Responsible and Ethical Research (16:486:501)

Zero-credits (which means no tuition, exams, projects, or grades).

Responsible and Ethical Research is a series of four discussion-based workshops that are intended to sharpen and develop the decision-making and communication skills of graduate students to make all better able to handle various sorts of dilemmas and difficult situations. The course is relevant to students of any discipline.

Discussion will focus on how to communicate with advisors, mentors, and collaborators and what to do if you find yourself in an ethical dilemma.

The only requirement is to attend and participate in the discussions. The course may appear on the transcript with a grade of S for anyone who attends.

The content is designed so as to be consistent with the requirements of the National Science Foundation for graduate students who are supported on NSF grants or fellowships. However, students who are not supported by the NSF are welcome and encouraged to attend.


Main Topics:

Avoiding Research Misconduct
Misconduct (defined by the US Office of Research Integrity as “falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism”) occurs more frequently than you might think, often because individuals do not even realize that what they are doing is out of bounds of accepted practices. (For example, what are the accepted policies in citing and quoting the work of others?) Discussion will focus on how to communicate about these issues with advisors, mentors, and collaborators and what to do if you find yourself in an ethical dilemma.

Managing Dilemmas in Research
Each field tries to develop standards and conventions that define responsible research practices and act to guide researchers’ decisions. Yet questions continually arise, particularly in emerging and cutting-edge topics. Often questions surround very basic concerns: How much data do I need to gather to provide a fair test of the hypotheses and submit my work for publication? What do I do to avoid error and mistakes? What sorts of mathematical or statistical analyses are appropriate to avoid misleading conclusions?  How do I work out fair arrangements with collaborators?

Ethics of Publishing: Authorship and Peer Review
What are the responsibilities of an author?  Who gets to be an author and who decides?  What happens to submissions when they fall into the hands of reviewers and editors? What are the ethical obligations of reviewers and editors?  How do we determine the existence of conflicts of interest? 

Managing Relationships with Mentors
What are the responsibilities of mentors and mentees?  How do we recognize potential areas of disagreements and conflicts of interest, and what can we do to prevent and resolve them?



1.  Who is the intended audience for this course?

Graduate students enrolled in doctoral programs. This course has been taken by students in all fields and disciplines. Note: Those who need training in research ethics to satisfy requirements of an NIH grant should take 16:115:556. 

2.  What is the format?

Group discussion organized around selected case studies.

3. What topics will be covered?

See list above. The selection of topics is following the recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences in their short book “On Being a Scientist” but may go beyond this to include topics of current interest to the group.

4.  Can anyone attend or is attendance limited to those who registered?

Registration is encouraged because of seating limits.

5.  Will the course appear on the transcript?

Yes, for those who register and attend. As a zero-credit course there is no tuition cost and no formal grade

6.  Does this course fulfill requirements for ethics training for students supported by NSF?

We believe so, but we are not involved with monitoring compliance. Check with the Office of Research and Economic Development for questions about compliance.

7. Does this course satisfy Responsible Conduct of Research Training for the NIH?

This course is not designed to meet all the responsible research requirements of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Students who need to take a Responsible Research course to satisfy NIH requirements should take Ethical Scientific Conduct (16:115:556) or Ethical Scientific Conduct Refresher (16:115:558). If you are unsure about what to do in order to meet NIH requirements, please contact Assistant Dean Janet Alder for assistance.

8.  Are you covering Human Subjects or Animal Welfare issues?

No. Those who need training in Human subject or animal welfare should check the web site of the Rutgers Office of Research and Economic Development.


Have questions? Contact Senior Associate Dean Eileen Kowler.