Responsible Conduct of Research
The George Washington University (GW) is committed to fostering a vibrant research environment in which all students, staff, postdocs, faculty and visiting scholars conduct research ethically and responsibly. This means ensuring that all individuals engaged in the GW research enterprise understand the importance of adhering to professional standards in specific research fields as well as sponsor requirements for training in the ethical and responsible conduct of research. This enables us to produce trustworthy research results upon which peers and the general public can rely. In turn, members of the GW research community are empowered to advance knowledge in their distinct disciplines that ultimately contributes to the greater good of society.
GW's Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research Training Plan
As described in GW’s Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Plan (PDF), the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance (ORIC) works with research leaders across campus to ensure the availability of RCR training and coordinate various offerings to help GW researchers meet their RCR training requirements. Current RCR events are listed below and on individual school and department webpages as well as on the GW University Calendar. The ORIC also contributes to discipline-specific training and offers support for development of individual project RCR plans.
All GW faculty, staff, and students involved in research, regardless of funding source, are encouraged to complete the online RCR Basic Course offered by GW via the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Program. Other courses offered by GW via the CITI program include tailored courses related to biomedical, social/behavioral, physical sciences, humanities and engineering disciplines, including courses in data management and mentoring.
Funder RCR Requirements
Different funders have specific requirements for training in the ethical and responsible conduct of research, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA), and others. Other research sponsors, including federal, state and local funders as well as private sponsors, may also require RCR training.
Consistent with existing policy and guidance, GW encourages RCR training to be undertaken at least once during each career stage and at least every four years. Personnel who have met RCR training requirements at another institution may submit their documentation to the ORIC. Documentation of CITI training or equivalent on-line or in-person instruction will be considered on a case-by-case basis as to whether GW policy and applicable sponsor requirements are met.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
GW requires those involved in research sponsored by the NSF to complete Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research training. All faculty and senior personnel, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, undergraduate students and staff researchers involved in NSF projects must complete the RCR Basic Course in the CITI Program, which includes modules on data management and mentoring and healthy research environments in accordance with new NSF requirements. The training should be completed within 90 days of becoming involved in an NSF project and should be undertaken at least every four years.
Those involved in NSF-sponsored research are also encouraged to participate in courses offered by their schools and departments and attend training opportunities available on campus, either through the ORIC or other GW affiliates. If a researcher has completed the CITI RCR Basic Course (or equivalent as determined by the ORIC) within the last four years but has not had a course in data management and/or a course in mentoring, then they must complete both courses to comply with new NSF training requirements.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Similarly, the NIH requires RCR training for those applying for any 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 an RCR instruction requirement as noted in the funding opportunity announcement. This requirement also applies to all faculty, including new faculty, mid-career faculty and senior faculty, and professional and scientific employees receiving funding from these sources.
Principal investigators submitting NIH grants that require instruction in the responsible conduct of research are responsible for developing a plan in keeping with the specific requirements for the grant application and NIH guidelines. Principal investigators may consult the ORIC for guidance in developing RCR plans in accordance with RCR training requirements described in the relevant funding opportunity announcement. NIH policy and guidance encourages completion of RCR training at least once during each career stage, and at least once every four years.
Regardless of career stage and discipline, all GW faculty, staff, and students involved in NIH-funded research should complete the online RCR Basic Course offered by GW via the CITI Program, and may also attend courses offered by their schools and departments and attend training opportunities available on campus, either through the ORIC or other GW affiliates.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
GW requires that all individuals involved in USDA NIFA projects complete the CITI Program RCR Basic Course. The training should be completed within 90 days of becoming involved in a USDA NIFA project and should be undertaken at least once every four years. Researchers funded by USDA NIFA may also attend courses offered by their schools and departments and attend training opportunities available on campus, either through the ORIC or other GW affiliates.
Education in the responsible and ethical conduct of research covers a range of topics. Such education should ideally begin at the start of one’s research career and be reinforced through responsible training, supervision, and mentoring. The following list of topics, while not exhaustive, denotes core content for gaining a general understanding of what it means to conduct ethical, responsible research. These and other topics may also be tailored to the specific discipline and career stage:
- Research Ethics
- Research Misconduct and other Breaches of Integrity
- Conflicts of Interest and Conflict of Commitment
- Data Management (e.g., secure and ethical data use and sharing, acquisition, analysis, ownership, and recordkeeping practices)
- Protection of Human Subjects in Research
- Protection of Animals in Research
- Safe Laboratory Practices and Safe Research Environments
- Responsible Authorship and Publication Practices
- Peer Review (e.g., confidentiality and security)
- Collaborative Research and Equitable Partnerships
- Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities, Mentoring Training and Mentorship
- Social Responsibility and Researchers as Members of Society (e.g., exploring ethical issues, societal and environmental impact of research)