Responsible Conduct of Research

Research is foundational to improving and evolving our society and to creation of new knowledge. Faculty (and others responsible for supervising research by students or peers) are expected to ensure the professional and ethical conduct of research, and have a special obligation to promote and maintain an environment that encourages absolute intellectual honesty and integrity. This environment should promote:

  • Open communication among researchers.
  • An emphasis on quality rather than quantity of research.
  • Appropriate supervision of personnel.
  • Maintenance of accurate records related to research data, procedures and results.
  • Equitable assignment of credit and responsibility for research and publications.

RCR training requirements

Responsible Conduct of Research training is required by some sponsors and recommended to all new researchers. At UC Santa Cruz, personnel complete Responsible (and Ethical) Conduct of Research training through online CITI training modules. RCR training encompasses these topics:

  • Collaboration
  • Conflicts of interest and commitment
  • Data ownership and sharing
  • Human and animal subjects protections
  • Mentorship
  • Peer review
  • Publication and authorship
  • Misconduct

Unless regulations require additional training, the completion of CITI training is valid for three years.

To learn more go to RCR CITI Training Instructions.

Sponsor-specific requirements

National Institutes of Health (NIH) 

Per the NIH Guide Notice Update on the Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research, “NIH requires that all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and dissertation research grant must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research. This Notice applies to the following programs: D43, D71, F05, F30, F31, F32, F33, F34, F37, F38, K01, K02, K05, K07, K08, K12, K18, K22, K23, K24, K25, K26, K30, K99/R00, KL1, KL2, R25, R36, T15, T32, T34, T35, T36, T37, T90/R90, TL1, TU2, and U2R. This policy also applies to any other NIH-funded programs supporting research training, career development, or research education that require instruction in responsible conduct of research as stated in the relevant funding opportunity announcements.”

The PI of these grants must describe their in-person training plan as part of their proposal; online training through CITI is not enough.

Programs should include topics such as: 

  • Research misconduct
  • Data management
  • Responsible authorship and publication
  • Peer review
  • Conflicts of interest in research
  • Mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships
  • Collaborative science
  • Civility issues in research environments
  • Policies regarding laboratory safety
  • Social and environmental impacts of research
  • Contemporary ethical issues 

Additional subject areas described by NIH NOT-OD-22-055 – see “subject matter”

See NIH Responsible Conduct of Research for more information. 

PIs must maintain records on when trainings occurred along with attendee lists. For suggestions on how to develop your training program, contact

National Science Foundation (NSF) 

NSF has expanded its RCR requirement to encompass both Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (RECR), and has broadened the population responsible for generating and disseminating knowledge with such rigor and integrity. PIs and key personnel named on an NSF award are required to complete RECR training prior to release of the award. Personnel, students, and postdocs who are added to an NSF project during the life of the award must complete updated training within 60 days. The Office of Research Compliance Administration (ORCA) will review on a monthly basis to ensure compliance, and will notify individuals and divisional staff when the training requirement has not been met.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) 

Program directors, faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, fellows, and any staff participating in a USDA NIFA research project must receive appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research. USDA NIFA emphasizes the importance of ethics training on at least three key areas of research ethics: authorship and plagiarism, data and research integration, and reporting misconduct. Researchers may use the CITI online course. For step by step instructions go to RCR CITI Training Instructions.

ORCA will remind grant PIs of this requirement via email. PIs must maintain records of completed training for project personnel.

PIs must document and certify on a per award basis that all personnel on the award engaged in the research have completed RCR training within 60 days of the individuals becoming supported by NIFA funding.

RCR links and resources

There are a number of excellent research ethics resources available on the web.

View a list of resources

Office of Research Integrity, United States Department of Health and Human Services

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) promotes integrity in biomedical and behavioral research supported by the Public Health Service (PHS) at about 4,000 institutions worldwide. ORI monitors institutional investigations of research misconduct and facilitates the responsible conduct of research through educational, preventive, and regulatory activities.

ELSI Program: Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in Science 

The Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) Program of the National Human Genome Research Institute supports research to anticipate and address the ethical, legal and social implications of genetic and genomic research.

The Eubios Ethics Institutes Information Sources for Bioethics

The Eubios Ethics Institute is a nonprofit organization based in New Zealand and Japan. Their code of ethics resources page includes a large list of ethics-related links, such as ethics centers, on-line journals, and other information sources. 

Internet Resources Research Ethics

Includes internet resources covering various academic subject areas. An extensive section on research ethics has been compiled at this site.

University of California San Diego Research Ethics Program

University of Pennsylvania’s The Center for Bioethics Virtual Library. Essentially an on-line collection of bioethics-related articles. A good basic reference tool.

Last modified: May 14, 2024