Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research

Columbia is dedicated to the highest standards of research integrity and is committed to responsible and ethical conduct for all those involved in research.  Several federal funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), require certain individuals participating in projects funded by those agencies to receive training in the Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (RECR).

NSF recently broadened its definition of RECR to include the responsibility to:

  1. Conduct peer review with the highest ethical standards;
  2. Diligently protect proprietary information and intellectual property from inappropriate disclosure; and
  3. Treat students and colleagues fairly and with respect.

Columbia offers various relevant trainings in these areas, including its in-person and online RECR trainings mentioned on this page.

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NSF and NIH RECR Training Requirements

The National Science Foundation requires training in the Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (RECR) for all students and postdocs supported by NSF projects.  The requirement applies to all undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are funded by NSF projects submitted (and subsequently awarded) on or after January 4, 2010, including competitive renewals. 

Principal Investigators are responsible for ensuring that all postdocs, graduate students and undergraduates who are funded by their NSF projects submitted (and subsequently awarded) on or after January 4, 2010, complete RECR training. The Office of Research Compliance and Training coordinates the collection and maintenance of compliance information, including identification of affected individuals, collection of training completion data, and reporting to PIs and DAs. 

Should you be interested in auditing an RECR training course at Columbia, please ask the instructor whether auditors will receive documentation of their course completion in order to satisfy the NSF RECR requirement.

To view the University Plan for Fulfilling NSF RECR Training Requirements, click here.  For a list of Frequently Asked Questions, click here.  For other questions, contact the Office of Research Compliance and Training at RCtraining@columbia.edu.

The National Institutes of Health require training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) for all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and dissertation research grant, or other grant programs with a training component that requires instruction in RCR as noted in the Funding Opportunity Announcement.  The NIH recently updated the RCR training requirement. The updated requirement applies to all new and renewal applications submitted on or after January 25, 2010, and to all continuation applications with deadlines on or after January 1, 2011. For details, review the NIH Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

To satisfy the NIH RCR training requirement, some in-person training is generally required; on-line RCR training by itself is not sufficient.  Students in the College of Physicians and Surgeons are generally required to attend a one-semester course on responsible conduct of research.  For short-term training and research education programs (such as those lasting six or fewer months), online training is generally sufficient.

Should you be interested in auditing an RCR training course at Columbia, please ask the instructor whether auditors will receive documentation of their course completion in order to satisfy the NIH RCR requirement.

Senior fellows and career award recipients (including F33, K02, K05, and K24 awardees) may fulfill the requirement for RCR instruction by participating as lecturers and discussion leaders.  Contact the Office of Research Compliance and Training for information.

RECR Training Options at Columbia

Through Rascal, individuals can access an online course created and maintained by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI), a nationally recognized source for research-related training. Learners are required to complete up to 12 RECR modules:

  • Introduction to RCR
  • Research Misconduct
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship
  • Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing, and Ownership
  • Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities
  • Peer Review
  • Patents, Licenses, and Science-based Startups: Tech Transfer
  • Collaborative Science
  • Human Subjects Protection
  • Columbia-specific RCR module
  • Working with Animal Subjects (biomedical researchers only)

    (Note: While this course satisfies the NSF requirement, NIH trainees must also complete some in-person training.)

    The University currently offers two established RCR courses, either of which will satisfy both the NIH and the NSF requirements:

    Many departments provide or plan to provide RCR training through previously established or newly created offerings. For example, Chemistry G8349 - Research Ethics & Philosophy, can be used to satisfy the NSF RCR requirement; it is open to Graduate students in GSAS, SEAS and SIPA.

    To ensure compliance with NSF requirements, departmental offerings should be reviewed by the Office of Research Compliance and Training, and the department must maintain appropriate compliance documentation. The Office of Research Compliance and Training is available to provide support.

    The Office of Research Compliance and Training, in collaboration with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, offers in-person presentations for partial RECR credit. See RECR for Postdocs for more information on topics and presentation dates.