Responsible Conduct of Research

Oklahoma State University has an ethical obligation to ensure that all students, faculty, staff, and other employees conducting research do so by applying the highest ethical standards.

Federal funding agencies and research institutions are becoming increasingly pro-active in ensuring that researchers and students learn about ethical principles and apply them to their work. In 2000, the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) issued the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research. If the policy had been approved, ORI would require all research institutions that receive PHS funding to require training in ethics for all research staff who have direct and substantive involvement in proposing, performing, reviewing or reporting research, or who receive research training supported by PHS funds or who otherwise work on PHS-supported research, even if the individual does not receive PHS support.

This broad-ranging mandate was suspended later in 2000 "pending review of its substance and whether the document should have been issued as a regulation rather than as a policy." Later that year the Office of Science and Technology Policy offered new definitions and procedures to standardize responses by federal funding agencies to allegations of research misconduct. The National Science Foundation registered its intention to revise its misconduct regulations to conform to the new federal policy.

It is in this context that research institutions are developing and offering training in the responsible conduct of research. These web pages provide condensed information on the nine core areas that PHS has determined to be significant in conducting responsible research and ensuring integrity of the research record. Other pages include helpful links to organizational and governmental sites. The training page offers excellent training materials in research ethics and the responsible conduct of research. The web pages for activities involving human subjects and animal models also offer similar training opportunities.

The training materials encourage investigators and students to think critically about what it means to be an ethical researcher. It is possible to be in compliance without being an ethical researcher. Being in compliance means following the rules and policies. Ethical research requires an understanding and appreciation of the ethical imperatives behind the rules.

If you have questions, email us at rcr.ethics@okstate.edu