Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

Unequivocal scientific integrity is fundamental to meaningful and objective scientific research. Our plans to provide instruction on ethics in research training are summarized below. The Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences (DBBS), which hosts 12 PhD training programs in biomedical sciences, recognizes the importance of the issues surrounding academic and research integrity, and has taken several steps to facilitate education in these matters, which will be implemented in this post-doctoral program as well.

Description of RCR instruction

First, every trainee will receive the Washington University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Academic Integrity Policy, which describes the offenses which constitute violations of academic integrity, and details the procedure which will be followed in all cases where active misconduct appears to be an issue. Trainees will also receive copies of the Research Integrity Policy for Washington University which deals specifically with the University’s policies for reporting and investigating violations of the responsible conduct of research. Finally, each trainee will be provided with a copy of “On Being a Scientist, Third Edition” published by the National Academy of Sciences ( These policies will be reviewed by the Program Director with each trainee. These policies are also available on the University website so that students have constant access to them (including updated versions).

All trainees will be required to take the Ethics in Biostatistics course offered by the MSCI program (Master of Science in Clinical Investigation) in each Spring semester. This course prepares clinical researchers to critically evaluate ethical and regulatory issues in clinical and biomedical research. The principal goal of this course is to prepare researchers to identify ethical issues in research and the situational factors that give rise to them, to identify ethics and compliance resources, and to foster ethical problem-solving skills. The course meets once a week for two hours throughout the spring semester.

Also, all trainees are required to successfully complete the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Course in The Protection of Human Research Subjects. The web-based training program and certification course used by Washington University was developed out of collaboration between the University of Miami and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The CITI course will take the average learner approximately 4.5 hrs in the Basic Course site.

Finally, Washington University provides education in RCR via PERCSS, the Program for Ethical and Responsible Conduct in Science and Scholarship. PERCSS offers face-to-face workshops and web-based learning modules. Each workshop begins with two lectures that provide introduction to common ethical issues and Washington University policies and guidelines related to research. The second half of the workshop is devoted to small group discussion lead by WUSTL senior faculty. Groups discuss hot topics and case studies related to responsible conduct of research. PERCSS web-based learning modules are also available. PERCSS is a voulntary program at Washington University but will be required for trainees selected for this program. These workshops are three hours in duration and are offered 2-3 times annually. The computer modules are readily available.