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Responsible Conduct of Research

The Responsible Conduct of Research can be divided into the following nine areas:

Data management practices are becoming increasingly complex and should be addressed before any data are collected by taking into consideration four important issues: ownership, collection, storage, and sharing. The integrity of data and, by implication, the usefulness of the research it supports, depends on careful attention to detail, from initial planning through final publication.

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Data Management Case Study: Who owns the data?

The complex and demanding nature of research today inevitably gives rise to competing obligations and interests. In three crucial areas, special steps are needed to assure that conflicts do not interfere with the responsible practice of research: financial gain, work commitments, and intellectual and personal matters.

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Conflicts of Interest Case Study: Weighing Interests

The use of human subjects in research benefits society in many ways, from contributing to the development of new drugs and medical procedures to understanding how we think and act. Investigators who conduct research involving humans that is subject to regulation must comply with all relevant Federal regulations as well as any applicable state and local laws, regulations, and policies related to the protection of human subjects.

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The Protection of Human Subjects Case Study: A Difficult Assignment

The special needs of animals have evolved over time into policies for the appropriate care and use of all animals involved in research, research training, and biological testing activities. Researchers can meet their responsibilities by: knowing what activities are subject to regulation, understanding and following the rules for project approval, obtaining appropriate training, and accepting continuing responsibility for compliance through all stages of a project.

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Animal Welfare Case Study: Fish, Frogs, and Mice

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Policy defines “research misconduct” as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.” Although Federal policies technically apply to federally funded research, TCU applies Federal research misconduct policies to all research.

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Research Misconduct Cast Study: Career vs. Responsibility

Researchers share the results of their works with colleagues and the public in a variety of ways. Whether structured or informal, controlled or free ranging, responsible publication in research should ideally meet some minimum standards. All forms of publication should present: a full and fair description of the work undertaken, an accurate report of the results, and an honest and open assessment of the findings.

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Authorship Publication Case Study: A Publication Dilemma

The mentor-trainee relationship is complex and brings into play potential conflicts. The essential elements of a productive mentor-trainee relationship are difficult to codify into rules or guidelines, leaving most of the decisions about responsible mentoring to the individuals involved. Common sense suggests that good mentoring should begin with: a clear understanding of mutual responsibilities, a commitment to maintain a productive and supportive research environment, proper supervision and review, and an understanding that the main purpose of the relationship is to prepare trainees to become successful researchers.

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Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities Case Study: The Mentoring Review Committee

Peer review can make or break professional careers and directly influence public policy. The fate of entire research programs, health initiatives, or environmental and safety regulations can rest on peer assessment of proposed or completed research projects. For peer review to work, it must be: timely, thorough, constructive, free from personal bias, and respectful of the need for confidentiality.

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Peer Review Case Study: Apparent Conflicts and Priorities

In collaborative projects, researchers assume some additional responsibilities stemming from collaborative relationships. These additional responsibilities arise from the added burdens of: the increasingly complex roles and relationships; common, but not necessarily identical, interests; management requirements; and cultural differences inherent in any large project but especially in collaborative projects.

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Collaborative Science Case Study: Beginning a Collaboration

National Requirements

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Requirement for Responsible Conduct of Research appears in Section 7009 of The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act (42 U.S.C. 1862o–1). The main requirements detailed in this section include:

  • “each institution that applies for financial assistance from the Foundation for science and engineering research or education describe in its grant proposal a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers participating in the proposed research project”
  • “at the time of proposal submission to NSF, a proposing institution’s AOR must certify that the institution has a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct research”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy has similar requirements, suggesting that “every prebaccalaureate, pre and postdoctoral NRSA trainee must receive instruction on the responsible conduct of research.” For the NIH, “applications must include a description of a program to provide formal or informal instruction in scientific integrity and/or the responsible conduct of research.” The NIH identifies the following as key areas for this training: conflict of interest, responsible authorship, policies for handling misconduct, policies regarding the use of human and animal subjects, and data management.

Required RCR Training for TCU Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows

Online Training through CITI

The Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) offers online training in research integrity. TCU has an institutional subscription to CITI in order to provide this background training free of charge for all researchers working at TCU, whether graduate students, undergraduate students, postdoctoral researchers, or faculty.

If CITI is required or recommended for your research, go to CITI and choose “Create an account.” You will then select Texas Christian University as your Organization Affiliation, set up a username and password, and sign-up for courses. At Step 7, under Question 2, Responsible Conduct of Research, choose the training closest to your field (i.e. “Physical Science RCR”, “Humanities RCR”, “Biomedical RCR”, etc.). You will receive an e-mail promptly with your CITI i.d. number and login confirmation, and can begin completing your course(s) immediately.

On-Campus Training

This training is mandatory for any students (graduate or undergraduate) who are paid from any grants and mandatory for all postdoctoral researchers. All other TCU students and faculty are welcome to register and attend.

RCR Resources for Researchers

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity (“ORI”): This site contains a wide variety of information for faculty, students, and administrators on the responsible conduct of research and research misconduct, including the following:

ORI Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research by Nicholas Steneck: This is a “must read” introduction to responsible research suitable for students, postdocs, early career investigators, and others who care about responsible research. It covers authorship practices, mentoring, data management, use of humans and animals in research, research misconduct, etc.

The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct: This interactive video allows the viewer to play four different roles in a case of suspected research misconduct. The video provides insight into research misconduct investigations from the perspectives of the various relevant parties. It also looks into the pressures facing researchers and errors made by principal investigators that can lead to misconduct.

Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) RCR Training: Online modules that cover a variety of aspects of the responsible conduct of research.  See the below section for more information about how to create a CITI account.