National Science Foundation (NSF) RCR Requirements

Observations from NSF Plagiarism Investigations and Strategies to Prevent Plagiarism


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 sub-awardees, at all tiers.
  • Exclusions -  ‚Äč
    • 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.

On a timely basis, from receipt of award throughout the duration of the NSF project, PIs are responsible for:

  1. Identifying all known personnel (faculty, staff, postdocs, and students) 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. Beginning August 2022, Auburn University requires all research personnel to complete RCR Training at least every three years. 
  • 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 research personnel (faculty, staff, postdocs, and students) who will participate in the project must complete RCR training. 
  • After Initial Processing - All research personnel added to the project must complete RCR Training before participation or payment from the project. 
  • Before Training Expiration - Training of research personnel participating in an ongoing NSF project must be extended before their RCR Training Certificate expires three (3) years after the completion date. 
  • 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 AU Basic RCR Training for ALL Faculty, Staff, Postdocs, and Students course. 
  • Training Expiration and Extension -  A CITI RCR Training Certificate earned by completing the RCR Basic course expires after three (3) years.  The Basic RCR course must be completed again to renew the certificate.
  • 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.