RCR Resources

Cambridge In-Person Course 

The in-person Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) course is open to all Harvard-affiliated individuals and offered in Cambridge two times a year-- January, and August. RCR is a highly recommended “best practices” course for those desiring to deepen their knowledge of ethical research and responsible conduct. It is also an excellent professional opportunity for anyone interested in furthering a career in research. This particular course is not mandatory. However, it does fulfill the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) requirements for formal RCR instruction.

The course is eight hours long, with significant researcher facilitation and administrative support, and uses discussions and case studies to examine basic ethical and regulatory requirements for conducting research.  Topics covered include research misconduct; responsible authorship and publication; mentor-mentee relationships; conflicts of interest; peer review; data acquisition and management; ownership of data and biological samples; and research involving human and animal subjects.  Course requirements include attendance at all lectures, and participation in class discussions. A certificate will be issued to all participants upon successful course completion.

For more information and to register for the next course, please see the RCR Class website.

Online Training

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (VPR) at Harvard has also licensed an online RCR training program from the BRANY's Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). The CITI Course in the Responsible Conduct of Research is a public-access course available without charge to the research community. While the CITI program does not satisfy the requirements of NIH RCR training because it is completely online, this course is highly informative and contains all of the major elements of RCR training. The CITI program may be used to satisfy the NSF RCR requirements, or to supplement the in-person RCR course described above.

Register for CITI Courses (NOTE: In the first field on the registration page you must choose "Harvard University (Cambridge/Allston campus)" and complete the rest of the registration fields in order to go to a screen where you can choose the CITI RCR course)

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Guidance for Proposal Narratives

NSF applications do not require a description of the RCR training to be included in grant applications. The institution must certify at the time of proposal submission that it has a plan to offer appropriate training in the responsible and ethical conduct of research.

For grant proposals that do require a description of RCR training, FAS Research Administration Services has prepared a template with suggested language regarding RCR training.  Further questions may be directed to your departmental grant manager, and/or Susan Gomes, Director of Research Development and Strategy. 

NIH and NSF-Specific Responsible Conduct of Research Instruction Requirements

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) require Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training. There are many RCR courses that satisfy the training requirements for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs.  RAS works with FAS departments and centers to identify individuals who require RCR training and to verify that these individuals have attended the NIH-mandated in person course at least once every four years.

NIH requires that all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, or dissertation research grant must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research. This must include substantial face-to-face discussions among the participating trainees/fellows/scholars/participants; a combination of didactic and small-group discussions (e.g. case studies); and participation of research training faculty members in instruction in responsible conduct of research is highly encouraged. While on-line courses can be a valuable supplement to instruction in responsible conduct of research, online instruction is not considered adequate as the sole means of instruction. See below for a course description to include in NIH grant applications that have a requirement for RCR training.

For more information, see the NIH Update on the Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

NSF requires each institution that submits proposals for science and engineering research or education to have a plan in place to provide appropriate training and oversight to all undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will participate in the proposed research project. However, the NSF has given institutions much more flexibility than NIH in providing RCR training, stating that it is the responsibility of each institution to determine both the content and the delivery method that will meet the institution's specific needs for RCR training.

For more information, please see the NSF RCR web page.

RCR Policy Comparison Chart
Date Effective
New and renewal applications due on or after Jan 25, 2010. Continuation (Type 5) applications due on or after Jan 1, 2011 New proposals due on or after Jan 4, 2012
Who must complete training?
All undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty supported by early career awards and training grants.* NSF expects institutions to be able to verify that those students (undergraduates and graduates) and postdoctoral researchers who receive NSF funds (support from salary and/or stipends to conduct research on NSF grants) will obtain RCR training. (from NSF FAQs)
At least eight hours of in-classroom, face-to-face training involving case studies, small-group discussions. "...participation of research training faculty members... are highly encouraged" Defined by institution.
Conflict of interest (personal, professional, and financial); policies regarding human subjects, live vertebrate animal subjects in research,  mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships; collaborative research including collaborations with industry peer review; data acquisition and laboratory tools; management, sharing and ownership; research misconduct and policies for handling misconduct; responsible authorship and publication; and, the scientist as a responsible member of society
Defined by institution.
A minimum of once at the undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, pre-doctoral, postdoctoral, and faculty levels Defined by institution.
No less than once every four years. Defined by institution.
*All those receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and dissertation research grant, must complete RCR training. This 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. Please see the official NIH policy for details.