NIGMS Guidance on Best Practices for Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

The following guidance reflects a community consensus about what constitutes adequate training in the responsible conduct of research. It has evolved over the past decade of interaction between applicants for institutional training grants and NIGMS training grant review committee members, many of whom are themselves training grant program directors. It is not prescriptive. There is no single set of standards that all programs must adopt. Rather, this guidance describes what many institutions are doing and may be viewed as a collection of best practices.

Components of an appropriate plan for the responsible conduct of research (RCR) may include:

Subject Matter of Instruction (Multiple Topics)

  • Conflict of interest
  • Bioethics
  • Data sharing
  • Responsible authorship and publication
  • Policies for handling misconduct
  • Policies regarding the use of human and animal subjects
  • Data management
  • Peer review
  • Mentor/trainee responsibilities
  • Collaborative science

Format of Instruction

  • Combination of didactic and small-group discussion (e.g., case studies)
  • Research training faculty participation
  • Online courses may be used as adjuncts to supplement RCR instruction, but are not usually considered adequate as the sole means of instruction

Compliance (Trainee Attendance)

  • Attendance is required and monitored
  • Certificate or documentation is available upon completion

Duration of Instruction

  • Substantive contact hours
    • A series of programs or seminars is ideal, as it allows learning over longer periods of time and links individual programs to a broader picture
    • A one-time exposure (seminar, one-day workshop) is generally considered inadequate and lacking sufficient depth

Opportunities for Continuing Instruction

  • Institutional training programs are strongly encouraged to consider how to optimize instruction in responsible conduct of research for the particular career stage(s) of the individual(s) involved. Instruction must be undertaken at least once during each career stage, and at a frequency of no less than once every four years. It is highly encouraged that initial instruction during predoctoral training occurs as early as possible in graduate school; opportunities for ongoing instruction throughout graduate training are encouraged but some additional instruction/exposure to RCR must take place at least every four years. This additional instruction may take many forms including formal or informal coursework, seminars, workshops, on-line training, etc.
  • Opportunities for postdoctoral trainees/fellows may build upon previous predoctoral RCR training experiences

Individual Mentoring

  • One-on-one contact with mentors and advisors
  • Individual study assignments
  • May be particularly relevant for postdoctoral fellows