National Science Foundation research grants to require ethics training

Starting in 2010, the University will have to train all NSF funded researchers in ethics.

Mackenzie Martin

University of Minnesota students doing research funded by the National Science Foundation will soon be required to undergo formal research ethics training, according to a NSF report. Beginning Jan. 4, 2010, all NSF funded research projects must have âÄúa plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research,âÄù the report stated. Training will be mandatory for all faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers participating in NSF sponsored research. John Merritt, spokesman for the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University, said an estimated 2,000 University students will be affected by the regulation and that it will mainly concern education and technology related research. Last year, NSF grants accounted for just under $60 million of the approximately $584 million total research dollars awarded to the University, with the majority of NSF grant money supporting research in the College of Education and Human Development and the Institute of Technology. In the report, NSF stated that the ethics training is an important part of developing future generations of responsible scientists and engineers. The new requirement comes in response to the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science Act, which focuses public attention on the importance of investment in national research. The general content of the ethics training will be consistent nationwide, and will emphasize three key areas of research ethics: authorship and plagiarism, data and research integration and reporting misconduct. Each institution will be responsible for developing its own training system, as schools will need flexibility to develop training tailored to their specific student needs. While the UniversityâÄôs exact training methods have yet to be determined, the committee created to provide recommendations for handling the new requirement has recognized several possible options for delivery that include combinations of online coursework, individual department training seminars, existing course programs and roundtable, discussion-based sessions. The committee estimates that it will take each student a minimum of two hours for each of the three areas of focus, totaling about six hours of training . Merritt said the training content is valuable information for all students to learn, and he doesnâÄôt believe that the new requirement will discourage them from participating in research. âÄúItâÄôs just another step that will have to be completed,âÄù he said. Merritt said the costs of implementing training programs are still unknown, but he said they should be minimal. Institutions will not be required to include training plans within their research proposals submitted to NSF, but will be subject to review upon request.