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Frequently Asked Questions

Research Ethics

What is research ethics?

The focus of research ethics includes regulations, guidelines, and policies, as well as unwritten standards that govern responsibilities of researchers in the performance observation, discovery, experimentation, development, and application of knowledge in diverse scholarly activities.

Why teach research ethics?

Although central to the conduct of research, the topic of research ethics is comprised of issues that are neither self-evident nor routinely taught in either formal or informal settings. For this reason, federal agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation) have imposed increasing requirements for training in responsible conduct of research, and many graduate programs are independently requiring such training for all students. However this topic should be taught not only because of requirements but because of responsibilities to individual researchers, to the practice of science, to the public served by the research enterprise, and to the global community in which science is conducted. Find out more.


What is required?

The NIH, NSF, and sometimes individual departments or institutions will require RCR education. Requirements and circumstances vary, which means it is up to the individual to determine whether any particular course or other educational experience will be sufficient. For this reason it is recommended that if there is any question about what is necessary, then the individual should check with whoever sets the requirement. The requirements are not set by the UC San Diego Research Ethics Program.

What are the NIH requirements?

What are the NSF requirements?

Current requirement can be found at: NSF Grantee Standards (2010).

What is the reason for the requirements?

Although the requirements vary, the spirit of those requirements is best met by diverse approaches that reflect ethical reflection as a part of, rather than separate from, the practice of research. One part of that approach can be passive distribution of guidelines, readings, or online tutorials, but such approaches need to be supplemented by active learning experiences based on analysis, discussion, debate, role-playing, etc. Find out more.


What courses are offered?

The Research Ethics Program and San Diego Research Ethics Consortium offer many courses and workshops at various times throughout the year. To see a list of course offerings, please see the Education homepage.

Which course should I take?

All of the courses are designed to meet NIH and NSF training requirements for responsible conduct of research; however, it is up to the PI (Principal Investigator) of the NIH or NSF award to determine if any given course is appropriate to what they have proposed or will be proposing. If you are required to take a course because of a departmental requirement then you should check with your department to ensure that any given course will be sufficient to meet that requirement.

What if I have taken a course previously?

Depending on your requirement, you may still have to take a full course again. However, if acceptable to those who have set the requirement, then you may be eligible to take a "refresher" option. This is defined as attendance and participation in two sessions — other than the introductory meeting — of one of the Research Ethics Program courses. For information see Refresher Options.

How can I find out more about the available courses?

Syllabi for the most recently taught version of each of these courses can be found on the web pages for each course:

What if we need training or other services are needed that aren't otherwise covered by the campus?

The UC San Diego Research Ethics Program offers a variety of consulting and teaching services on a recharge basis. For more information, please contact the Research Ethics Program.


How do I register for these courses?

Any researcher or student interested in taking any of the Research Ethics Program courses is requested to use the Research Ethics Program registration form. In addition to completing the Research Ethics Program registration form, UC San Diego students may register for academic credit for Scientific Ethics (BENG 292 / BGGN 207 / BNFO 294 / BIOM 219 / PATH 224) on WebReg.

Who may take these courses?

The courses are open to anyone in the UC San Diego community who needs to meet NIH requirements for training in responsible conduct of research or anyone in the Health Sciences. All others at UC San Diego or from any of the participating San Diego Research Ethics Consortium institutions may participate in the courses on a recharge basis.

How can I receive credit for completing the course?

Anyone who completes the requirements of the course will receive a pdf certificate document certifying completion.

Resources for Students

Resources for Teachers

What resources are available for teaching research ethics?

UC San Diego hosts an internationally recognized website, Resources for Research Ethics Education, which provides guidance to instructors of research ethics both in the classroom and in the context of research.