The Responsible Conduct of Research (MED 255)
The Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) course is designed to engage participants in productive discussions about ethical issues that are commonly encountered during their research careers. This course is required for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Many departments and programs also recommend or require this course as part of their curricula.
The objectives of both courses are:
To engage participants in case-based discussions of ethical issues commonly encountered in, and raised by, current biomedical research.
To introduce participants to methods of analysis of ethical issues
To introduce participants to policies and regulations relevant to the conduct of research.
MED 255 has been designed specifically to engage bench researchers in productive discussions about ethical issues commonly encountered during their scientific research careers, and addresses contemporary debates at the interface of biomedical science and society. View the current Academic Year schedule for MED 255 here.
View the syllabus here.
Topics covered include:
- Authorship and inventorship
- Data integrity and information
- Safe research environments
- Conflicts of interest
- Regulatory basics
- Collaborative and Community-Engaged Research
- Human biological materials
- Societal responsibility
- Rigor and Reproducibility
In every class section there will be discussion sessions based on cases and dilemmas that will be distributed to participants. Participants are also free to bring up situations that they have heard about or experienced themselves.
Required Pre-Class Assignment & Optional Readings
There are 7 required video lectures that students must view to complete the required pre-class assignment (the MED255 Study Guide). The Study Guide is due one week prior to class. In-class discussions will draw heavily on the topics of the assigned videos. There are also optional reference readings available.
This course fulfills NIH requirements for training in research ethics. Documentation of attendance is very important, so you must sign the attendance sheet.
RCR classes fill very quickly, we strongly encourage students to enroll for the course you want on the day that registration opens for the term in which you wish to take the course.
Graduate students can enroll through Axess: https://axess.stanford.edu/
Post-docs, faculty, staff, and affiliates can enroll through STARS: https://uit.stanford.edu/service/stars
For further information, please contact email@example.com.
MED 255 Instructors
Daphne Martschenko, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Holly Tabor, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions related to RCR.
NIH Requirements for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research
MED 255 is a necessary, but not always sufficient, component of training in responsible conduct of research. Please be sure to contact your funder to inquire about additional requirements beyond MED 255.
In general, however, the NIH requires several components of training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) including:
- The required MED 255 or 255C course;
- Refresher RCR instruction at each stage of training (e.g., graduate, postdoc, etc);
- Continuing informal or formal training in research ethics throughout the year; and
- The involvement of your departmental research faculty in supplemental and continuing instruction in research ethics.
1) Instruction Format
The NIH requirements highly encourage multiple forms of RCR training, including formal courses (such as MED 255 or Med 255C), small-group discussions, and instruction by research training faculty members.
NIH applicants will need to describe the format for Med 255, which is described in the template PDF below.
Applicants will also need to describe the format they will use to provide continuing and ongoing training and instruction in research ethics/RCR (using their own faculty) throughout the year for each year of the trainees’ fellowship. These may be lectures, panel discussions, colloquia providing refreshers on topics covered in Med 255 (see Subject Matter), but they may also cover topics of specific ethical concern in the trainees’ field not covered by Med 255.
2) Subject Matter
The NIH lists several topics they strongly suggest RCR programs to cover, all of which are covered in MED 255:
- Conflict of interest
- Policies regarding human subjects
- Mentor/mentee responsibilities
- Collaborative research
- Peer review
- Data acquisition
- Research misconduct
- Contemporary ethical issues
3) Faculty Participation
In addition to the MED 255/Med 255C faculty, some training programs require that the department’s own faculty be involved in further RCR instruction. The NIH states, “Training faculty and sponsors/mentors are highly encouraged to contribute both to formal and informal instruction in responsible conduct of research. Informal instruction occurs in the course of laboratory interactions and in other informal situations throughout the year. Training faculty may contribute to formal instruction in responsible conduct of research as discussion leaders, speakers, lecturers, and/or course directors. Rotation of training faculty as course directors, instructors, and/or discussion leaders may be a useful way to achieve the ideal of full faculty participation in formal responsible conduct of research courses over a period of time.” (see “Guidelines: Faculty Representation”)
Some institutes only require informal training by a faculty mentor, while others require actual formal instructor, preferably by faculty in training. If you participate in formal training, please include the names of the participating faculty members in your grant. Faculty and staff at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics may also be available to assist by serving as additional panelists.
4) Duration of Instruction
The NIH suggests training in RCR that spans across a longer interval of time in order to allow sufficient exploration and consolidation of the material. Instruction should also involve at least 8 contact hours between you and the participating faculty. The duration of instruction for Med 255 and Med 255C is covered in the PDF template below. Applicants will also need to describe the duration of instruction beyond Med 255 or Med 255C.
5) Frequency of Instruction
Some institutes require ongoing instruction throughout the year for each year of fellowship in addition to MED 255 or Med 255C, or may require retaking MED 225 or Med 255C at each stage of training.
We have created a Template that you may use as the basis of your grant. Please be sure to supplement the template with funder-specific requirements, and address all structural components mentioned above.
In every class section there will be discussion sessions based on cases and dilemmas that will be distributed to participants. These discussions will draw heavily on the assigned pre-class videos and required pre-class assignment (MED255 Study Guide). Currently, only a single-day intensive format class is offered. Multiple sections are offered in Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarters. One section is usually offered in Summer Quarter. Please see the MED 255 schedule for the current Academic Year here.
Optional, but informative, reference readings for each class are available here. Participants are not required complete these readings.
Dropping an Intensive Class
We have more people who want to take the intensive RCR class than available spaces. As a result, there are always students to fill extra spaces in these sections. If someone drops the course shortly before the class date, we cannot fill that space because no one can do the prep work in time. If you do not wish to remain in the class, please drop it as soon as possible to allow others to successfully enroll. Students who drop an intensive class within two weeks of the class date will not be allowed to register for the course directly next term.
Post-docs, faculty, staff, affiliates, and others who enroll through STARS and successfully completing the course will receive a certificate that can be used to demonstrate completion of research ethics training to fulfill NIH requirements. Graduate students who successfully complete the course will have certification of research ethics training on their transcripts. If you have any questions please send an email to email@example.com.