Responsible Conduct of Research Course

Integrity in scholarship and research is one of the University’s fundamental values. Harvard is committed to fostering a robust research environment, in part through Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training and education.

“[R]esponsible conduct of research is defined as the practice of scientific investigation with integrity. It involves the awareness and application of established professional norms and ethical principles in the performance of all activities related to scientific research.” (National Institutes of Health, NOT-OD-10-019)


Projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have specific requirements regarding training in RCR. Please confer with your research administration team for specific details and requirements of your award with regard to RCR requirements.


Overview of the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Course

The next FAS Responsible Conduct of Research course will be offered in August 2022.

Format: A four-week course, delivered via Zoom and HTP.

Each week includes 90-120-minute webinar and 60-minute case study discussion sessions. Multiple weekly case study session options will be offered to facilitate scheduling. 

Registration Information: This course is found in the Harvard Training Portal (HTP). Click here to register.

The Harvard University RCR course is open to all Harvard-affiliated researchers and research staff, offered two times a year (January and August). RCR is a highly recommended “best practices” course for those desiring to deepen their knowledge of ethical research and responsible conduct. It is also an excellent professional opportunity for anyone interested in furthering a career in research. This particular course fulfills the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) requirements for formal RCR instruction.

The course is twelve hours long, with significant researcher facilitation and administrative support, and uses discussions and case studies to examine basic ethical and regulatory requirements for conducting research. This course aims to:

  1. develop, foster, and maintain a culture of integrity in science,
  2. empower researchers to hold themselves and others accountable to high ethical standards,
  3. improve the ability to make responsible choices when faced with ethical dilemmas involving research,
  4. provide an appreciation for the range of accepted scientific practices for conducting research,
  5. inform scientists and research trainees about the regulations, policies, statutes, and guidelines that govern the conduct of federally funded research and promote compliance with the same, and
  6. promote a career-long positive attitude toward research ethics and the responsible conduct of research (Adapted from the NIH Office of Intramural Research).

Topics covered include Research Misconduct; Scientific Publication and Communication; Authorship and Peer Review; Data Practices and Management; Rigor, Reproducibility and Transparency; Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer; Declaration of Financial and Personal Conflicts of Interest; International Research Collaboration and Foreign Influence; Mentor-Mentee Relationships; Title IX/Sexual and Gender-based Harassment; Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in the Research Environment; and Wellness for Researchers.

Course requirements include viewing a weekly webinar, participation in weekly case study discussions, and the completion of course surveys and readings. A certificate will be issued to all participants upon successful course completion.



NIH and NSF-Specific Responsible Conduct of Research Instruction Requirements

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) require Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training. There are many RCR courses that satisfy the training requirements for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs.

NIH requires* that all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, or dissertation research grant must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research. This must include substantial face-to-face discussions among the participating trainees/fellows/scholars/participants; a combination of didactic and small-group discussions (e.g. case studies); and participation of research training faculty members in instruction in responsible conduct of research is highly encouraged. While on-line courses can be a valuable supplement to instruction in responsible conduct of research, online instruction is not considered adequate as the sole means of instruction for NIH awards.

For more information, see the NIH Update on the Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

NSF requires each institution that submits proposals for science and engineering research or education to have a plan in place to provide appropriate training and oversight to all undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will participate in the proposed research project.

For more information, please see the NSF RCR web page.

*All those receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and dissertation research grant, must complete RCR training. This 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.

Please see the official NIH policy for details.


Faculty of Arts and Science RCR Template Language for Grant Proposals Narratives

For grant proposals that require a description of RCR training (see below), FAS Research Administration Services has prepared a template with suggested language regarding RCR training. Further questions may be directed to your departmental grant manager, and/or Stacey Springs, Research Integrity Officer.

Note that certain training grants and fellowship awards require ongoing professional development throughout the term of award. Attending the Responsible Conduct of Research course may be necessary, but not sufficient for this section of your award application.

NSF applications do not require a description of the RCR training to be included in grant applications. The institution must certify at the time of proposal submission that it has a plan to offer appropriate training in the responsible and ethical conduct of research.