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"Becoming a Responsible Scientist": Ethics Training at the NIH

The NIH believes that ongoing training in research ethics is an integral part of your training and practicing as a scientist or clinician. Learning the best practices of research and the professional and ethical norms of the scientific enterprise are critical for the health of biomedical science and for you to thrive in your role in it. Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) is defined by the ethics training requirement announcement at as "the practice of scientific investigation with integrity. It involves the awareness and application of established professional norms and ethical principles in the performance of all activities related to scientific research."

These courses, aimed at your specific training level, aim to ensure that you are aware of the current professional standards. In addition, they will discuss how to avoid Research Misconduct and Questionable Research Practices, and how to help foster an ethical scientific environment.

In addition to the online courses you are required to take yearly and IC specific requirements; the NIH recommends 8 hours of in-person training at every stage of your scientific career. This is a critical requirement for those applying for extramural funding. Those of you moving forwards into NIH funded extramural careers must be able to demonstrate that you have both met these goals in this stage of your career and have a plan for meeting them in your next. Career stages include, for instance, being a postbac or graduate student, a postdoc, and a practicing research Clinician or Scientist.

See the "Why a Critical Part of Your NIH Training" post in our OITE Careers Blog.

"Becoming a Responsible Scientist" is offered as a full-day workshop utilizing a combination of lecture, video, writing exercises, small group discussions, and full class discussions.

Topics covered include but are not restricted to:

  • The impact of research misconduct on individuals, institutions, the scientific enterprise, and society.
  • The history and modern oversight of Animal and Human Subjects regulations.
  • Formal definitions of "Research Misconduct" and discussion about Questionable Research Practices.
  • An explanation of resources provided by NIH and how to find and use them.
  • How an investigation into research misconduct unfolds.
  • Data management; collection, protection, and sharing.
  • Mentor-mentee relationships.
  • Conflict of Interest.
  • Peer Review.
  • Expectations of trainees as scientists at NIH.

The postdoctoral course includes material on being an ethics mentor and discussions about best practices for promoting an ethical environment in one's own lab.

If you have further questions, please contact your Institute's Training Director or Dr. Andrea Naranjo-Erazo.


The NIH Sourcebook

The Office of Intramural Research has created a "compendium of policies and resources for the NIH scientific research community" including assorted ethics requirements and training.