National Science Foundation (NSF) RCR Requirements

PI Ensures Required RCR Training of All Student and Postdoc Researchers on NSF-Funded Projects

JUMP TO:

⇒ PI Responsibilities

⇒ When to Train

⇒ How to Train

Statutory Requirements. NSF Grant General Conditions implement Section 7009 of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act and require that a grantee "must have a plan in place to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research (RCR) to undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct research." (COMPETES Act, Effective January 4, 2010; NSF Grant General Conditions, No. 18, Effective January 25, 2016; See also NSF 16-1 Award & Administration Guide, Chapter IV.B.2., Effective January 25, 2016)

  • Applicability. RCR training is required of students (undergraduates and graduates) and postdocs who receive NSF funds by way of salary, stipend or scholarship support to conduct research on a NSF grant and/or as part of an academic program. This includes hosted students who receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships.
    • The RCR training requirements in a NSF awards flow down to subawardees, at all tiers. 
  • Exclusions. 
    • Faculty or employees working on NSF grants are not required to complete RCR training.
    • Students who receive only scholarship or stipend support to enroll in an academic program through NSF programs such as S-STEM and Noyce are not required to complete RCR training.
  • FAQs.  NSF has issued Frequently Asked Questions about the RCR training requirements.
  • In The News. Cronan, M. (2015). Avoiding the Mule's Kick at NSFResearch Development & Grant Writing News, 6 (4), 3-5.

►Auburn University Plan. AU has adopted and maintains a RCR training plan.


►PI Training Oversight Continuing ResponsibilitiesOn a timely basis, from receipt of award throughout the duration of the NSF project, PIs are responsible for: 1) Identifying all known students (undergraduates and graduates) and postdoctoral researchers who will participate in the project and 2) Ensuring their timely RCR training before participation or payment from the project

  • Include students and postdocs who "receive NSF funds" by way of salary or stipend or scholarship support to 1) conduct research on the NSF grant and/or 2) engage in research as part of their academic program. (NSF FAQs, No. 11)
  • PI Training.  Auburn University strongly encourages all researchers to complete RCR Training; however, NSF does not require faculty or employees to do so. 

►When to Train: Before Participation or Payment from the NSF Project

  • Before Award or Modification to Scope of Work Processing.  Before OSP processes the award or modification to scope of work, all known student and postdoc researchers who will participate in the project must complete RCR training
  • After Initial Processing. All student and postdoc researchers added to the project must complete RCR Training before participation or payment from the project. 
  • Before Training Expiration. Training of student and postdoc researchers participating in an ongoing NSF project must be extended before their RCR Training Certificate expires five (5) years after the completion date. See "Training Expiration and Extension," below.

►How to Train: Online via CITI

  • New CITI Users.  
  • Registered CITI Users. To complete RCR training, login to CITI, click "Add a Course or Update Learner Group" and add the appropriate RCR course. 
    • Basic or Refresher Stage? You must complete the RCR Basic course before taking the Refresher course.
    • Which RCR Course? 
      • CITI offers RCR training for various researcher learner groups: 1) Biomedical Sciences (includes modules for Human and Animal Subjects Research), 2) Social, Behavioral and Education Sciences (includes a module for Human Subjects Research only), 3) Humanities (same), 4) Engineering and Computing (same), and 5) Physical Sciences (no module for either Human or Animal Subjects Research). 
      • Your role and activities determine final course choice. 
      • You must choose a RCR Course other than Research Administration.
  • Training Expiration and Extension.  A CITI RCR Training Certificate earned by completing the RCR Basic course expires after five (5) years. Completing an appropriate RCR Refresher course extends a Training Certificate for another five (5) years.
    • Manual RCR Refresher Enrollment. If you have completed the RCR Basic Course, login to CITI, click "Add a Course or Update Learner Group" at your Main Menu and add an appropriate RCR Refresher course. See "Which RCR Course?" above. 
    • Automatic RCR Refresher Enrollment. You may receive an email from CITI informing you that your RCR training is expiring and enrolling you in a RCR Refresher course. Use the login in the email to access CITI, complete the Refresher course and extend your Training Certificate.  
      • Exception. If you are a researcher and you are automatically enrolled in the Research Administration RCR Refresher course, you must choose another RCR course. Login to CITIclick "Add a Course or Update Learner Group" and add an appropriate RCR Refresher course. Your role and activities determine your final course choice.
  • ​​Transferring Training Credits to Auburn University. If you would like to receive credit at Auburn University for CITI RCR modules previously taken at another institution, follow these CITI requirements to affiliate with AU and transfer credit. Modules transferred may or may not match the required modules in the AU RCR course you select.  You may need to complete additional modules to get full credit for the AU course.