Responsible Conduct of Research

Policy Approval Authority President
Responsible Division Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships
Responsible University Office Office of Research Compliance Integrity and Safety
Responsible Officer(s) Director
Contact Person Shannon Stoker,
Primary Audience Faculty
Status Active
Effective Adoption Date 03-01-2016
Last Review Date 03-16-2023
Policy Category/Categories Research Ethics / Intellectual Property
Sponsored Funding/Grants and Contracts


Responsible Conduct of Research Policy

  1. Background, Purpose, and Scope

As a research institution, Northern Illinois University (NIU) is accountable to the research and university communities to ensure the ethical and safe conduct of research.  Federal statutes and policies, including Section 7009 of the American COMPETES ACT of 2007 for National Science Foundation, The Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research at the USDA and NOT-OD-10-019 for National Institute of Health require funded grants to provide mentoring and training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR).

The purpose of this policy is to comply with Federal Responsible Conduct of Research  (RCR) requirements and advance a culture of responsible and ethical research by promoting excellence in research.

This policy, and with it the establishment of the Responsible Conduct of Research Advisory Committee (RCR-AC), recognizes that creating a culture of responsible and ethical research is in line with NIU’s mission statement by promoting excellence in research.


  1. Policy

All members of the NIU community are expected to adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards as they pursue research and scholarly activities. NIU requires the vigilance of all members engaged in research and scholarly endeavors to comply with the legal, regulatory, and ethical requirements established by the University, regulatory agencies, funding agencies and professional organizations.

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has been charged with oversight of the responsible conduct of research.  The following topics are generally accepted components of RCR:

  • Authorship and Publication
  • Collaborative Research
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Data Management
  • Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities
  • Peer Review
  • Research Misconduct
  • Human Subjects
  • Animal Welfare
  • Safe Laboratory Practices


These categories are broad, and information regarding compliance expectations for each can be provided in multiple ways. This policy recognizes the need for RCR instruction to have flexibility in content and delivery methods to address the needs, issues, and concerns across various target audiences as well as numerous disciplines.

RCR training may use a combination of programming including the online Collaborative Institutional Learning Initiative (CITI) training and in-person instruction.  All programming will follow funding agency requirements.

  1. Roles & Responsibilities

NIU faculty and staff engaged in research are responsible for undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students working on their projects and must determine the avenues by which students receive RCR training regardless of the funding source. If training is required by a sponsor those requirements will take precedent.  

  1. Office of Research Compliance, Integrity, and Safety (ORCIS)
  2. Programming: ORCIS is responsible for providing RCR programing to the NIU community. This includes offering live training and online training.  Classroom training will also be provided as requested. All affiliated with NIU have access to CITI training.  Accounts are free, and users must select “Northern Illinois University” as their home institution.
  3. Monitoring: ORCIS is responsible for monitoring compliance with federal requirements, verifying that all training requirements are met, and maintaining training records.
  4. Communication: ORCIS will communicate any new requirements to the research community and make the community aware of their current requirements.
  5. Oversight of the RCR-AC: ORCIS creates and calls upon the RCR-AC, whose responsibilities are addressed below.
  6. Responsible Conduct of Research Advisory Committee (RCR-AC)
    1. Guide the development and implementation of the RCR forum series or any other in-person training deemed necessary by the Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships (VPR).
    2. Advise ORCIS and the VPR on requirements for students to receive the RCR transcript notation.
    3. Advocate and promote a culture of RCR across the university.
  7. Principal Investigators (PI)
    1. Identification: The PI is responsible for identifying those on their research project that should receive RCR training. This may include undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral students, key personnel, staff, or themselves.  If external funding is involved the agency’s guidelines will take precedence (see External Funding Requirements below).
    2. “Hands-on training”. The PI is expected to provide hands-on training to their students, as many RCR topics will be addressed organically in actual research situations. This is supplemental to any required documented training.
  8. Sponsored Programs Administration
    1. Certification: As the authorized organizational representative, certifies with each proposal and award that NIU has a plan in place to provide appropriate training and oversight in RCR as required by external funding agencies.
    2. Monitoring: SPA will provide award information to ORCIS to assist in compliance monitoring for training required by external agencies, remove unallowable salary charges from grants for individuals who do not meet the training requirements, and transmit RCR requirements to subrecipients as necessary for awards.
  9. Subrecipients
    1. When a subrecipient entity does not have an RCR policy, NIU’s will apply.


  1. External Funding Requirements

As stated above, RCR training is a requirement for certain funding agencies.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Science Foundation (NSF,) and National Institute of Health-training grants all have RCR requirements. 

  1. Principal Investigators, Key personnel, and Staff – (NSF)

The NSF requires that Principal Investigators (PI), key personnel, and staff working on NSF funded projects receive RCR training. For the purposes of this policy, any person paid from a NSF award is considered to be working on the project and must receive RCR training.

Principal Investigators (PIs) are required to certify with their proposal that they have a training plan in place to ensure that all key personnel and staff working on their project will receive RCR training and that their plan is subject to review upon ORCIS or NSF request.

The PIs will be notified of their required training by ORCIS upon receipt of award.  The PIs have the responsibility to identify all other personnel requiring training including students.  The CITI online training will meet the requirements along with organic training occurring during the award.

If additional personnel will work on the project, the PI must notify ORCIS before or as soon as they begin work. 

Once notified PIs and all key personnel will complete the training within 3 months of working on the project. The training will not expire and needs only to be taken one time.  Students have different time requirements mentioned below.

  1. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students (USDA, NSF, NIH-training)

All undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students (trainees) supported by these grants must receive training in the responsible conduct of research.

 This goal can be achieved by completing the requirements for a transcript notation in RCR (Procedures - Section 3) or completing the online CITI training.  Both of these training methods must be accompanied by discussion-based interaction between the students and the PI or other senior personnel.

ORCIS is responsible for monitoring student participation and ensuring compliance.  If a PI refuses to comply with the requirements the VPR or a designee may set training requirements for the student.  If a student refuses to participate in the training the VPR may remove them from the grant.

All training must be completed within one year of beginning research on the award.

If a trainee leaves NIU 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 and charged to a non-sponsored account.

It is the Principal Investigator’s responsibility to ensure that RCR training is completed.


  1. RCR Forum Series

The RCR Forum Series is a live training program offered each semester.  At a minimum, ten sessions must be offered per calendar year, one dedicated to each topic listed in Policy - Section 2.  The RCR-AC committee may recommend expanding or altering the program based on need or demand.  ORCIS is responsible for implementing the sessions and monitoring attendance and compliance with any written assignments. Attendance at the forum series will satisfy USDA, NSF, and NIH-training requirements. 

Students who complete thorough RCR training are eligible to receive RCR-certified notation on their transcript.  The requirements for the notation will be determined by the RCR Advisory Committee.  These requirements will be made available on the ORCIS website.  Current requirements include:

  • Attendance at a minimum of seven sessions of the RCR Forum Series
  • Documented interaction in the online portal involving each attended topic (information will be provided during the corresponding session).

These requirements must be completed within two years of the first session but prior to completion of the degree program. This does not waive the time requirement for students working on NSF or NIH-training grants.
The requirements for the notation in RCR may change over time.  To ensure compliance this policy will be updated as needed to reflect these changes. 


Approved Spring 2016 by the Vice President for Research

Updated December 2020

Updated December 2021

Updated March 2023

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