NSF: Responsible Conduct of Research

Responsible Conduct of Research Training to meet NSF/NIH Funding Requirements

The following is the University of Wisconsin-Stout response to the implementation by the National Science Foundation Section 7009 of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science (COMPETES) Act (42 U.S.C. 18620-1).  This section of the Act requires that as of January 1, 2010 “each institution that applies for financial assistance from the Foundation for science and engineering research or education describe in its grant proposal a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers participating in the proposed research project”.

Ethical and responsible conduct of research is critical for excellence, as well as public trust, in science and engineering.  Consequently, education in the responsible and ethical conduct of research is considered essential in the preparation of future scientists and engineers.  The COMPETES Act focuses public attention of the importance of the national research community’s enduring commitment and broader efforts to provide Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training as an integral part of the preparation and long-term professional development of current and future generations of scientists and engineers.   To that end, the University of Wisconsin-Stout is carrying out the requirement of NSF: the development of the plan, and the certification for every NSF proposal that the institution has a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct research.  This certification will be done by the Authorized Organizational Representative as part of the normal grant/contract certification process.  The Authorized Organizational Representative at UW-Stout is the Interim Provost, Mary Hopkins-Best or her designee, the Research Administrator, Susan Foxwell.  It is understood that NSF does not require training plans to be included in submitted proposals, but that the RCR plan is subject to review upon request.  It is also understood that NSF will modify its standard award conditions to clearly stipulate that institutions are responsible for verifying that undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NSF to conduct research have received RCR training.

 The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) defines Responsible Conduct of Research in nine elements:

  • acquisition, management, sharing and ownership of data
  • conflict of interest and commitment
  • human subjects
  • animal welfare
  • research misconduct
  • publication practices and responsible authorship
  • mentor/trainee responsibilities
  • peer review
  • collaborative science

These nine elements are associated by the idea of “professional standards,” the rules related to standards of conduct as determined by disciplinary or professional societies.  In a broader sense, the term “responsible conduct of research” may refer to all possible aspects of individual character and behavior that impact research.  “Scientific integrity” is also used to describe both the character and behavior of the researcher, but also the reliability of the research product.

UW-Stout’s plan is based on interactive tutorials created by the Center on Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research (https://nationalethicscenter.org/index.php?option=com_rcrtutorial). During registration, researchers (those required by NSF rule: undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral) will provide their institutional e-mail address which will then lead them through sequentially prepared RCR training modules.  This system provides training, monitors progress and provides documentation of completion.  At UW-Stout, monitoring and records management will be conducted by Research Services and Susan Foxwell, Research Administrator. Existing training modules for human subjects and animal welfare will be utilized.  Certified completion of all modules will be required for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students funded by NSF grants prior to the starting of any NSF funded research.

As standard operating procedure, during the preparation of any NSF grant the RCR requirement will be discussed with the Principle Investigator, who will acknowledge this on the institutional cover page of the proposal during routing for campus approval.  When awarded, the project will have an award conference, during which time the PI (s), pre-award, post-award, and department and college personnel will discuss the requirements of award, using the grant award document and the award conference template as guidance.  Faculty advising and/or serving as PI’s will be encouraged, but not required, to complete the on-line tutorial provided for RCR training.  As well, faculty teaching research intensive classes will be encouraged to incorporate RCR concepts into their curriculum.  Resources will be identified and shared annually for both education and awareness.

The University of Wisconsin-Stout is fully committed through this training plan, our academic plan and our mission to carrying out the intent of the responsible conduct of research education.


Susan Foxwell  updated 8/28/2012