Purpose: To identify existing responsible conduct of research (RCR) instructors’ goals for RCR education.
Method: E-mail requests were sent to the 116 recipients of National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grants awarded in 2000. Contacts were successfully made with 92 of the recipients, and 84 (91%) identified one or more RCR instructors for their grants. Of the 115 named instructors, 67 were correctly identified as RCR instructors and responded to our e-mail messages.
Results: Of the 67 instructors, 50 (75%) from 37 different institutions were interviewed. The reported goals were diverse: over 50 distinct goals were volunteered by the instructors. A secondary finding is that, despite having been identified by training grant directors as teachers of required RCR courses, nearly 25% of these individuals reported that they were not actually RCR instructors, and 22% of those interviewed were not aware that NIH trainees were required to take their courses. Further, whereas 80% of the respondents reported that RCR instruction was required for individuals other than NIH trainees, only 1 of the 50 reported that her/his course was required for all researchers within the institution.
Conclusions: Identifying effective strategies for RCR education depends on first defining measurable outcomes based on well-defined goals. The findings of this study suggest a lack of consensus about those goals. In addition, the confusion about who teaches RCR courses and the rare expectation that RCR education is required for all researchers are disappointing reminders that RCR education is not universally viewed as central to research.