Responsible Conduct of Research Training

Understanding federal agency RCR training requirements


As a premier research-intensive institution, Iowa State University is committed to creating an environment that fosters an ethical research culture to maintain high standards of research integrity that meets and exceeds federal requirements. In this regard, the Office of the Vice President of Research is constantly updating our training policy for Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) to align with new policy requirements from federal agencies and current changes in the industry on research integrity and ethical issues. Overall, our institutional policy follows a code of ethics to professional research practice that incorporates the principles of ethical conduct, honesty, integrity, respect and transparency in the scholarly activities of our researchers that builds trust with all constituents including the research community, our sponsors and society-at-large. Below is a breakdown of recommended RCR training for Iowa State researchers (undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty members and other senior research personnel).

This RCR training policy complies with National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and requirements from other federal agencies, for an institutional program of education in the responsible conduct of research (RCR).

NSF Training Requirements

The National Science Foundation (NSF) views the responsible and ethical conduct of research (RECR) as critical for achieving excellence and maintaining public trust in science and engineering. Consequently, effective July 31, 2023, NSF is requiring everyone – from undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty, and other senior personnel involved in any NSF-funded research grant to undergo RECR training.  NSF gave institutions the responsibility to determine the main content, focus and delivery method for RECR training, but requires that the training includes mentor training and mentorship topics. Details of these new NSF training requirements are available in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide updated by NSF May 20, 2024, on this link PAPPG (NSF 24-1), Chapter II.D.1.d(iv) (page II-6) and IX.B (page IX-3).

RECR training involves not only a responsibility to generate and disseminate knowledge with rigor and integrity, but also commitments to:

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

The Iowa State Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) recommends the following processes to meet NSF’s new RECR requirements.

Faculty members and senior personnel

All faculty members and senior research personnel involved in NSF-funded projects are required to take the online CITI Training modules, as follows (The process for establishing an account and conducting training through CITI is outlined below the information for undergraduate students):

  • Initial RCR training: Take the full RCR Basic Course through CITI Program, which now requires these two recently added modules: Data Management (RCR-Basic) (ID 20896); and Mentoring and Healthy Research Environments (RCR-Basic) (ID 20983)
  • Refresher RCR – Option 1: If it has been more than three years since you have completed this course, you are required to re-take the full RCR Refresher Course, including these two refresher modules: Data Management (RCR-Refresher) (ID 15664); and Mentoring and Healthy Research Environments (RCR-Refresher) (ID 15667)
  • Refresher RCR Option 2- If you completed the full Refresher RCR course within the past three years, you only need to complete these two new modules: Data Management (RCR-Basic) (ID 20896); and Mentoring and Healthy Research Environments (RCR-Basic) (ID 20983)

Graduate students (Master’s and PhD) and Postdoc fellows

  • Take the same three Online CITI training options provided above, or take the 1 credit GR ST 565 course which will be updated to meet these requirements starting the 2023 fall semester.

Undergraduate students

  • Take the same three Online CITI training options provided above or take the appropriate honors courses on RCR approved in your College (e.g. Hon 322E which will be updated to meet these new requirements starting 2023 fall semester).

Accessing the Online CITI Training

If you have not already done so, you will need to register and establish an account to use the training module available through the CITI program. You will need to affiliate with Iowa State University and use your Iowa State netID as your primary email.

After setting up a profile you will be able to add the training courses Iowa State offers through the university’s subscription at no charge to you. If there is an “Add Course” button on your profile page, use that feature. Otherwise, follow these steps:

  • Click My Courses at the top of the page
  • Click View Courses
  • Scroll down to Learner Tools for Iowa State University then click Add a Course
  • Scroll to Question 3 and click on RCR Basic Course or RCR Refresher Course, which ever you need

Learn more at the CITI Program Guide to Getting Started.

The OVPR recommends refresher RCR training, including these two new modules, be taken every three years. It is the responsibility of the PI to assign training to anyone joining the NSF-funded project before they start working on it. Arrangements are being made to assign the training through LEARN@ISU or the new training platform (Workday Learning) when developed.

Training audit 

The OVPR will introduce an auditing program for RECR training to ensure the institution is meeting these Federal requirements. This will verify adherence to make sure the university aligns with expectations from Auditors from NSF and other agencies who will be conducting audits of the RECR training program. In future, no personnel charges to NSF grants will be processed by the Finance department, unless RECR training is confirmed.

NIFA Training Requirements

The NIFA training requirements can be met by following the same training guidelines as for NSF, which are noted above. The required training is offered as an online training course available through CITI or a one-credit course in RCR, GR ST 565. Further details about these two training options are listed above in the NSF Training Requirements section.

NIH Training Requirements

As in the past, NIH requires the submission of an instructional plan addressing the responsible conduct of research. The February 17, 2022 notice NOT-OD-22-055 established a new expectation for the format of the training, subject matter, faculty participation, duration and frequency of instruction. The 2022 update provided new guidance on the format, frequency, and timing of RCR instruction, as well as additional topics for consideration. The notice specifies that online courses can be a valuable supplement, but are not considered adequate to address the RCR requirements except in special instances of short-term training programs or unusual and well-justified circumstances. Acceptable training plans generally include a minimum of eight substantive hours of face-to-face instruction over the following subject matter:

  • Conflict of interest – personal, professional, and financial – and conflict of commitment, in allocating time, effort, or other research resources
  • Policies regarding human subjects, live vertebrate animal subjects in research, and safe laboratory practices
  • Mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships
  • Safe research environments (e.g., those that promote inclusion and are free of sexual, racial, ethnic, disability and other forms of discriminatory harassment)
  • Collaborative research, including collaborations with industry and investigators and institutions in other countries
  • Peer review, including the responsibility for maintaining confidentiality and security in peer review
  • Data acquisition and analysis; laboratory tools (e.g., tools for analyzing data and creating or working with digital images); recordkeeping practices, including methods such as electronic laboratory notebooks
  • Secure and ethical data use; data confidentiality, management, sharing, and ownership
  • Research misconduct and policies for handling misconduct
  • Responsible authorship and publication
  • The scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research

Training may be given as a semester-long series or a single one-day workshop. Investigators may develop their own training format. The following ISU course meets the NIH requirements:

  • GR ST 565. Responsible Conduct of Research in Science and Engineering. Prereq: Graduate classification. (Cr. 1.0). F, S.  Ethical and legal issues facing researchers in the sciences and engineering.

Requirements for successful completion of GR ST 565 will be outlined in each course syllabus. In general, students must attend at least 80% of the class sessions and earn at least 80% of the points on homework assignments to receive certification that NIH, NSF, or USDA NIFA training requirements have been met. Students who do not meet these requirements must re-take the course to receive certification.

NIH guidance documents also indicate that “Training faculty and sponsors/mentors are highly encouraged to contribute both to formal and informal instruction in responsible conduct of research. Rotation of training faculty as course directors, instructors, and/or discussion leaders may be a useful way to achieve the ideal of full faculty participation in formal responsible conduct of research courses over a period of time.”

Frequency: Instruction must be undertaken at least once during each career stage, and at a frequency of no less than once every four years.

Applicability: This requirement applies to the following programs: D43, D71, F05, F30, F31, F32, F33, F34, F37, F38, K01, K02, K05, K07, K08, K12, K18, K22, K23, K24, K25, K26, K30, K99/R00, KL1, KL2, R25, R36, T15, T32, T34, T35, T36, T37, T90/R90, TL1, TU2, and U2R. This policy also applies to any other NIH-funded programs supporting research training, career development, or research education that require instruction in responsible conduct of research as stated in the relevant funding opportunity announcements.


If you have any questions or need help with accessing the training, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Research,