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Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training

The goal of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training is for anyone involved in research to perform the most ethical research possible. Northwestern has in place a number of policies that clearly demonstrate our commitment to research integrity. Collectively, these apply to all members of Northwestern’s research enterprise: students/trainees, staff, and faculty.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) mandates that, at the time of proposal submission, institutions must have a plan in place to provide appropriate RCR training and oversight for any student (graduate or undergraduate) or postdoctoral fellow supported by NSF. The National Institutes for Health (NIH) also requires RCR training.

In an effort to standardize the RCR training required for NSF trainees, Northwestern developed the plan below that went into effect on September 1, 2015.


Northwestern RCR Training Requirements (NSF)

RCR training is critical to prepare undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers to address ethical challenges that may arise when conducting research. The University’s RCR training requirements for all trainees paid by NSF research awards are listed below.

Please note:

  • RCR training conducted at outside institutions does not fulfill Northwestern’s requirements.
  • Certain schools and/or departments require RCR training for all graduate students and/or postdocs, regardless of funding. Please check with your department/program if you have any questions.
    • McCormick School of Engineering: All departments/programs require RCR training for all PhD students and postdocs, regardless of funding (see RCR training policy).
    • Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (see RCR training policy):
      • Anthropology – mandatory for all graduate students
      • Chemistry – mandatory for all graduate students and postdocs
      • Earth & Planetary Sciences – mandatory for all graduate students and postdocs
      • Economics – mandatory for graduate students and postdocs funded on NSF
      • Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences Program (IBiS) – mandatory for all graduate students
      • Linguistics – mandatory for all graduate students
      • Mathematics – mandatory for all graduate students and research postdocs
      • Molecular Biosciences – mandatory for all graduate students
      • Neurobiology – mandatory for all graduate students
      • Political Science – mandatory for all graduate students
      • Psychology – mandatory for all graduate students
      • Sociology (First Year Methods) – mandatory for all graduate students and postdocs
      • Statistics – mandatory for all graduate students

Undergraduate Students (NSF)

  • RCR trainees receive notifications about their required training from myHR Learn, Northwestern’s training management system.
  • RCR Training Required: Completion of Web-based training via the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Program. All undergraduate students supported by NSF awards MUST complete RCR Web-based training no more than 60 days after salaries are first charged to the account. No extensions are allowable.
  • Salary costs for individuals who have not completed the required RCR training within 60 days are unallowable and will be removed from the award and charged to a non-sponsored account. It is the Principal Investigator’s responsibility to ensure that RCR training is completed (letter from the Office for Research regarding undergraduate RCR requirements).

Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers (NSF)

  • RCR trainees receive notifications about their required training from myHR Learn, Northwestern’s training management system.
  • RCR Training Required: Completion of an instructor-led training (ILT) course, and most programs/departments also require the completion of Web-based training via the CITI Program. A minimum of 4 hours of instructor-led training is required, with optional supplemental online content. All graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NSF research awards MUST complete the required RCR training within one year of salaries being charged to the account.
  • Salary costs for individuals who have not completed the required training within the year are unallowable and will be removed from the award and charged to a non-sponsored account. If a trainee leaves Northwestern before the one-year deadline and has not at a minimum completed the online RCR training (CITI course), all salary charges will be removed from the award. It is the Principal Investigator’s responsibility to ensure that RCR training is completed.

Visiting Scholars and Visiting Postdoctoral Fellows (NSF)

Visiting Postdoctoral Fellows and postdoctoral Visiting Scholars must complete RCR instructor-led training with their affiliated school or department. Some schools and departments require RCR Web-based training (via the CITI Program) in addition to the ILT course.

Visiting Scholars who are faculty at another institution are not required to take RCR training.


RCR Training Requirements for Faculty and Staff

Faculty who receive funding or support from any NIH training, an individual career development award, an institutional career development award, a research education grant, and/or a dissertation research grant, must receive RCR training. See NIH training requirements. All faculty are encouraged to participate in RCR education.

The NUCATS course Taking Responsibility for Responsible Conduct of Research is appropriate for all postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty, regardless of funding sources or discipline, and covers a variety of relevant topics.

Staff involved in research conduct may be interested in RCR education and are encouraged to explore available training opportunities.