Responsible Conduct of Research

Research integrity is essential in any field of study.  How can results be reliable and useful to a larger audience if the research is not conducted with the highest ethical principles?

A system of principles known as Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) has evolved over centuries of research.  These principles include how data are collected and reported; the nature of authorship; intellectual property; relationships between mentor and apprentice.

Because of the importance of RCR, Utah State University has created an increasingly sophisticated set of courses where students can learn about research ethics. The first opportunity to learn about RCR occurs in the Connections course.

Human Subjects Research

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Utah State University (USU) is a committee designated to review and approve research involving human participants prior to the initiation of such research, and to conduct periodic reviews of such research. The IRB operates according to Title 45 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 46, Federal and State guidelines, and the Belmont Report. International studies involve the use and guidance of the International Code of Harmonization.

Research activities are overseen for DHHS by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP). Other agencies that the IRB reports to include: the division of Research Integrity and Compliance, funding agencies, and USU’s Institutional Official. The Vice President for Research is the Institutional Official responsible for administering the program, ensuring compliance with the Public Health Service Act, Protection of Human Participants, and 45 CFR 46.

The IRB was established to protect the rights and welfare of human participants in research and has the authority to approve, disapprove, or require modifications of research activities that fall within its jurisdiction. The IRB may work in conjunction with other universities or institutional committees; however, it reviews research projects independently based upon the principle that human participants must be adequately protected. Any risk to participating in research should be outweighed by the potential benefits of the research.

Safety and Insurance

Risks associated with research vary widely depending on the project. Utah State University maintains an Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) that oversees such issues. Each department has a faculty member who oversees the health and safety of it’s faculty, staff, and students.

Students who work in labs with any risk should be advised to take needed safety trainings courses. If you are involved in a lab and have not been instructed to take training courses, please ask your faculty mentor or PI if there are any necessary courses you need to take. If you have any questions about what trainings you may need, please reach out to the USU EHS Office.

On a personal level, students who engage in projects that have some risk would be advised to carry insurance. Check with the faculty mentor for advice on this subject.

Animal Subject Research

Ethics in animal research is managed by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Commitee (IACUC). IACUC is in accordance with the USDA Animal Welfare Act; PHS “Policy for the Humane Care and Use of Animals;” U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research and Training; the FDA good Laboratory Practices (where applicable) and the Animal Welfare Policies of the University.

If you are in a lab where you work with animals, or are invovled in animal research in any capacity, there are trainings and policies that you will need to be aware of. Talk to your faculty mentor or PI to learn what trainings you will need to complete before you can work with any animals.

Integrity and Compliance

Utah State has many regulations when it comes to ethics and integrity in regards to research. The Division of Integrity and Compliance (RIC) oversees the implementation of these values. They work to “enhance USU’s culture of research excellence in the areas of compliance, regulatory awareness and research integrity.” This means that research is fair, ethically sound, and free of misconduct. They also oversee export control, researcher/mentor relationships, and compliance trainings.

If you or anyone you know suspects research misconduct, or would like to learn more about RIC, please visit the /compliance website.