GRAD 214 Boilerplate Text

Plan for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research

The advancement of scientific knowledge depends upon cooperation, communication, and transparency among researchers, and public trust in our researchers and institutions. The graduate programs consider formal training in the responsible conduct of research to be of paramount importance to the success of graduate students at UCSF. To facilitate interdisciplinary discussion of methodological, procedural, and ethical issues that scientists encounter, the programs collectively organize and deliver instruction in the responsible conduct of research.

Prior Instruction and Participation

In 2003, faculty directors of all of UCSF’s basic science graduate programs convened to discuss options for coordinating this course between UCSF’s Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses and to discuss ways of improving RCR instruction for UCSF’s graduate students, formally designated as GRAD 214, “Ethics and the Responsible Conduct of Research”. As a result of this meeting, responsibility for course coordination was centralized first within Student Academic Affairs, and subsequently with the Graduate Division, enabling UCSF to expand and formalize course activities, ensuring a consistent and robust syllabus for our training grant funded students. The course director is Dr. Elizabeth Silva, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Silva has extensive experience in science policy, including research ethics, reproducibility of research, and training of biomedical graduate students and postdocs.

Proposed Plans

Between 2005 and 2018 the content was updated and improved annually (see Assessment). The course is required for all graduate students, both with and without NRSA support with parallel versions at each of UCSF’s Parnassus and Mission Bay Campuses to accommodate our multi-campus needs. It is a 2-credit course that has been approved by the UCSF Academic Senate. In 2019, significant, multi-stage restructuring began in order to meet the changing needs and demands of the biomedical research enterprise, and of the scientific leaders we are training. 

1. Format. GRAD 214 consists of seven sessions of 1.5 hours duration, each covering a different topic (see Subject Matter), and each session is offered twice, once at Mission Bay and once at Parnassus.

The primary instruction is face-to-face, led by UCSF faculty who are paired with senior on-campus staff who are experts in their field, such as staff who work with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Program or with the Office of Ethics and Compliance. For example, for the past several years Training Applications Analyst, Dr. Gina Alvino, has co-presented with a faculty member of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Dr. Alvino’s PhD is in animal welfare science, making her an invaluable resource to campus researchers. By pairing her with active research faculty who conduct studies in animals, the program communicates that institutional oversight works hand-in-hand with innovation and discovery. 

Sessions consist of a combination of didactic lecture, case studies, and small and large group discussion. In 2020 we are introducing online discussion groups using the campus Collaborative Learning Environment. The discussion groups are an addition to the existing program. Training grant faculty will participate as moderators of the discussions. 

2. Subject Matter. With our RCR training we seek to achieve two key objectives. The first is to provide trainees with a solid foundation in recognizing and handling the breadth of issues that challenge public trust in science, in addition to specific issues that any given trainee may face in the course of their own research. The second is to foster an appreciation that issues of responsible conduct permeate all aspects of professional scientific endeavors, and are not limited to merely avoiding overt and egregious misconduct in research. 

The seven topics covered in the most recently offered course include:

  1. scientific misconduct including fabrication, falsification and plagiarism;
  2. proper data management and record keeping, including sharing and ownership of data, acquiring and recording data;
  3. proper use of animals in research including issues relating to the minimization of number of subjects, species and pain, and appropriate considerations for study design including sex, and how these factors directly affect rigor and reproducibility; 
  4. human subjects in research, including the history of human subjects research, the Belmont report; human subjects committees and IRBs;
  5. responsible authorship and publication and grant making, including peer review, plagiarism, uniform requirements for manuscripts (ICMJE), confidentiality, self-plagiarism;
  6. conflict of interest issues, including corporate-academic interactions and collaborations;
  7. mentorship and being responsibly mentored, including the responsibilities of mentors and trainees, role of the mentor, conflicts between mentor and trainee, selection of a mentor and policies for handling misconduct.

3. Faculty Participation. Sessions are delivered by training grant research faculty who are at a range of career stages. Additional training grant faculty will be involved in moderation of our newly formed online discussion groups. A list of faculty participants in included in [[APPENDIX XX]].

4. Duration of Instruction. The course is offered through a series of seven sessions over the course of a single week. Each session involves 90 minutes of instruction and discussion, for a total of 10.5 hours of in-person training. The online discussion groups will provide additional forums for further exploration of the topics covered.

5. Frequency of Instruction. In 2019, the requirement was moved from spring quarter of students’ second year to spring quarter of students’ first year. Students must sign in at each session attended and must participate in each session in order to complete the course and receive full credit. Students register for this 2-credit course, and full participation is required for a passing grade.

6. Assessment. Students are required to hand in course evaluations at the end of each session. Comments and suggestions about course format, content, relevance, and presentation are used to improve the course in future years. This course evaluation process is thorough and direct. All students are required to assess the usefulness of each session, and all are required to provide feedback for improvement. Occasionally, entire sections of the course are redesigned to meet changing needs. For example, in 2018 and 2019 it became apparent there is increasing interest in understanding the incentives of publishing and how these affect research progress. Therefore, in spring 2020 we will introduce components on the roles of open access and preprints in scientific dissemination into the class on publishing and peer review