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Special Interest Portals

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) for Postdocs Print Email

From determining authorship on a postdoc's first publication to taking ownership of data as the postdoc transitions to a faculty job, responsible conduct of research (RCR) issues are fundamental to a postdoc's professional development and everyday research practice.  Yet many postdocs indicate that, despite the requirements from some funding organizations, they have not had guidance in issues of research integrity.

Some particular issues for postdocs are:

  • The dual role of both mentor and mentee
  • Cultural diversity among postdocs, the majority of whom are visa holders
  • Lack of official standing for most postdocs in their institutional community
  • Postdocs' dependence upon their supervisor for career advancement, which can influence conflict management in the lab/research group
  • The need for effective communication skills in sensitive or difficult conversations, especially for postdocs for whom English is a second language
  • The implications of short-term appointments on data and project ownership, as well as competition between postdoc and mentor

The RCR topic areas [1] of particular emphasis for the NPA are:

Follow the links above for additional information on pertinent issues for postdocs within each of these content areas.

Some training approaches the NPA recommends for postdocs are:

  • Incorporate RCR into everyday professional development, such as adding RCR topics into programming on lab management, survival skills, or grant writing.
  • Make the career implications of RCR training clear. Postdocs are more likely to participate in a program that will benefit their chances on the “real” job market.
  • In addition to formal programs, offer “just in time” resources for postdocs when issues actually arise. For example, identify individuals with whom postdocs can speak informally and confidentially when they think they have encountered an ethical problem.

For additional guidance on developing RCR programs for postdocs, we encourage you to consult the NPA RCR Toolkit:



RCR Toolkit

To aid in developing programs in RCR for postdocs, the toolkit offers information and training advice on the RCR topics of emphasis listed above as well as guidance on tailoring your program for postdocs, examples of a range of types of RCR training programs, and samples of agendas, syllabuses, evaluation forms, case studies and other materials.  The NPA RCR programming toolkit is always expanding. If you know of an RCR program for postdocs at your institution or in your community that you would like to share, please let us know.

bul_blueGet started with the Toolkit's Quick Start Guide

bul_blueReview the National Science Foundation's new RCR training requirement for postdocs

bul_blueDownload sample program materials

bul_blueConsult advice on tailoring your RCR program to postdocs


RCR Workshop Presentations

The NPA’s Bring RCR Home project offered workshops at the 2007, 2008 and 2009 NPA Annual Meetings on how to create dynamic and effective programs on RCR that are targeted to postdocs. The slides from both workshops are available HERE.

RCR Program Descriptions

See descriptions of a wide variety of RCR programs for postdocs that were supported by the NPA’s Bring RCR Home project are available on the project’s Seed Grant Programs page. In 2007 and 2008, the project offered seed grants of up to $1000 to help support the establishment of RCR programming directed at postdocs. Also included are links to program materials for some of the described programs.


The NPA offers on-going consultation for any Postdoc Offices and Associations interested in developing RCR programming for their postdocs. If you have questions or ideas, please contact us.


[1] All but the last, communication and difficult conversations, are from the core competency areas recommended by the federal Office of Research Integrity.


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Phone: 202.326.6424 * Fax: 202.371.9849