Responsible Conduct of Research

Version Number: 2.0 
Effective Date: January 15, 2015
Title: Princeton University Responsible Conduct of Research


Policy Statement

Effective January 1, 2010, Princeton’s policy is to provide education in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) to graduate students and post-doctoral researchers proactively as an important element in their training, and to undergraduates and other short-term researchers in compliance with regulations of federal research sponsors.


The University believes that training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) is an essential component of post-graduate education. For a number of years, several departments have utilized a combination of didactic and small-group discussion-based formats to provide RCR training focused on issues related to their disciplines. For more than a decade, the National Institutes of Health made training in RCR for students supported on training grants and individual fellowships a requirement. The National Science Foundation implemented a similar requirement, effective January 4, 2010, following Section 7009 of the “America Competes” Act. The USDA/NIFA was initially effective on their Research Terms and Conditions issued in February 2013.

Contact Information

RCR Graduate Course Questions

Graduate School Office 

Cole Crittenden
Deputy Dean, Academic Affairs
113 Clio Hall
Tel  609-258-3902
Fax 609-258-6180
Christine Fecenko Murphy
Assistant Dean, Academic Affairs
009 Clio Hall
Tel  609-258-4959
Fax 609-258-6180

Post Doctoral Questions

Dean of the Faculty

Alice Seneres
Assistant Dean, Academic Affairs
306A Nassau Hall
Tel  609-258-4793

Administrative Questions

Office of Research and Project Administration

Elizabeth Adams, Director
87 Prospect Avenue
Tel: 609-258-3090
Fax: 609-258-1159

Undergraduate Questions

Undergraduates should seek advice from their home department as each department requirement varies.

University Implementation Plan


The University plan requires that all federally funded students and post- doctoral researchers receive RCR training. In some cases—e.g., undergraduate researchers, visiting student research collaborators (VSRCs), and short-term visiting researchers—training by online means (such as an appropriate CITI module) is acceptable.

The University plan assumes and expects that all graduate students in the divisions of the social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, who conduct research as part of their doctoral or research master’s education, receive RCR instruction. Post-doctoral researchers in the divisions of the social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering are expected to receive RCR instruction by means of a course or online training as specified by the department.

In some circumstances, students and post-doctoral researchers may present documentary evidence (e.g., certificate of completion or copy of an undergraduate or graduate transcript showing successful completion of an RCR course), for review and approval by the relevant office to demonstrate satisfactory RCR training in fulfillment of the University requirement. See Oversight section below for specification of relevant office(s).

Researcher Types

Postdoctoral Researchers

Including post-doc research fellows, post-doctoral research associates, and associate research scholars

The University expects that all categories of researchers in the natural sciences and mathematics, engineering, and the social sciences, if at all possible, take an appropriate RCR course in their department or program. However, when the regular course is not available for more than 6 months after the start of the post-doctoral appointment date, an online course will be accepted as a measure for meeting the University requirement. Generally, online training will not satisfy the NIH training requirement.

Graduate Students

The University believes RCR instruction is good professional development for graduate students. Thus departments, or related clusters of departments, are expected to provide RCR training to all graduate students in the natural sciences and mathematics, engineering, and the social sciences within their first three years of study, regardless of the mode of funding expected in later years of study.

Undergraduate Students and Visiting Student Research Collaborators (VSRC)

These two classes of students may receive support from federal grants for short and less predictable periods of time. Visiting student research collaborators, or VSRCs, for example, are in residence at Princeton from as little as one month to as much as 12 months and are not tied to regular academic terms. For that reason, VSRCs and undergraduates will be asked to complete an appropriate course or online training module (such as those offered by CITI group) when supported by a federal grant.

NIH / NSF / USDA-NIFA Requirements

 NIH Individual and Institutional Awardees

All trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and/or dissertation research grant must receive instruction in the responsible conduct of research. This NIH policy took effect with all new and renewal applications submitted on or after January 25, 2010, and for all continuation applications with deadlines on or after January 1, 2011.

The requirement 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.

Additional information and guidance can be found at NIH OER Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

The NIH required an in-person training course to complete the RCR requirement.

NSF Awardees

All undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who are supported by NSF financial assistance awards to conduct research on research grants submitted after January 4, 2010, are required to comply with the NSF training policy.  Conference, symposium, workshop and travel awards are exempt from this requirement.

Additional information and guidance can be found at NSF - Responsible Conduct of Research

The NSF allows for in-person training or CITI training to complete the RCR requirement.

USDA-NIFA Awardees

All undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers receiving support through any USDA-NIFA award must receive instruction in the responsible conduct of research. 

Additional information and guidance can be found at USDA-NIFA - Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research

The USDA/NIFA allows for in-person training or CITI training to complete the RCR requirement.


Instructional Courses and Course Content

Graduate-level RCR courses are reviewed and approved by the curriculum subcommittee of the Graduate School, which is comprised of faculty representatives from all four academic divisions. The curriculum subcommittee is charged with the review and approval of all permanent graduate courses, including RCR courses. To be effective, RCR courses must be discipline-specific, covering issues and problems that graduate students are likely to encounter in their research experience.

Course formats are not mandated. Current offerings in fulfillment of the NIH mandate for formal instruction in the ethical conduct of research are minimally half-term (six-week) courses meeting three hours per week, taught by a regular faculty member, and often involving other faculty who share their expertise and viewpoints on specific topics. Courses include readings, case studies, and discussion. Other formats are acceptable and may include: weekly lectures by one or more faculty in an area or broad field, followed by discussion groups or precepts in the specific departments; an intensive short course during the summer or during reading/exam period in January or May; or a six-week or longer course taught intensively during the summer. Significant student-faculty discussion, however, should be a major component of any proposed course (a preference strongly expressed by both NIH and NSF). Individual discussions between an advisor and his or her student are not considered sufficient to fulfill the requirement.

Courses should be taught by one or more departmental or program faculty. Courses should be offered as ungraded or with the P-D-F option, with attendance at all sessions required.

In some circumstances, online modules supported by the University are an appropriate and sufficient training platform. In other cases, portions of online training modules may be utilized as a resource for the regular courses. To facilitate training and compliance, the University subscribes to the online CITI training program for use in RCR training. 

Courses should cover the appropriate and relevant topics from among the eleven “core areas” below. These eleven areas are denoted by NIH to be “incorporated into most acceptable plans for” RCR training. The first nine subjects have been defined as core areas for instruction by the NSF’s Office of Research Integrity and propagated by the Council of Graduate Schools’ “Project for Scholarly Integrity in Graduate Education”:

  • Data acquisition, sharing, management, and ownership
  • Conflicts of interest and commitment
  • Research misconduct
  • Publication practices and responsible authorship
  • Peer review
  • Collaborative research
  • Mentor and student/trainee rights and responsibilities
  • Animal welfare
  • Human subjects
  • Science in society
  • Safe laboratory practices

Academic departments will be responsible for:

  • Soliciting and certifying evidence from post-docs’ job applications about completion of RCR training prior to their Princeton hire and documenting their completion of an online course or enrolling them in a departmental RCR course as appropriate;
  • Creating, gaining approval from the Graduate School, and staffing the RCR course or courses; 
  • Certifying that undergraduates and VSRCs have completed an online RCR training course before entering them into Labor Accounting for payment from an eligible grant; 
  • Tracking and documenting compliance with RCR training.

The Graduate School will be responsible for

  • Reviewing and approving departmental RCR courses, and
  • Tracking and documenting student compliance with RCR training.

The Dean for Research will be responsible for

  • Certifying that the institution has an RCR training and oversight plan to support the submission of funding applications,
  • Collecting and maintaining records related to RCR training plans and compliance, and track training completion by individual. RCR training must be complete before the support paid on the sponsored project ends, otherwise the costs charged may be deemed unallowable. Units can retrieve  RCR reporting in the Information Warehouse generated by data from Princeton ERA.

  • Providing these records to grant agencies upon request to review training plans.

The Dean of the Faculty will be responsible for

  • Reviewing and approving documentary evidence of past RCR training in fulfillment of Princeton's training requirement for post-doctoral researchers.