1. Remove all the fluff. We don’t need for you to tell us that you are “committed to RCR at every level of your career” when you can demonstrate it through your experiences. What have you actually done that shows me that you’ve had conversations about research integrity or that you’ve grappled with difficult decisions?
  2. Don’t kill me with “RCR.” I know lots of scholars who specialize in research integrity who physically shudder when people use the term “RCR.” Some of them will only allow RCR if the writer puts a “the” in front of it. Let’s hope you don’t get that reviewer. Although I’m not like that, I do get tired of reading RCR over and over again. It loses its meaning. Try switching it up a bit. Use “research integrity” or “research ethics.” You can even use “bioethics.” Use what feels right to you. It is also helpful to think about the specific content areas and the subtopics within them. Don’t just call it “human subjects research” when you could write about informed consent or data safety monitoring.
  3. It’s not a grocery list. There is no need to try to squeeze in every content area in the RCR. No one is going to check to make sure you covered all the areas. It’s quality of exposure and experience, not quantity of topics. I’ve read some plans that were literally a bulleted list of all the content areas and confirmation that the author had learned about them in CITI training. Well, we at least know this scholar can copy and paste.
  4. Show some progression. Your past RCR instruction should include several examples of passive RCR learning, which I refer to as being a consumer of RCR. You need to move beyond the passive and talk about how you translate that knowledge through active experimentation with research integrity in your current RCR instruction, which includes experiences in the lab or the clinic, with your mentors or as part of a peer mentoring group. Finally, you should write about your planned or future RCR instruction, in which you become an ambassador for RCR throughout biomedical academia. You should show that you will move from being simply a consumer of RCR instruction to a creator of RCR instructional materials (for example). Instead of attending a seminar or grand rounds about RCR you should be leading one. Instead of simply being mentored in the RCR you should be mentoring others. Progression is everything.
  5. Be specific. Every discipline has its own hot topics in the big research ethics tent. What’s the issue for you? Maybe you’re working in liver transplant and a hot topic today is the ethical issue of paying organ donors or the ethical issues surrounding using an organ from a diseased person. Or you’re an orthopedic surgeon and you want to explore patient-centered alternatives to arthroscopic partial meniscectomy. What are the pertinent ethical issues here? Could you tease some of them into your future planned instruction? The more specific you can be in writing about your hot topic (without making it feel like a checklist, see above) the better it will read.

Author: Sam Gannon, EdD

More Resources

Counting What Counts in Responsible Conduct of Research Training 

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR): The Importance of Ethics, Whistleblowing, and Mentoring

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Nice article, thanks!  However, I’ll raise an issue with point #3.  I actually have had reviewers come back with a “Unacceptable” review of the RCR section on a K because it didn’t address the “five points.”  In other words, some reviewers do actually want the grocery list, and will ding you if you don’t show it that way.  Here’s the direct quote from my summary sheet:
TRAINING IN THE RESPONSIBLE CONDUCT OF RESEARCH (Resume): Unacceptable.  The five points are not adequately covered.”
I gave them a grocery list on the resubmission, and that, apparently, was what they wanted.  YMMV.

Hello Josh,
Thanks for your comment. When I referenced the laundry list, I was referring to the 9 NIH “categories” for RCR:
1. conflict of interest – personal, professional, and financial
2. policies regarding human subjects, live vertebrate animal subjects in research, and safe laboratory practices
3. mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships
4. collaborative research including collaborations with industry
5. peer review
6. data acquisition and laboratory tools; management, sharing and ownership
7. research misconduct and policies for handling misconduct
8. responsible authorship and publication
9. the scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research

These can be found here: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-10-019.html

Reviewers don’t want to see these (above) checked off as such. As for the required modalities, yes, you are correct that they should all be there!

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