Responsible Conduct of Research

Conducting research responsibly and ethically is critical in any discipline, particularly science and engineering. Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training is a framework for imparting these standards and a critical component of scholarly work and career development.

Graduate Students and Post Docs

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have instituted federal requirements regarding the training of undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who are involved in NSF- and NIH-funded research. As a best practice, the McCormick School of Engineering requires that all PhD students and postdocs, regardless of funding, complete Responsible Conduct of Research training. The training includes two components: web-based CITI training and instructor-led training (GEN_ENG 519).

CITI Training

Northwestern uses the CITI program for web-based training, which all PhD students and postdocs are required to complete within their first year or first quarter, respectively, at McCormick.

Graduate students and post docs should complete the CITI course titled “RCR course for graduate students and post docs”; undergraduate students should complete the CITI course titled “RCR course for undergraduate students”.

View registration instructions for the CITI program

GEN_ENG 519

To fulfill the instructor-led component of training, students, and postdocs may register for GEN_ENG 519. All McCormick PhD students and postdocs are required to complete GEN_ENG 519 within their first year at McCormick. Multiple sessions of the course are offered each year. PhD students register through Caesar; postdocs register through myHR Learn.

MS Students and Other Researchers

McCormick masters students and other researchers paid with NSF awards are required to complete both CITI training and GEN_ENG 519 within time frames published in the McCormick RCR Training Policy, outlined below.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Policy (Revised each year)

Office of the Dean McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science
Northwestern University
September 1, 2019

Effective January 4, 2010, the National Science Foundation (NSF) mandated that, at the time of proposal submission, the institution must have a plan to provide appropriate RCR training and oversight to undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are supported by NSF funding. The Office for Research Integrity maintains a website (http://www.researchintegrity.northwestern.edu/), which describes how the NSF mandate is implemented and complied with. The plan below details the requirements that each category of researchers in McCormick must fulfill and consequences of not fulfilling them in a timely manner.

PhD Students and Post-Doctoral Researchers

  • Complete the online CITI course (Responsible Conduct of Research) and obtain a passing grade of at least 80% on the accompanying quizzes. This course consists of 10 common core modules for all disciplines. This requirement must be completed within the first quarter at NU. If the student or the post-doc has passed the equivalent CITI course previously at another institution, then he/she must submit a proof of completion to the department in order to waive this requirement.
  • Complete the GEN_ENG 519 (Responsible Conduct of Research for Engineers) course with a satisfactory grade of S within the first calendar year at NU. Training will take place over the course of eight - ten classroom hours. An equivalent RCR course (e.g., NUIN 409, IBIS 423, CHEM 519 or the NUCATS course) may be used as a substitute.
  • If the researcher does not complete the online CITI course within the first quarter of appointment at NU or the GEN_ENG 519 (or an equivalent course) within the first calendar year at NU, then any charges to the NSF grant for the salaries of this researcher must be removed from the award and charged to a non-sponsored account such as a department or the investigator's discretionary account. The researcher must submit a proof of completion of the requirement to the department.

Other Categories of Researchers

  • Other categories of researchers include high school students, undergraduate students, REU trainees, masters students, visiting pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellows and visiting scholars.
  • High school students, undergraduates and REU trainees are required to complete only the online CITI course (Responsible Conduct of Research) and obtain a passing grade of at least 80% on the accompanying quizzes if they are funded by NSF grants. They are not required to take the GEN_ENG 519 course.
  • As per the memo from the VP of Research, undergraduate students paid by NSF research awards must complete the training within 60 days after their salaries are first charged to the account. Other researchers must complete this requirement as soon as the appointment begins but certainly before the appointment ends. Otherwise any charges to the NSF grant for the salaries of any of these researchers must be removed from the award and charged to a non-sponsored account such as a department or the investigator's discretionary account.
  • Other categories of researchers listed above must complete CITI on-line training and GEN_ENG 519 if paid on NSF awards. Completion of CITI must occur within the researcher’s first quarter of payment from the award; completion of GEN_ENG 519 must occur before the end of the first year of payment from the award.
  • All faculty, especially those funded by NSF, are encouraged, but are not required, to complete the CITI online course.

Administration of RCR Training

  • The principal investigator (PI) of an NSF grant is responsible for ensuring that the students and post-docs supported on his/her grant complete appropriate RCR training requirement in a timely manner.
  • The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) tracks the completion of the appropriate RCR requirement by graduate students, post-docs, undergraduates and other researchers supported by NSF funding. The McCormick Dean’s Office assists ORI in this task and disseminates information about RCR compliance status to each department for their follow-up.
  • Additionally, the McCormick Dean’s Office tracks completion of on-line and instructor-led training for all McCormick PhD students and post-docs regardless of funding.

Undergraduate Students

McCormick complies with Northwestern University requirements that undergraduate students paid with NSF awards must complete CITI training within 60 days of being added to the award payroll.

View the letter from the Vice President for Research, regarding undergraduate RCR requirements

Additional Information

View information, links, and documents for Responsible Conduct of Research:

Please direct questions regarding RCR to your department staff or Bruce Lindvall, assistant dean for graduate studies, McCormick School of Engineering.