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Guidelines

Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (RCR)

All members of the MIT research community, including students, are expected to conduct research according to the highest ethical and professional scientific standards. Central to these standards are shared values including honesty, fairness, accuracy, objectivity, openness, and respect for others.

Examples of scientific standards include openness in sharing research materials, fairness in reviewing grant proposals, respect for your colleagues, and honesty in reporting research results1.

There is no single source for scientific standards. They are defined by government regulations, Institute policies, professional codes of ethics, and commonly accepted practices. A few examples:

At the same time, not every ethical dilemma or responsible action will be addressed by existing standards. A key aspect of RCR is the application of good judgment and personal integrity.

Through a commitment to scientific standards, our research community ensures the integrity and excellence of research conducted at MIT. On the other hand, violations of these standards can lead to accusations of research misconduct or questionable research practices, both of which can jeopardize research results and the academic and professional careers of those involved.

MIT offers online research ethics training to ensure you have the knowledge and tools you need to pursue your research interests at the highest academic and personal standards.

1On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition, p. 3.

What is RCR Training?

RCR training provides fundamental as well as discipline specific training on responsible and ethical conduct of research. Through RCR training, both current and future researchers gain an understanding of the standards and practices of responsible and ethical research.

Through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), MIT participates in the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). MIT offers the CITI online course in Responsible Conduct of Research.

This training is available to anyone in the MIT community with an MIT certificate; it provides a basic RCR course on the following topics:

  • Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Research Misconduct
  • Data Acquisition and Management
  • Responsible Authorship
  • Peer Review
  • Mentoring
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Collaborative Research

The basic RCR course is customized by broad fields of study, but the key concepts listed above are covered in each version. When you begin the training, select a discipline most appropriate to your current or future work: Biomedical Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Physical Sciences, Humanities, Engineering, or Administration.

As an MIT undergraduate, am I required to take RCR training?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers supported on NSF awards to complete an RCR training program. MIT is using the CITI training to fulfill this requirement.

However, RCR training is valuable to all MIT undergraduates – whether you are preparing to start at MIT, are a first-year student, already doing a UROP, or you are a graduating senior. Here is why…

Prepares you as a researcher – By taking the RCR training, you will:

  • Understand what constitutes responsible and ethical conduct and the expectations of your research colleagues.
  • Be better prepared to be an active, informed researcher and less likely to contribute to questionable research practices.
  • Have the knowledge to be an informed bystander and take appropriate action if necessary, i.e. as part of a research team, you should be aware of the ethical conduct within your lab and determine if it meets the scientific standards of the Institute.

Important for Professional Development: For any internship or job opportunity, an understanding of ethics and responsible conduct are critical. You can demonstrate your understanding of the topic, based on the RCR training and your experiences, by relating it to the industry and role you are pursuing.

RCR certification for future NSF-funded research:

  • Once you take the CITI training, it will apply to any NSF-funded research you do as an undergraduate or graduate student at MIT and at many other educational and research universities.
  • CITI training applies to any NSF-funded research at MIT regardless of the discipline-specific module taken. The NSF wants its researchers to complete RCR training – the discipline is less important. For example, if you will be working on a NSF-funded Biomedical-related UROP and took the CITI Engineering RCR training, you are considered certified.
How long does the RCR training take?

The training is self-paced and takes between 4-8 hours. You can stop and restart at will. Most students who are required to take the training complete it within 3 weeks.

Does MIT track my RCR training certification?

All of your training records (including EHS-related training) will be maintained in SAP. The record of your certification is also kept by CITI; you can access the CITI record at any time. If your new institution accepts CITI training, you can also work with the CITI program to affiliate yourself with your new institution in their records.

Who can I contact for assistance or more information?

For general questions about undergraduate research and ethical research training: contact UROP staff at urop@mit.edu or speak with a staff member in person in Room 7-104 or via phone: 617-253-7306.

Questions about the CITI RCR training offered by MIT should be directed to the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) at rcr-help@mit.edu.

See the MIT OSP site for other RCR information including: to take the training and to learn more about other RCR resources.