Yesterday, Science Magazine featured an article discussing the decision of the National Science Foundation to reinforce its responsible conduct of research (RCR) policy in light of a report released by the Office of the Inspector General in late July finding that a number of universities receiving NSF funding either did not have a RCR training policy in place or did not require students to complete the training before participating in an NSF-funded project. The report also pressed the agency to provide written guidelines or templates for universities to follow when developing these kind of training programs.
Current NSF policy gives universities a wide amount of leeway in how they want to provide RCR training for students, and the NSF is currently funding a number of project seeking to pioneer new ways of introducing students to responsible conduct of research and how to effectively identify and handle ethical issues that come up in the course of research. The Ethics Center is currently starting year two of its NSF-funded project, "A Bottom-Up Approach to Building a Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM" in which groups of graduate students will develop discipline and research group-specific ethical guidelines aimed at providing support in handling ethical issues important to the research environment they work in. This year, we will be working with four different departments -two in science and two in engineering- to pilot this approach.
If successful, approaches like this could be another option for universities in the near future to fulfill this NSF training requirement.