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Responsible Conduct of Research

June 4, 2010 - 8:00am
Charles W. Clark
Joint Quantum Institute

Conducted by the Joint Quantum Institute. Hosted by the Department of Physics, University of Maryland

Next session: TBA

The 2007 America COMPETES Act directed the National Science Foundation (NSF) to require that all funded undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars undergo training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR). The implementation of this requirement became effective January 4, 2010, when all institutions submitting proposals to NSF were required to certify that there was a training plan in place for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars supported by NSF to conduct research.

The Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST), the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), and the Physics Frontier Center (PFC) are offering RCR Training that satisfies University of Maryland requirements for all students and postdoctoral scholars whose work is supported by NSF.


The primary goal of Responsible Conduct of Research Day is to inculcate critical thinking about the intersection of ethics with the actual practice of scientific research. This is far more important than rote learning of particular rules that are in force at any given place and time, because:

  • Critical thinking is of lasting and cumulative value. It provides a basis for making decisions in circumstances that one has never faced before.
  • Critical thinking about ethics and science is far more interesting than memorizing particular rules. It provides a perspective that gives much insight into the history and current practice of science, presents paradoxes, and deflates many commonly-held assumptions.

Required Advance Readings

  • Federal Policy on Research Misconduct, free at, 4 pages.
  • On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science, David Goodstein (Princeton University Press, 2010). 168 pages, commercial publication, some copies available on loan from Denise Abu-Laban,
  • On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition (National Academies Press, 2009), free at, 82 pages.

This course is an updated and condensed version of Case Studies in Scientific Ethics (CHPH 714), which was presented during Winter Term, 2010. Materials from that course are available at

1201 Physics Building
College Park, MD 20742