GRAD 214 Boilerplate Text

Plan for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Progress in scientific knowledge and discovery depends on collaboration, communication, and transparency among researchers. Since much of the scientific research at academic institutions is supported by public funds, maintaining the public's trust in the integrity of researchers and the institutions they serve is vital to a functional ecosystem. Graduate programs at UCSF recognize the importance of providing formal training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) for the success of their graduate students. To facilitate interdisciplinary discussions of methodological, procedural, and ethical issues that scientists encounter, the graduate programs at UCSF have collectively organized to deliver instruction and lead small group discussions on the responsible conduct of research.

Prior Instruction and Participation

In 2003, faculty directors of the 16 UCSF’s basic science graduate programs convened to explore options for coordinating the RCR course between UCSF’s two campuses- Parnassus and Mission Bay. The goal was to coordinate and improve the delivery of RCR instruction for UCSF’s graduate students, formally designated 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 in the Graduate Division, enabling UCSF to expand and formalize course activities, ensuring a consistent and robust course for our students. The course is led by Dr. D’Anne Duncan, who serves as the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Learner Success in the Graduate Division. Dr. Duncan is a forward-thinking leader in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) and academic leadership at UCSF. She recently envisioned and designed a leadership course specifically centered on JEDI. This course is designed to equip students with the understanding of the importance of prioritizing JEDI in both education and research, including research ethics, and the training of biomedical graduate students and postdocs. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, RCR was delivered in person at both campuses. Like many courses, RCR, shifted to a virtual format during the pandemic. This change, while not ideal, promoted robust discussions and allowed for efficient delivery of course materials.

Starting in January 2024, UCSF's graduate programs will implement a hybrid approach for RCR training. This approach will have two main components: an introductory lecture outlining the framework and principles for the topic followed by small group discussions. In person lectures will alternate monthly between the two campuses. In that same week, faculty-led small group discussions will be conducted for each program. Students will be required to attend classes and discussion sessions, in person, for more than 50%. Faculty members from all graduate programs have volunteered to facilitate small group discussions and will participate in training focused on case studies and scenario discussions to adequately prepare for their roles. The monthly RCR lecture series is scheduled to take place from January to June 2024.

Course Details

Course content for GRAD 214 will be reviewed, updated, and improved annually based on learner feedback. The course is required for all doctoral students in the basic sciences irrespective of their funding source. It is a 1.5-credit course that has been approved by the UCSF Academic Senate. In 2023, we began significant multi-stage restructuring of the course in order to 1) meet the changing needs and demands of the biomedical research enterprise and of the scientific leaders we are training, 2) transition back to in-person training of the students as required by the NIH and, 3) integrate the technology tools refined during the pandemic to enhance learning outcomes. For the 2024 academic year, GRAD 214 sessions will have a combination of didactic lectures, case studies, as well as small and large group discussion. Training will occur in person (a minimum of 50%), as well as via Zoom.

1. Format. GRAD 214 consists of six lecture sessions of 1.5 hours duration, each covering a different topic (see Subject Matter), and six faculty-led small group discussion sessions of 1.5 hours duration. Total time in class will be 18 hours. Fifty percent or more of both the lecture sessions and the faculty-led discussion group sessions will be in person. To accommodate our two campuses, Mission Bay and Parnassus, lectures will alternate between campuses; students will attend in person when the lecture is on their home campus and via Zoom when it is not.

Lectures will be delivered by Dr. Victoria Sharma. Dr. Sharma manages Research Administration and Compliance at UC Berkeley and will present the RCR lectures in person. She is an expert in Responsible Conduct of Research training and provides guidance and expertise to UC institutions on how to achieve RCR training excellence.

Each 90-minute lecture will be followed, in the same week, with a 90-minute small group discussion session. These discussion groups will be led by UCSF graduate faculty. Each graduate program will select graduate faculty members to lead the 90-minute discussion groups. Prior to the small group discussion sessions, faculty will attend a training session with Dr. Sharma; she will educate the faculty with best practices for small group discussions and with pertinent case studies relevant to each session. For this year, we have 50 UCSF faculty members who will participate as discussion leaders.

2. Subject Matter. We seek to achieve two key objectives with our RCR training. 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 during 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 eight 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 & reproducibility.
  4. Human subjects in research, including the history of human subject research, the Belmont report; human subjects committees and Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.
  5. Responsible authorship and publication and grant making, including peer review, plagiarism, uniform requirements for manuscripts, confidentiality, and 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.
  8. Development of inclusive research communities, including prevention of sexual harassment and violence.

3. Faculty Participation. As mentioned, course lectures will be delivered in person by Dr. Sharma. Course lectures will be delivered in person by Dr. Victoria Sharma, an expert in both the Responsible Conduct of Research and Rigor and Reproducibility. The topic related to the development of inclusive research communities and prevention of sexual harassment and violence will be delivered by the co-directors of the UCSF Campus Advocacy Resources and Education training staff, Denise Caramagno, MA, LMFT and Kendra Hypolite, MSW, ASW.

Graduate faculty, including training grant faculty, will lead the 90-minute small group discussion sessions. Each graduate program will guide monthly 90-minute discussion sessions to further explore the topics presented in the lecture with their students. We estimate more than 50 of our graduate faculty will lead these faculty-led small discussion group sessions over the course of 6 months.

4. Duration of Instruction. The course is offered over a period of 6 months (January through June); each month students will attend a lecture and, within the same week, a faculty-led small group discussion session. Each lecture involves 90 minutes of instruction and discussion; each faculty-led discussion group also involves 90 minutes of case study and discussion. This will total of 18 hours of training. As stated previously, a minimum of 50% of this training will be in person.

5. Frequency of Instruction. First-year graduate students are required to take RCR training in their first year of study. In the 2023/2024 school year, GRAD 214 will be offered in the Winter and Spring quarter; hence, students will attend these classes from January to June 2024.

Students must sign in at each session they attend and must participate in each session to complete the course and receive full credit. Students register for this 1.5-credit course, and full participation is required for a passing grade.

Refresher training for advanced PhD students occurs during their 5th year of training.

6. Assessment. Students will complete course evaluations at the end of each session. Comments and suggestions about course format, content, relevance, and presentation are used to improve subsequent courses. This course evaluation process is thorough and direct. Students are required to evaluate the usefulness of each session, and all are required to provide feedback for improvement. Course feedback has been critical in driving change within RCR training. For example, in 2018 and 2019 it became apparent there was increasing interest in understanding the incentives of publishing and how these affect research progress. Therefore, in spring 2020, we introduced components on the roles of open access and preprints in scientific dissemination into the class on publishing and peer review.