Frequently Asked Questions

How BU department-level administration can assist PIs to assure compliance with NSF requirements for instruction in responsible conduct of research (RCR)

As of January 2013, the following list of frequently asked questions has been prepared by Research Compliance and reviewed and approved by the RCREAC Subcommittee on Compliance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The RCR program is a professional development program for science and engineering students and postdoctoral researchers that provides instruction on such topics as research ethics, responsibilities, and collaborative skills.
  • NSF has compliance requirements related to RCR of which the department-level administration may want to be aware.

  • The BU RCR Plan states that PIs are responsible for specifying and monitoring completion of RCR instruction for required students and postdoctoral researchers. NSF grant applications contain assurances that the institution will verify that students and postdocs who are paid for research on an NSF grant will complete the BU RCR program. The steps of the assurance and verification are:

I. New NSF Awards: Research Compliance generates, on a biweekly basis, a report of all new NSF awards. Initial RCR guidance letters are sent to all PIs of new NSF awards, informing them of RCR requirements for students and postdoctoral researchers placed on the award.

II. New NSF Payees: Thereafter, Research Compliance generates, on a monthly basis, a report of all new students and postdocs paid for research on covered NSF awards.

  • Research Compliance sends a reminder letter to each newly identified student and postdoc, and to their PI, specifically stating each individual’s RCR requirements.
  • PIs and department-level administrators are asked to assure that the students and postdocs make a commitment to meet their requirements:
    • Undergraduates and master’s degree candidates must complete their online RCR programs within 30 days; and
    • Doctoral degree candidates and postdoctoral researchers must complete a preparatory online program within 30 days and an Advanced RCR (Live) program.
    • See Instructions for Participation

III. Invitations and Reminders to Enroll in RCR Programs and Workshops:

  • One month before each Advanced RCR workshop series begins (i.e., on or about May 1, September 1, and January 1), Research Compliance sends a workshop invitation to all individual NSF payees (advanced level) who have not completed their workshops (and to all NSF PIs).
  • Prior to completion of the RCR workshops offered each semester (i.e., on or about June 15, October 15, and March 3), Research Compliance sends the final reminder notice to all incomplete NSF payees and their PIs informing them that their RCR compliance status (both 30-day online requirements and live workshops) will be checked on a date near the end of the semester.

IV. Noncompliance: Near the end of each semester (Fall, Spring, Summer I), Research Compliance will check the RCR Status Lists to ascertain whether NSF payees have completed their online requirements within 30 days and are on track to complete any required live workshops in accordance with timeliness instructions. Research Compliance will notify payees and PIs of those payees who have not completed their RCR requirements or are not on track to timely completion.

  • This noncompliance letter will be copied to the department chair and brought to the attention of the RCR Education Advisory Committee, Subcommittee on Compliance.
  • If the payee remains noncompliant after attempts to correct compliance, Research Compliance may work with PAFO and department administrators to assure that improper salary charges are not made to NSF awards.

  • When placing students or postdocs on the payroll to be paid for research on an NSF award, verify that the PI has notified the payee of applicable RCR requirements.
  • Assist PIs to check the RCR compliance status of individuals on the BU RCR Individual Status Lists.
  • Assist the PI in assuring timely compliance by the payee, when a reminder letter has been received from Research Compliance.
  • Assist the PI in assuring immediate compliance by the payee, when a noncompliance letter has been received from Research Compliance.
  • When notified by Research Compliance or PAFO, take required steps regarding payroll status of any non-compliant individual.

BU RCR instruction is provided at three levels: Advanced, Intermediate and Introductory. Instructions for completing each level can be found here.



Department-level administration can help the institution and PIs by working with Research Compliance to ensure that students and postdocs who will be paid from NSF awards are held responsible for meeting and completing all RCR instructional requirements.


Alan Fine
Director, Responsible Conduct of Research Program

Sarah Theurkauf
Administrative Coordinator
Office of the Provost