NSF Requirement for Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

In August of 2009, NSF announced that all applicant institutions are required to have a plan in place to provide appropriate training and oversight in the ethical and responsible conduct of research (RCR) to all undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows who receive salary or stipend support from awards associated with NSF applications submitted on or after January 4, 2010. 

In July of 2023, the policy was updated to indicate that principal investigators of NSF-funded projects must also receive RCR training.

NSF also requires all institutions to track and verify completion of RCR education for each trainee supported by NSF grant funds.

NSF does not specify the format, content or other details regarding the delivery of RCR education. Rather, NSF allows the institution to determine the appropriate RCR educational needs based on the individual’s stage of training, research responsibilities and discipline.

Details as to the NSF statutory requirement, institutional and principal investigator responsibilities, most frequently asked questions (FAQ), and related information can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/rcr.jsp and related links. Note that exceptions to this requirement include NSF awards made solely for the support of conferences, symposia, workshops or travel.

CU Boulder Plan for Meeting NSF Requirements

All CU Boulder research trainees or student employees supported by NSF grant funds can meet NSF requirements in one of three ways:

  1. Complete the online course offered by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). See instructions.
  2. Complete an interactive classroom-based course offered by various departments on the CU Boulder or UC Denver Anschutz Medical campus. Students are required to take the course for credit and achieve a grade of B or higher. Postdocs may audit the course and request a letter of certification from the instructor. See available courses.
  3. Complete the RCR course offered in the fall semester each year that is specifically designed to meet the NSF and NIH RCR requirement. Contact the RCR Coordinator at rcr@colorado.edu for details and to enroll.

If completion of RCR training is accomplished through a departmental course, please complete the CU Boulder RCR Completion Form. Sign the original and submit it to the RCR Coordinator (campus mailbox: 596 UCB, or email rcr@colorado.edu). Give a copy to your mentor/PI for the NSF-funded award, and keep a copy for your records. Completion of RCR requirements through CITI does not require the filing of a Completion Form as CITI will notify the RCR coordinator.

Timeline for Completion of Training in RCR at CU Boulder

The online RCR training option should be completed within 90 days of the start of salary/stipend support from a NSF grant award. The classroom-based course option normally should be completed within 12 months of the appointment period on the NSF grant in question.


For questions concerning NSF RCR requirements, please first check the FAQ link on the NSF RCR website described above and this Federal Office of Research Integrity RCR FAQ document. Remaining questions can be addressed to the CU Boulder RCR Coordinator at rcr@colorado.edu.