Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

Do RCR regulations apply to your project?

While it is a general expectation that all research conducted by SSU faculty, staff and students will be conducted responsibly, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have specific training requirements for research funded by these agencies. If your project is sponsored by NSF or NIH, and you are employing staff and/or students to work on that research, it is your responsibility to ensure they receive the required training.

Introduction NSF’s responsible conduct of research regulations

The responsible and ethical conduct of research is critical for the practice of scientific investigation with excellence and integrity. Two of the largest US sponsors of research have established regulatory requirements in this regard. NIH has long required RCR education for anyone funded on their training grants (see NIH Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research). More recently, the NSF has established an RCR training requirement for postdoctoral researchers and students at any level funded by that agency.

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) provides oversight in an effort to offer appropriate training and resources in the responsible and ethical conduct of research. In accordance with the SSU RCR compliance requirements, any undergraduate or graduate student or postdoctoral trainees who will be conducting research on behalf of NSF or NIH, whether as an employee or in any educational capacity, must complete the appropriate RCR training per funding agency.

Download SSU's brochure: Working with Human Subjects in Research (pdf)

SSU’s efforts to comply with NSF and NIH regulations

NSF requires that, at the time of proposal submission, the institution has a plan to provide appropriate Responsible Conduct of Research training and oversight to all students (undergraduates, graduate, and postdocs) who will be supported by NSF to conduct research. complete an online training course appropriate to their project available through CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative). Students should choose the relevant module of RCR within the offered disciplinary tracks.

If a Principal Investigator decides to hire/employ any student (undergraduate, graduate or postdoc) your Project Administrator should be contacted to schedule the required training.

NIH requires all applications for Institutional National Research Service Award (NRSA) Research Training Grants (T32, T34) to include a description of a program to provide instruction in the responsible conduct of research. NIH requirements indicate that any student and postdoctoral trainee must be engaged in a rigorous training program with the Principal Investigator to request funding from a grant solicitation. Moreover, in the event of an NIH award, the Principal Investigator must oversee all training of staff and students towards NIH policies as part of the funding requirements. Note that completion of one of the CITI modules does NOT satisfy the NIH requirement.

For Principal Investigators Conducting Research

Principal Investigators must document and certify on a per award basis, that all students and postdoctoral scholars supported the NSF award must complete RCR training before the individual’s time of hire. Investigators must sign and certify the RCR Training Certification Form with their respective student researchers and return to the Project Administrator to ensure the student and postdoctoral researchers are eligible for payment.

For Students or Postdocs Conducting Research

All students and postdoctoral scholars conducting research on behalf on an NSF award must complete the RCR training program through CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) before their time of hire. If a student has received training in RCR from another institution, it is up to the PI to certify this training. For more information, please see SFSU RCR Compliance Policy. To access the CITI RCR Online Course visit to register for a user name and password. For more information, see the user guide under the Additional Resource section of this page. Users must elect at least one RCR course appropriate to their area of research as approved by the PI. Note the minimum score is 80 percent. Once the required RCR course has been finished, the grade book should be checked to ensure that all of the course modules have been completed. Users should complete the confirmation form and submit. The ORSP Compliance Officer will receive notification of completion from CITI; however, users should print the report to include with the RCR certification form

Once training has been completed, students must fill out the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Certification Form, have their PI certify, and return to the appropriate PA. The RCR Training Certification Form must be on file with ORSP in order for payment to be processed.

Federal Policy Guidance

NSF Responsible Conduct of Research

NIH Responsible Conduct of Research

How to complete RCR training for NSF awards

CITI Program Responsible Conduct of Research Training