctoral scholars supported by his or her NSF award must complete RCR before the individual’s time of hire. PIs must sign and certify the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Certification Form with their respective student researchers and return to their Grant Administrator or to the ORSP HR Team in ADM 471 in order to ensure that their student and postdoctoral researchers are eligible for payment.

For Students or Postdocs Conducting Research

All students and postdoctoral scholars conducting research on behalf on an NSF award must complete the RCR training program through CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) within a reasonable time frame. If a student has received training in RCR from another institution, it is up to the PI to certify this training. For more information, please see SFSU RCR Compliance Policy. To access the CITI RCR Online Course visit to register for a user name and password. For more information, see the user guide under the Additional Resource section of this page. Users must elect at least one RCR course appropriate to their area of research as approved by the PI. Note the minimum score is 80 percent. Once the required RCR course has been finished, the grade book should be checked to ensure that all of the course modules have been completed. Users should complete the confirmation form and submit. The ORSP Compliance Officer will receive notification of completion from CITI; however, users should print the report to include with the RCR certification form

Once training has been completed, students must fill out the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Certification Form, have their PI certify, and return to the appropriate Grant Administrator or to the ORSP HR Team in ADM 471 with their hiring paperwork. The RCR Training Certification Form must be on file with the ORSP in order for payment to be processed.

Additional Resources

CITI Training Guide and Registration Process (User Guide)

University Code of Conduct for Sponsored Programs (SFSU’s Policy)

The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct (Video by the Office of Research Integrity)

On Being a Scientist Responsible Conduct in Research 2nd Edition (Full-Text Online Publication)