Responsible Conduct of Research

Person working at lab bench

An essential element of training future generations of scientists is transmission of the standards and expectations of our field with respect to responsible conduct of research (RCR). We pay particular attention to those situations postdocs may encounter at this time in their career and discuss the responses, resources, and support that are available to them.  We also deal with issues that will be part of their transition to the next phases of their careers.

The formal venue for this training is the required, focused, and intensive course on responsible conduct of research dedicated to postdocs. We know that many of our postdocs will bring to the course their personal experiences.

Plan for instruction

Online courses

After completing the in-person course, all postdocs are required to complete two online courses in responsible conduct: Responsible Conduct of Research for Biomedical Sciences offered by CITI and the MIT required training for Human Subjects Research.

The CITI course lays out general principles and definitions, presents many case studies, and requires postdocs to pass a quiz to demonstrate their understanding. These exercises reinforce the principles put forward in class and help postdocs to integrate the material from different sessions. Satisfaction of the department’s training requirements includes satisfactory completion of these exercises.

Additional training and resources

Issues related to RCR can arise in the context of working in a particular laboratory or a particular field of science, and thesis advisors frequently provide domain-specific training or advice. Throughout their graduate careers, our postdocs have many opportunities to engage issues involving interactions between modern biology and society. For example, such issues as gene therapy, the complexities of genetic counseling, environmental carcinogens, synthetic biology, and sequencing/genotyping projects are touched upon in classes and inspire extended discussion.

In addition, there have been forums and lecture series on various aspects of science and society, which we publicize and encourage our postdocs to attend. There are other formats for discussion of responsible conduct of research, most notably forums organized by the provost’s office. Some of our faculty, postdocs, and postdocs have been active participants in these forums. We will continue to advertise these events and encourage our postdocs to participate in these programs.

During the in-person course, postdocs are provided with information about MIT policies and the many people and offices at MIT that they can turn to for help with concerns about responsible conduct. The course instructors explain whom in the department postdocs can talk with, and what obligations those people have to report certain sorts of conduct.

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