Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is research ethics?
Some think of ethics as rules that distinguish between right and wrong. In research we follow norms of conduct in a discipline that help us distinguish what behaviors are acceptable and which ones are unacceptable. Research misconduct is a result of unacceptable behavior in research.
2. Who needs training in research ethics?
While federal regulations require training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and undergraduate students engaged in federally-funded research, UNM recommends that all members of the academic community who are engaged in research or who support the practice of scholarly inquiry participate in some level of ethics training.
3. Who is required to be certified in research ethics?
Every UNM researcher who is a student, graduate student, or post-doc supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) must become RCR certified within one year of the award.
4. What are the federal requirements for RCR certification?
Every UNM researcher who is a student, graduate student, or post-doc supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), or the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) must become RCR certified within one year of the award.
Effective January 4, 2010, institutions applying for financial assistance from NSF must certify that they have a plan to provide appropriate RCR training and oversight to undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers. Effective January 25, 2010, NIH requires RCR instruction for all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (in/dividual or institutional), research education grant, or dissertation research grant. In February 2013, NIFA issued requirements for program directors, faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and any staff participating in the research project to receive appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research and that documentation of such training will be maintained.
The requirements stipulated by the federal funding agencies are similar, but not identical. UNM’s training requirements satisfy the requirements of any of these federal funding agencies, even when the policies differ from one another. For example, UNM’s list of RCR core subject areas encompasses the lists of similar, but slightly different, core subject areas recommended by each agency. As part of its commitment to support an environment that promotes and fosters excellence in research, AIRE serves as a central resource for ensuring that appropriate standards are met for RCR instruction and that it complies with federal regulations. For more information, refer to the university Scientific Integrity Plan (SIP).
5. What topics are included in RCR instruction?
Research ethics encompasses a wide variety of interesting topics that are relevant across a breadth of disciplines and fields of study. RCR instruction typically covers the following core topic areas:
- Conflict of interest and commitment
- Ethical use of human and animal subjects in research
- Authorship and publication
- Data acquisition, management, ownership, sharing, and reproducibility
- Peer review
- Mentoring and mentee relationships
- Research misconduct (plagiarism, fabrication, falsification) and whistleblower ethics
- Collaborative research, including with industry
- Scientists as responsible members of society
6. How can I find out if I am already RCR-certified?
7. I already earned my CITI (or AALAS) certification. Do I still need RCR certification?
The Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI Program) provides online training content to ensure compliance in a variety of research areas, including Human Subjects Research (HSR) and Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). The AALAS Learning Library provides online training that is essential for technicians, veterinarians, managers, investigators, and members of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). You may be required to complete CITI or AALAS training as part of a research methods course or IRB application. To meet federal funding requirements, however, you are also required to earn RCR certification through face-to-face interaction at your research institution. RCR certification is focused less on compliance and more on a deeper understanding of ethics pertaining to your specific discipline and research activities.
8. What’s the difference between ethics and compliance?
Research ethics involves the application of fundamental ethical principles to a variety of topics involving research, including scientific research. These include the design and implementation of research involving human experimentation, animal experimentation, and various aspects of academic integrity and scientific misconduct such as fraud, fabrication of data, plagiarism, and whistleblowing. In the world of research ethics, the main goal is for researchers and scholars to want to do their best work because they know of their responsibilities to contribute to and advance knowledge in their field.
In addition to those ethical responsibilities to society and your field, most federal agencies have additional compliance requirements that come with accepting their funding support. You have an obligation to comply with both the federal funding agencies and with UNM policy found in the Scientific Integrity Plan (SIP). Part of that obligation is to complete training in responsible conduct of research (RCR) within 1 year of accepting funding or being supported by funds that someone else (such as your advisor) has accepted. There are several other compliance offices at UNM that you should be aware of and might need to contact at some point. For example, if you work with animals in research, contact the Office of Animal Care Compliance. If you are conducting research involving humans, contact the Office of the Institutional Review Board. Remember to contact these offices BEFORE you plan on starting any research project at UNM to ensure that you are in compliance with ethical standards.
9. How do I report actual research misconduct?
If you wish to schedule a consultation to discuss a suspected case of research misconduct, please make an appointment by contacting the AIRE office at 505-277-3488 or emailing Dr. Gannon directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure that you are prepared to make a claim of misconduct. Review the university’s policy on research misconduct (Policy E40 in the Faculty Handbook) to ensure that you have evidence, support, and are following the correct process. Contact the Office of the Vice President for Research to begin the process of a research misconduct case. The AIRE website provides some additional suggestions for responsible whistleblowing. You may also contact the UNM Compliance Hotline: unm.ethicspoint.com or 1-888-899-6092.
10. Why is Academic Integrity & Research Ethics (AIRE) affiliated with Graduate Studies?
AIRE is a campus-wide service housed and fostered in Graduate Studies and strongly supported by the Provost's Office and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Providing services for deans, colleges, departments, chairs, staff, faculty, students and community members, AIRE is an important part of the university’s ongoing reputation as an institution of research excellence.
11. Where is the AIRE office?
Academic Integrity & Research Ethics (AIRE) has offices and support in the Graduate Studies “Den,” well positioned in the center of campus in the University Advisement and Enrichment Center (UAEC), Room B69 (Building 85 on this map). You can also go to the main Graduate Studies office in the Humanities building to get directions or leave us a note.
12. Is AIRE the same as the IRB?
AIRE and the IRB work closely together but serve different purposes. AIRE is a central resource for establishing and upholding research standards as described in the university’s Scientific Integrity Plan (SIP). This includes ensuring that appropriate standards are met for instruction of the responsible conduct of research (RCR), and that RCR instruction complies with regulations of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is designated to protect the rights and welfare of research participants by reviewing and monitoring research involving human volunteers. The IRB has the authority to:
- Approve research
- Require modifications in order to secure approval
- Disapprove research (convened IRB only)
- Suspend or terminate previously approved research
- Monitor consent process / conduct of research
- Investigate allegations
13. Where do I find out about classes or workshops to earn my certification in research ethics?
Visit the Academic Integrity & Research Ethics (AIRE) section of PAW (Professional & Academic Workshops) to see a current list of RCR course offerings. PAW is a consortium of student support organizations that offers workshops for the benefit and improved success of students. In addition to RCR training, you can view a wide variety of educational offerings ranging from teaching to research to funding and more. Many of these workshops are developed for graduate students; however, they would also be informative and useful for undergraduate students, staff, and faculty.
RCR certification typically requires a minimum of eight hours of face-to-face instruction, though there may be opportunities to earn certification in various blended learning formats. Contact Dr. Gannon (email@example.com) for further information.
14. How can I request research ethics training for students in my department or class?
To request a personal, classroom, or departmental ethics consultation, RCR training, or beyond, please contact Dr. Gannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
15. Can a class in which I teach ethics count toward RCR certification?
Current ethics classes may count toward RCR certification. Please contact Dr. Gannon at email@example.com to inquire.