Rutgers Responsible Conduct of Research Toolkit

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The Responsible Conduct of Research is defined as the practice of scientific investigation with integrity. It involves the awareness and application of established professional norms and ethical principles in the performance of all activities related to scientific research. The resources in this Toolkit support this practice, and can help you improve yourself as a research scholar.

Authorship/Publications (USDHS Office of Research Integrity)

This resource provides authorship and peer review cases enhanced with expert commentary and annotations. It is critical to establish clear policies and agreements on authorship before research projects are begun. Some Research and Mentoring Agreements below include this key component.

Authorship and the Allocation of Credit in "On Being A Scientist” includes a case study and teaching exercise on authorship disputes; the text notes: “Authorship conventions may differ greatly among disciplines and among research groups.  In some disciplines the group leader’s name is always last, while in others it is always first. In some scientific fields, research supervisors’ names rarely appear on papers, while in others the head of a research group is an author on almost every paper associated with the group. Some research groups and journals simply list authors alphabetically.” (p. 35)

Authorship, Advice on (UMDNJ Office of Academic Affairs)  Concise advice on authorship.  Excerpt: “Each author should review, approve, take responsibility for and be prepared to defend his or her specific contributions to the research and those aspects of the publication in his or her area of expertise.”  From: “Guidelines for Investigators in Scientific Research,” published by UMDNJ-Office of Academic Affairs, 65 Bergen Street, Newark, New Jersey 07107 (1995)

RCR Casebook: Stories about Researchers Worth Discussing (USDHS Office of Research Integrity).

Includes cases on: Authorship and Publication, Research Misconduct, Collaboration, Data Acquisition and Management, Conflicts of Interest, Peer Review, Mentor and Trainee Relationships, and Social Responsibility.

Best Practices and Mentoring in Doctoral Education: Program, Faculty & Student Responsibilities (pdf)

The brochure above from the Rutgers School of Graduate Studies provides guidelines for best practices and mentoring for students, program offices and faculty members. Included are professional development for mentors and mentees, what to do if things do not work out, harassment and safety, and whom to call for assistance.

Mentoring guidelines from the Office of Research Integrity (USDHS)

The ORI page linked above provides a collection of resources on mentorship. Included is a guidebook on RCR topics for culturally diverse trainee groups; videos of tips for mentoring international postdocs, and a teaching module for self-paced learning especially for those in the early stages of their research careers.

Research and Mentoring Agreements ("Compacts")

Many professors, researchers and scholars find it beneficial to have written documents of understanding, or “compacts,” to clarify the responsibilities of all involved in a laboratory or other research setting.  Below are examples of such agreements. Remember that while a written document signed by all parties may not always be needed, it can be extremely helpful to start a conversation about the issues these compacts cover--especially at the outset of a research endeavor.

  • Compact Between Biomedical Graduate Students and Their Research Advisers (AAMC): Excerpt: “These guiding principles are intended to support the development of a positive mentoring relationship between the pre-doctoral student and their research advisor. A successful student-mentor relationship requires commitment from the student, mentor, graduate program, and institution. This document offers a set of broad guidelines which are meant to initiate discussions at the local and national levels about the student-mentor relationship.” This compact is used by faculty in the Molecular Biosciences Program at Rutgers.
  • Compact Between Graduate Students in Chemistry and Their Research Advisors* : Posted on a chemistry professor's blog at Oregon State, this compact outlines the commitments for students and advisers in a mentoring relationship.*(Permission received 5/22/18 from Oregon State University for use of this compact)
  • Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors (AAMC): Excerpt: “The Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors is intended to initiate discussions at the local and national levels about the postdoctoral appointee-mentor relationship and the commitments necessary for a high quality postdoctoral training experience.” It is intended to serve as a model and be modified to fit with local circumstances.
  • Compact for Graduate Students, University of Wisconsin-Madison*: A sample mentoring compact from a research group that outlines expectations for advisers and students in their mentoring relationship. *(Permission received 5/21/18 from Dr. McMahon for use of this compact)
  • Compact: A Guide for Research Students*: A sample agreement written by Dr. Norman Ramsey of Tufts University that lays out a compact between himself and students in his research group, laying out expectations of how research will be performed, how research data will be kept, authorship responsibilities, and responsibilities of both the students and the advisor. *(Permission received 5/21/18 from Dr. Ramsey for use of this compact)

CITI Training in Responsible Conduct of Research

“CITI” stands for Collaborative Institution Training Initiative. These online courses are developed by experts and rigorously peer reviewed to incorporate various perspectives and ensure accuracy, completeness, and overall quality. CITI continually reviews their content on an ongoing basis to make sure it aligns with the most current thinking and federal requirements. Rutgers has a paid subscription to this service; there is no cost to you to take these online courses.  CITI Responsible Conduct of Research modules include:

  • Biomedical Responsible Conduct of Research Course
  • Social and Behavioral Responsible Conduct of Research Course
  • Physical Science Responsible Conduct of Research Course
  • Responsible Conduct of Research for Engineers
  • Responsible Conduct of Research for Administrators
  • The RCR for Business and Science, Group A [Using Animal Subjects in Research]
  • The RCR for Business and Science, Group B [Environmental and Social Dimensions of Engineering Research]
  • The RCR for ECE [Environmental and Social Dimensions of Engineering Research]


Enter the CITI Training Website:

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Publication Practices (UMDNJ Office of Academic Affairs)

Concise advice on publishing of research.  Excerpt: “Consistent with journal editorial policy, each publication should contain the information needed for the replication of the research by scientific peers, and for the assessment of the results and conclusions by knowledgeable readers.”  From: “Guidelines for Investigators in Scientific Research,” published by UMDNJ-Office of Academic Affairs, 65 Bergen Street, Newark, New Jersey 07107 (1995)

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Rigor and Reproducibility (National Institutes of Health):

Excerpt: “Scientific rigor and transparency in conducting biomedical research is key to the successful application of knowledge toward improving health outcomes. The information provided on this website is designed to assist the extramural community in addressing rigor and transparency in NIH grant applications and progress reports."

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Scientific Records and Research Data

Concise advice on scientific record-keeping.  Excerpt: “Investigators are obligated to record and preserve data in a form that allows future scrutiny and evaluation. … Inability to produce well-kept original research data may place the integrity of the research itself into question.”  From: “Guidelines for Investigators in Scientific Research,” published by UMDNJ-Office of Academic Affairs, 65 Bergen Street, Newark, New Jersey 07107 (1995)

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Recognizing Predatory Publishing

This guide from Rutgers University Libraries helps to identify potential non-scholarly, for profit only publishing practices, also known as predatory publishing.

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Scientific Method: Statistical Errors

P values, the  'gold standard' of statistical validity, are not as reliable as many scientists assume. From: Nature, international weekly journal of science, 12 February 2014.  Author: Regina Nuzzo

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Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (National Academy of Engineering):

The Online Ethics Center is a resource maintained by the Center for Engineering Ethics and Society at the National Academy of Engineering. The site has ethics training for all disciplines. The mission of the OEC includes serving those advance understanding of responsible research and practice in engineering and science.

If you have questions or would like to offer feedback or suggestions for additional resources to include in this toolkit, please contact us. If you currently use a compact agreement in your research area and would like it added here, contact us