Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Program Basics

The Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) program educates students and postdocs in core norms, principles, regulations, and rules governing the ethical practice of research. Boston University provides training on a range of topics to achieve this goal, including mentor/mentee relationships, data management and sharing, publication practices and responsible authorship, peer review, collaborative science, the societal impacts of scientific research, research misconduct and whistleblowing, and conflict of interest and commitment.

BU RCR training is offered at several levels: (1) undergraduate and master’s degree candidate, (2) PhD candidate & postdoctoral researcher, and (3) NSF-funded faculty and senior personnel. Read on for details about who is required to complete RCR training, or sign up for a training by clicking the button below.

Get Started with RCR Training

Who is required to complete RCR training?

The following researchers are required to complete RCR training:

  • All students and postdoctoral researchers working on NSF- or NIH-sponsored grants, if they are “covered individuals” on “covered awards” as defined below.
  • Any student or postdoc whose school or degree program requires RCR completion.
  • Faculty and senior personnel on NSF-funded research with proposals submitted on or after July 31, 2023 (learn more)
NSF Requirement
NIH Requirement

How much time do I have to complete the RCR training?

NIH-supported undergraduates, master’s degree candidates, PhD candidates, and postdoctoral researchers must complete their RCR training within two years of requirement notification.

Doctoral students must complete a 1 credit, non-tuition bearing course (ENG EK 800) open to all PhD students and postdoctoral scholars. This 10-week course will meet once weekly for 50-minute sessions and fulfills the new National Science Foundation requirements as well as existing National Institutes of Health requirements. The course will be taught by Sarah Hokanson each term, alongside faculty co-instructors. This must be completed by the end of their fourth year (note that there is also a CITI online component that must be completed prior to commencing live workshops).

Postdoctoral researchers are recommended to complete ENG EK 800 in the semester in which their online preparation is completed.

NSF-funded faculty and senior personnel should complete their training as soon as possible to remain compliant.

Training must be performed once every four years and at each new career stage.

What is required of PIs and administrative staff hiring trainees?

The BU RCR Plan states that PIs are responsible for specifying and monitoring completion of RCR instruction for required students and postdoctoral researchers. (Additionally, NSF-funded faculty are now required to complete RCR training of their own; learn more.)

Hiring & Managing Students Paid on NSF/NIH Grants

  • When placing students or postdocs on the payroll to be paid for research on an NSF award, notify (or verify that the PI has notified) the payee of applicable RCR requirements.
  • Check the RCR compliance status of research personnel on the BU RCR Individual Status Lists.
  • Assure timely compliance by the payee, when a reminder letter has been received from Research Compliance.
  • When notified by Research Compliance or Sponsored Programs, take required steps regarding payroll status of any non-compliant individual.

Applying for Grants

Feel free to use the following language to describe the BU RCR program in your grant applications (click to expand collapsible).

Language for Grants

How does BU assure and verify RCR compliance?

PIs and department-level administrators are asked to assure that individuals on covered NSF grant programs make a commitment to meet their requirements. NSF grant applications also 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. Here are the steps BU takes to ensure compliance for all trainees on covered grants:

NSF Awards

Research Compliance will…

  • Generate a report of all new trainees, students and postdocs paid for research on covered NSF awards, on a monthly basis.
  • Send a sign-up form for the Advanced RCR training to PIs of covered awards. Completed forms containing the names of individuals required to take RCR will automatically be sent to the RCR Program.
  • Send a reminder letter to PIs outlining each newly identified student and postdoc, specifically stating each individual’s RCR requirements.
  • Send a workshop invitation to all individual NSF payees (advanced level) who have not completed their workshops one month before each Advanced RCR workshop series begins. PIs receive this notification as well.

Click here for more information regarding NSF RCR compliance guidelines.

NIH Awards

Research Compliance will…

  • Review all notices of grant awards to identify trainees who require training, including postdoctoral scholars, PhD students, and recipients of career development awards who will be receiving support through covered NIH grant programs that mandate Advanced RCR training.
  • Email trainees’ PIs with an Advanced RCR sign-up form. Completed forms containing the names of individuals required to take RCR will automatically be sent to the RCR Program.
  • Send a reminder letter to PIs outlining each newly identified student and postdoc specifically stating each individual’s RCR requirements. One month before each Advanced RCR workshop series begins, Research Compliance sends a workshop invitation to all individual NIH payees (advanced level) who have not completed their workshops. PIs receive this notification as well.

Departmental Mandates

Several graduate programs/departments require that all trainees and post-docs undertake Advanced RCR training independent of funding status. It is the responsibility of PIs and department-level administrators to monitor their trainees for compliance with departmental policy. However, the RCR Program maintains status lists of all RCR participants, including those subject to a departmental mandate.


Near the end of each semester, Research Compliance will check the RCR Status Lists to ascertain whether NSF and NIH payees have completed their online requirements and are on track to complete the required live workshops. 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 program leadership.

Administrative questions regarding the RCR training programs can be directed to

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