Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

Responsible conduct of reserach (RCR) is defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as "the practice of scientific investigation with integrity." Penn State believes RCR is the foundation to successful research. RCR promotes the awareness and conduct of established professional norms and principles when performing activities related to scientific research. RCR training provides guidelines and best practices that foster a research environment that promotes public confidence in scientific knowledge and progress for public health and safety.

Education in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) is a fundamental element of research training, and is a requirement of all researchers and scholars at Penn State as part of the Scholarship & Research Integrity (SARI) Program. Many funding agencies, including NIH, NSF, and NIFA, require training in RCR as part of the funding requirements.  Here at Penn State, we offer various opportunuties to promote and educate on best practices to ethical research and scholarly activities. These offerings include SARI workshops and RISE course.

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RCR Subjects Areas 

The Office of Research Integrity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified "areas of importance" in the responsible conduct of research (RCR). Additionally, Penn State's Office for Research Protections has added other important topics. 

Secure and ethical data usage

Acquiring, selecting, analyzing and retaining research data, as well as the confidentiality and ownership (including IP and copyright concerns) of data, image manipulation, recordkeeping, and electronic data collection and storage is essential to responsible research.  

Responsible mentorship

It is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of both mentors and trainees in predoctoral and postdoctoral research programs, to avoid conflicts that can arise from such a relationship. The mentor-trainee relationship should reflect mutual respect and clear communication. Best practices such as individual development plans, and mentorship agreements are encouraged to promote professional career goals and foster collaboration. 

Safe research environments

Spaces that promote inclusion and are free of sexual, racial, ethnic, disability and other forms of discriminatory harassment are imperative for the community and the future of science. 

Publication practices and responsible authorship

Publication of the results of scholarly investigation and research is typically a major goal of such work. It is important to be aware of ethical issues related to accepted practices in collaboration and publishing, and the responsibilities of author(s) to research subjects and to the scholarly community. 

Ethical peer review

Peer review is a cornerstone of the research and academic process. Understanding the purpose of peer review and the responsibilities of reviewers including the responsibility for maintaining confidentiality and security in peer review is an important aspect of the responsible conduct of research.   

Collaboration in scholarship and research

In recent years, the ease with which scholars from various parts of the world can communicate has expanded the possibilities for fruitful collaboration. In this environment, it is important to consider the best practices for research collaborations, as well as the complex ethical issues that may arise from such collaborations. 

Human participants in research

There a many important ethical issues to consider in conducting research with human participants, including (but not limited to) risks and benefits to participants, informed consent, at-risk populations, confidentiality, and the role of institutional review boards. 

Welfare of animals in research

The ethical principles and federal regulations governing research involving animals, treatment of animals, and institutional animal care and use committees, are an important part of the responsible conduct of research. 

Research misconduct

Fabrication, Falsification, and Plagiarism (FFP) constitute research misconduct. Understanding the regulations, policies, and guidelines that govern research misconduct, and how to report an allegation of research misconduct is as important as the research being conducted. 

Conflicts of interest and commitment

The types of conflicts encountered by researchers and institutions can include financial or business-related conflicts, conflicts associated with research collaborations and publication, and conflicts in managing time and commitments to collaborators and advisees. Understanding what constitutes a conflict of interest, and how these conflicts can be managed, are an important part of the responsible conduct of research.  

Intellectual property

Complex issues can arise concerning the management, protection, and licensing of intellectual property of researchers and the University.  Resources for understanding the rights of faculty and students to intellectual property, and information about patents, licensing, and intellectual property issues related to consulting and entrepreneurship can be found on the Penn State Patents and Licensing page.

Fiscal responsibility

Understanding how to effectively manage project budgets, purchasing, travel, and effort responsibly, ensuring compliance with sponsors and policies (especially when working with research-appropriated funds), is an important part of the responsible conduct of research. The Penn State Proposals and Awards page expands on this topic.

Research with hazards

It is important that research be conducted in a manner that promotes the safety of researchers, research participants, and the environment. Researchers using biohazardous material, radioisotopes, or other potentially hazardous materials should be sure to obtain appropriate approvals for use, adequate training, maintain necessary inspections and certifications, properly handle and dispose of hazardous materials, and follow appropriate safety procedures. Questions or concerns regarding research safety should be directed to the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.  Learn more about working with biohazardous materials or radioisotopes.   


Other recent areas of interest in this regard include the scientist as a responsible member of society, export controls, foreign influence and involvement, and the environmental and societal impacts of research.  

Learn More

View NIH's Updated Guidance: Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Read NIH's Guidelines and Policies for the Conduct of Research