A culture being prepared in the biosystems engineering laboratory.

Ethics in Research

"As part of a community of scholars, we share our research and build upon the work of one another. As such, it is critical that our research and scholarship be conducted, shared, and judged with integrity. The quality of our reputation depends on the quality of our research and scholarship."

- Research Integrity Council, Michigan State University

The Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

RCR: A Set Of Shared Values

"There is no one best way to undertake research, no universal method that applies to all scientific investigations. Accepted practices for the responsible conduct of research (RCR) can and do vary from discipline and discipline and even from laboratory to laboratory.

"There are, however, some important shared values for the responsible conduct of research (RCR) that bind all researchers together, such as:

►honesty: conveying information truthfully and honoring commitments

►accuracy: reporting findings precisely and taking care to avoid errors

►efficiency: using resources wisely and avoiding waste

►objectivity: letting the facts speak for themselves and avoiding improper bias"

-Nicholas Steneck

Mandatory Training For Undergraduate Researchers

Everyone -- including undergraduate researchers - working on a National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Institute of Health (NIH) grant must complete Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training.

If you are an undergraduate researcher receiving funding from another source but are working on an NSF- or NIH-funded project, you must complete RCR training.

RCR training is offered by the unit, department, or program overseeing your research.

• If you are an undergraduate researcher, we encourage you to discuss academic integrity with your faculty mentor.

• If you are a faculty mentor and you are unclear about these new guidelines or are looking for resources to help facilitate RCR discussions with your students, visit Michigan State's Research Integrity website. Vist the RCR Training website to learn more about how MSU is working to standardize RCR training and tracking for MSU students, faculty, and staff.

Learn More About The Responsible Conduct Of Research

The Graduate School's Research Integrity website offers information about campus resources, programs, and activities that support the responsible conduct of research.

The Department of Health and Human Services has published a useful Introduction To The Responsible Conduct Of Research. 

The Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Quality research should be conducted with integrity. To help meet this goal, federal and University regulations require that all research projects involving human subjects and materials of human origin be reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) before initiation.

What is an Institutional Review Board?

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee comprised of faculty members and charged with protecting "the rights, welfare and privacy of human subjects who participate in research conducted by students and/or faculty affiliated with MSU" (IRB Mission Statement).

What kinds of research require IRB approval?

Any research that involves human subjects or human material (e.g. human tissue or blood) must receive IRB approval before any data collection occurs. A human subject is defined as "a living individual whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information." (Code of Federal Regulations, 45CFR46.102).

Research projects that require IRB approval include interviews, mail or telephone surveys, the use of existing data (e.g. surveys, biological materials of human origin), interventions, etc.

For details on how IRB policies apply to undergraduate student research, please review the section on "Student Classroom Research" in Section 6-9-A of the MSU Human Research Protection Manual.

MSU faculty (and students as co-investigators) can apply for IRB approval online.

What factors are generally considered?

The committee that reviews your research project will be considering factors such as:

► risk/benefit ratio;

► selection of subjects;

► informed consent;
► privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity;
► incentives for participation; and
► potential for conflicts of interest.

How long does it usually take to receive IRB approval?

Depending on the nature of the project, it can take 10-15 days or longer to receive approval.

The IRB recommends that you apply at least one (1) month before you would like to start collecting data to ensure the process is complete.

Remember, you CANNOT start collecting any data until you have received approval.

Upon approval from the IRB, you will receive a number confirming your approval.

Questions about the IRB process?

If you have questions regarding the IRB process, you should speak with your mentor, review the IRB's website, or contact an IRB staff member at 517.355.2180.

The Animal Welfare Act

In addition, all scientists, research technicians, animal technicians, and other personnel (including undergraduate researchers) involved in animal care, treatment, and use need to be aware of their responsibilities as dictated by the Animal Welfare Act.

You can learn more about all aspects of the responsible use of animals in university research and instructional activities at Michigan State by visiting the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee website.