Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research


Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research applies to all researchers and research staff engaged in scholarly research. While written with all researchers in mind, special consideration has been given to the needs of students and postdoctoral scholars. The education of students at all levels includes appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research. The University expects that every academic program and each research advisor/mentor will do their part to assure that students/trainees receive appropriate guidance in such areas as research integrity, data acquisition and management, authorship, research collaborations, conflicts of interest, and others as appropriate.

NIH RCR Training Requirements

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has long required Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) education. The requirement for RCR instruction applies to all NIH Institutional Research Training Grants, Individual Fellowship Awards, Career Development Awards (Institutional and Individual), Research Education Grants, Dissertation Research Grants, or other grant programs with a training component. 

The Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) course is designed to engage participants in productive discussions about ethical issues that are commonly encountered during their research careers. This course is required for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Many departments and programs also recommend or require this course as part of their curricula.

The objectives of both courses are:

  • To engage participants in case-based discussions of ethical issues commonly encountered in, and raised by, current biomedical research.
  • To introduce participants to methods of analysis of ethical issues
  • To introduce participants to policies and regulations relevant to the conduct of research.

There are two different RCR courses: MED 255 and MED 255C (although the latter is not currently being offered).

MED 255 is a necessary, but not always sufficient, component of training in responsible conduct of research. Please be sure to contact your funder to inquire about additional requirements beyond MED 255. In general, however, the NIH requires several components of training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) including:

  • The required MED 255 or 255C course (the CITI class does not fulfill this requirement)

  • Refresher RCR instruction at each stage of training (e.g., graduate, postdoc, etc)

  • Continuing informal or formal training in research ethics throughout the year.

You must include a description of a program to provide instruction in the responsible conduct of research (see regulations). A template is available for your use as a statement in your grant application. Please be sure to supplement the template with funder-specific requirements, and address all structural components required.

NSF RECR Training Requirements

Stanford University is committed to the highest scholarly and ethical standards among its students, faculty, and staff. Education in the ethical conduct of research is a key element in fostering these standards.  In accordance with the America COMPETES Act (42 USC 1862o–1) and the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors and Science Act of 2022 (“CHIPS and Science Act”), The National Science Foundation (“NSF”) requires training in the Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (“RECR”) for all undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and other senior personnel who receive NSF funds in the form of support from salary and/or stipends to conduct research on NSF grants.  

For undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, the Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (RECR) training requirement has been in effect since 2010 and education has been recommended for faculty and other senior personnel. For faculty and other senior personnel identified on research proposals submitted or due on or after July 31, 2023, NSF’s Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) requires that, at the time of proposal submission, the institution certify that it has “a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty, and other senior personnel supported by the proposed research project.” 


All undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars must complete the CITI RCR training modules relevant to their area of study within the first quarter (90 days) of support on an NSF project. The PI on an NSF award is responsible for ensuring that this training is complete.  

Faculty and senior or key personnel on NSF projects must complete RECR education prior to the processing of any grant or contract award resulting from a research proposal submitted to NSF after July 1 2023.  

The Education requirement can be satisfied by completing the RCR modules in CITI most relevant to their particular discipline or through other options identified below: 


Stanford offers a variety of options to complete RECR education for NSF funded awards. For initial RECR training:  

OPTION 1: Take the full RCR Basic Course through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) CITI Program, CITI provides a web-based training in the Responsible Conduct of Research. Learners are required to complete 10 modules, with 2 optional where applicable. Use the Log-in “through my institution” option on the CITI website. Select Stanford as your institution. After logging into CITI, click on “institutional courses” and then “Add a Course” from the menu at the bottom of the screen. ” Select Question #3, RCR education.  You can then select one of four programs in the following disciplines: Biomedical Sciences, Physical Science, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities or Engineering.  

The modules to be completed in the program include the following:  

1. Introduction to RCR 

2. Authorship  

3. Collaborative Research  

4. Conflicts of Interest and Commitment (All PIs and Key personnel satisfy this element via the COI/COC training in Stanford’s STARS system) 

5. Data Management 

6. Mentoring  

7. Peer review  

8. Research Misconduct  

9. Plagiarism  

10. Research, Ethics and Society 

11. Mentoring and Healthy Research Environments (Refresher)  

12. Human subjects (if applicable) 

13. Animal subjects (if applicable) 

REFRESHER COURSES If it has been more than three years since you completed this course, you are required to re-take the full RCR Refresher Course. 

OPTION 2: For Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars: 

Enrollment in Stanford School of Medicine Course Med 255 

OPTION 3: For Faculty and Key or Senior Personnel on NSF grants:  

  1. completion of the Stanford RECR course in Canvas [Under development]. NOTE: Completion of the Stanford COI/COC training in STARS fulfills the COI education requirement and completion of Stanford’s Code of Conduct training in STARS or the IDEAL program in STARS meets requirements for the educational components regarding  treating peers, colleagues and students fairly and with respect.  

  1. Stanford School of Medicine also offers education relative to research integrity, replicability and reproducibility and data management via the SPORR program that can supplement the RECR education requirement. 


Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars must complete RECR training at “each career stage”. Faculty and key personnel on NSF grants must complete the original training prior to processing of an NSF award and thereafter, a refresher course in RECR every three years so long as they continue to be supported with NSF funding.  

Individuals who have completed the CITI RCR training modules within a year of joining Stanford can utilize that prior education to meet the training requirement at Stanford. Completion of a different University’s program will not be accepted and either the Stanford or the CITI courses must be completed. 


The Principal Investigator is responsible for ensuring that all postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates who receive NSF funds in the form of support from salary and/or stipends to conduct research on NSF grants receive training in RECR. In general, training should be completed within three months of when the individual begins work on the project, or the individual must provide a plan through which training will be completed within a reasonable timeframe (e.g., registering for a course in the coming semester). Where individuals are working on NSF projects for a short time, such as the summer, training should be completed before the individual’s work on the project ends.

ORA is responsible for certifying that Stanford has an RECR education plan in place and will notify the PI when an NSF award is received along with a notice for the PI and Key Personnel to complete the required RECR education. ORA will ensure faculty and key personnel have completed RECR requirements prior to processing an NSF award resulting from a proposal submitted after July 31, 2023.

The Research Policy and Integrity Office (RPI) in the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research is responsible for identifying or providing educational modules to meet RECR requirements, updating training materials as needed to meet federal requirements, and monitoring ongoing completion of RECR requirements. RPI will work with ORA and University IT to identify individuals who are required to receive training and will track training completions. Reports of trainee non-compliance will be generated and shared with PIs and Departmental support for follow-up.


Questions regarding the NSF RECR requirement may be directed to the Office of Research Policy and Integrity,  Information is also available at