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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 NSF funding must have a plan for "appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research" provided 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.


This 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.

Exemptions: 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.

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


  • Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) is defined as the practice of scientific investigation with integrity.   
  • 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 a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project will be counted as participating in NSF-funded research. Postdoctoral researchers who are involved in NSF research are also participants.  
  • 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 and oversight 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 several ways by which undergraduate student researchers can meet the RCR training requirement. In most instances, a combination of methods will be used.  

  1. PI will run a short workshop on RCR for their students after which they will sign a form showing they participated.
  2. PI will use online resources such as RCR case studies at Columbia University RCR Education and ORI's The Lab to provide training for their students in the responsible and ethical conduct of research.
  3. Students will enroll in HHV 391, a biomedical research ethics course, when offered.  

Tracking & 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. As such, the PI must send communication to OGC indicating that the training requirement for their students has been met, preferably signed forms showing that the nine areas of research responsibility were covered, i.e. (1) Research Misconduct (2) Data Acquisition and Management (3) Responsible Authorship (4) Peer Review (5) Laboratory Animal Welfare (6) Human Subjects Protections (7) Mentoring (8) Conflicts of Interest (9) Collaborative Research.

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

Date of Adoption: April 21, 2011
Last Revised: September 4, 2014