Texas Tech University
Scholarly Messenger
Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) Training – Why participate?
By Marianne Evola, Ph.D.

As the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) works to grow a culture of responsible conduct of research (RCR), we’ve received questions from the Texas Tech community about why the OVPR monitors and promotes RCR training. With my first contribution to Scholarly Messenger I’d like to answer some of your questions about the goals of our RCR training program and the service we’d like to provide in response to federal requirements.

Currently, the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and, more recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) require trainees to participate in RCR training and require TTU to monitor RCR training. For instance, to ensure that a new generation of researchers are aware of best practices in research, NSF instituted RCR training requirements for awards funded after Jan. 4, 2010. In response to this new NSF requirement, TTU designed a program to maximize learning and retention of best research practices and improve daily decision making while minimizing time commitments from very busy faculty. NSF-funded faculty are asked to identify their trainees, and the OVPR works to ensure that all identified trainees complete the required RCR training.

Below are some common questions about TTU’s RCR training plan:

  1. Who should be identified as trainees? For TTU’s RCR training, trainees are defined as all personnel (paid or unpaid) working on an NSF project. This includes postdocs, technicians, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as volunteers. Faculty are encouraged, but not required, to participate as models and mentors for their trainees. For faculty who supervise multiple sponsored projects, we recommend that they identify all personnel, regardless of their project. By identifying all personnel, faculty will not need to constantly report changes in personnel as responsibilities and projects shift. All trainees will benefit from regular reminders of best practices in research, and we are happy to monitor their training progress.
  2. Can trainees earn RCR credit for specialized RCR education provided by their department or faculty mentor? Absolutely! Many TTU faculty have designed special lab meetings or seminars dedicated to RCR education. To arrange credit for such individualized training, trainees or mentors must notify our office of their training activities, and trainees must submit a summary to researchintegrity@ttu.edu (http://www.depts.ttu.edu/vpr/integrity/nsf-ethics-plan.php ).
  3. Can personnel participate if they are not working on a sponsored project? Yes, we have many voluntary participants in RCR training. Furthermore, we monitor participation of all personnel who sign-in at RCR training events. You can contact our office for titles/summaries of attended seminars for use in grant submission or for certification of participation in RCR training. However, our office can only certify participation if we have a record of your participation.
  4. Why would personnel choose to voluntarily participate in RCR training? NIH and USDA currently require applicants for some types of fellowships and grants to include a description of previous RCR training and propose a plan to maintain their RCR education. If you have participated in training we can provide the needed certification. In addition, federal requirements for RCR education continue to evolve, so your ongoing participation ensures a stable record of involvement. Finally, independent of sponsored projects, trainees often work in environments that create constant pressure to produce. Regular RCR training serves as an intermittent reminder of best research practices in such high-pressure competitive environments.
If you have any questions, please email.

Marianne Evola is senior administrator in the Responsible Research area of the Office of the Vice President for Research. She is a monthly contributor to Scholarly Messenger.
Alice Young, associate vice president for research/research integrity, is a contributing author/editor.