[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 160 (Thursday, August 20, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 42126-42128]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-19930]



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NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION


Responsible Conduct of Research

AGENCY: National Science Foundation (NSF).

ACTION: NSF's Implementation of Section 7009 of the America COMPETES 
Act.

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SUMMARY: The National Science Foundation (NSF) is announcing its 
implementation of Section 7009 of the America Creating Opportunities to 
Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science 
(COMPETES) Act (42 U.S.C. 1862o-1). This section of the Act requires 
that ``each institution that applies for financial assistance from the 
Foundation for science and engineering research or education describe 
in its grant proposal a plan to provide appropriate training and 
oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to 
undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers 
participating in the proposed research project.''

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The responsible and ethical conduct of 
research (RCR) is critical for excellence, as well as public trust, in 
science and engineering. Consequently, education in RCR is considered 
essential in the preparation of future scientists and engineers. The 
COMPETES Act focuses public attention on the importance of the national 
research community's enduring commitment and broader efforts to provide 
RCR training as an integral part of the preparation and long-term 
professional development of current and future generations of 
scientists and engineers. A wide array of information exists to help 
inform RCR training. For example, many professional societies as well 
as governmental licensing authorities for professional scientists and 
engineers have adopted policies or best practices that might be 
usefully considered. In addition, research is illuminating existing 
practices surrounding ethical issues, and providing an evaluation of 
pedagogical innovations in ethics education. A recent NSF-funded 
workshop entitled ``Ethics Education: What's Been Learned? What Should 
be Done?'' was held by the National Academies of Science & Engineering 
(NAE). Information about the workshop, as well as additional resources, 
are available at: http://www.nae.edu/nae/engethicscen.nsf/weblinks/NKAL-7LHM86?OpenDocument. The workshop report is available at the NAE's 
Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society Web site: http://www.nae.edu/?ID=14646. NSF is committed to continue its funding of 
research in this important area through programs such as Ethics 
Education in Science and Engineering: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=13338&org=SES&from=home and to promote the 
development and implementation of effective practices through its 
education and training programs. The Foundation also will continue to 
explore other mechanisms to support the academic community's efforts in 
providing RCR training.
    Implementation Plan: Effective January 4, 2010, NSF will require 
that, at the time of proposal submission to NSF, a proposing 
institution's Authorized Organizational Representative certify that the 
institution has a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in 
the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduates, 
graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported 
by NSF to conduct research. While training plans are not required to be 
included in proposals submitted to NSF, institutions are advised that 
they are subject to review upon request. NSF will formally implement 
the new RCR requirement via an update to the NSF Proposal and Award 
Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG). It is anticipated that the 
revisions to the PAPPG will be issued on October 1, 2009. NSF also will 
modify its standard award conditions to clearly stipulate that 
institutions are responsible for verifying that undergraduate students, 
graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers supported by NSF to 
conduct research have received RCR training. In addition, NSF will 
support the development of an on-line RCR resource containing research 
findings, pedagogical materials, and promising practices regarding RCR 
in science and engineering. The development and evolution of the 
ongoing online RCR resource will be informed by the research 
communities that NSF supports, and it will serve as a living resource 
of multimedia materials that may be used to train current and future 
generations of scientists and engineers in RCR.
    Discussion of Comments: One hundred eighty-eight (188) comments 
were received in response to the February 26, 2009 Federal Register 
notice (74 FR 8818) requesting comments on NSF's proposed plan. The 
comment request included a series of questions to help guide the 
comments:
     What challenges do institutions face in meeting the new 
RCR requirement?
     What role should Principal Investigators play in meeting 
NSF's RCR requirement?
     There are likely to be differences in the RCR plans that 
institutions develop to respond to this new requirement. What are the 
pros and cons of exploring a diversity of approaches?
     How might online resources be most effective in assisting 
with training students and postdocs in the responsible and ethical 
conduct of research?
     Discuss possible approaches to verifying that the 
requisite RCR training has been provided.
    Following the close of the comment period, NSF reviewed and 
responded to the comments. A summary of the comments and NSF's 
responses are below:
    Comment 1: 22 comments were received noting general challenges that 
institutions will face in providing education and training that meet 
the needs of a diverse community.
    Response: NSF recognizes that many issues must be considered in 
developing effective content and training mechanisms and that 
universities and research institutions will need flexibility to develop 
and deliver effective training that is tailored to their student/
postdoc needs.
    Comment 2: 19 respondents commented on the resource burden the RCR 
training requirement will place on institutions. It was specifically 
suggested that the 26 percent cap on Facilities and Administration 
costs currently contained in OMB Circular A-21, Cost Principles for 
Educational Institutions (2 CFR Part 220), be lifted. (See http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=c8bb5a0992df470805b85610c02e77ec&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title02/2cfr220_main_02.tpl.)
    Response: The 26 percent cap is specified in OMB Circular A-21, and 
NSF, therefore, does not have the authority or independent discretion 
to change it.
    NSF, however, has supported, and will continue to support, research 
on RCR training to help inform the development of training programs 
through programs such as Ethics Education in Science and Engineering. 
NSF will also continue to promote the development and implementation of 
effective practices through its education and training programs such as 
the Integrative Graduate Research and Education Traineeship Program. 
NSF has also funded two beta sites (NSF Award 0936857, http://www.umass.edu/sts/digitallibrary/, and NSF Award 0936865, http://
www.onlineethics.org/

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CMS/about/UserGuide/18848.aspx) to begin to provide an interactive 
community online resource on ethics education in science and 
engineering. These beta sites will provide a foundation for an ongoing 
on-line RCR resource in ethics education in science and engineering 
that NSF plans to award through open competition. NSF will also 
continue to explore other potential methods to support the academic 
community's efforts in providing RCR training.
    Comment 3: Three respondents inquired whether the institution was 
permitted to include the costs associated with RCR training as direct 
costs on NSF awards.
    Response: Most institutions have included training expenses in 
their Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rate pool and they therefore 
cannot charge the costs directly to proposals/awards per OMB Circular 
A-21, Section F, Identification and Assignment of F&A costs. This is 
not a decision that program officials and principal investigator(s) can 
make on a proposal-by-proposal basis. Rather, the cognizant agency and 
institution must determine the treatment of these costs during the 
process of negotiating the institution's indirect cost rate. These 
costs effect the development and oversight of the Facilities and 
Administrative (F&A) rate and must be in compliance with the OMB cost 
principles. Accordingly, the institution must involve its cognizant 
agency along with NSF in this decision and provide information of their 
current policies and procedures along with its disclosed practices per 
its Disclosure Statement.
    Comment 4: 35 respondents requested clarity or provided input on 
whether or not NSF should provide guidance on content for training in 
responsible and ethical research conduct.
    Response: NSF understands that some institutions would like NSF 
guidance regarding appropriate content for training in RCR. However, 
NSF does not intend to issue NSF-specified standards and recognizes 
that training needs may vary depending on specific circumstances of 
research or the needs of students intending to pursue careers in a 
variety of science and engineering settings after completing their 
education. Therefore, it is the responsibility of each institution to 
determine both the content and the delivery method for the training 
that will meet the institution's particular needs for RCR training in 
all areas at that institution for which NSF provides support. 
Furthermore, each institution must decide if development of content or 
pedagogical method is required, or if appropriate content and training 
can be provided from some existing sources or capabilities, and take 
appropriate action to implement its decisions.
    NSF does support the development of resources and forums for the 
research community to discuss the most appropriate content in ethical 
research training and to develop shared guidelines. For example, NSF 
funded a workshop held at the National Academies of Science and 
Engineering in August 2008 entitled, ``Ethics Education: What Have We 
Learned? What Should be Done?'' The workshop report is available at the 
NAE's Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society Web site: http://www.nae.edu/?ID=14646. NSF has also funded two beta sites (NSF Award 
0936857, http://www.umass.edu/sts/digitallibrary/, and NSF Award 
0936865, http://www.onlineethics.org/CMS/about/UserGuide/18848.aspx) to 
begin to provide an interactive community location and searchable 
clearinghouse of resources on ethics education in science and 
engineering. These beta sites will provide a foundation for an ongoing 
on-line RCR resource in ethics education in science and engineering 
that NSF plans to award through open competition. These kinds of 
resources give institutions places to find materials and standard 
approaches to ethics education that research communities have already 
developed.
    Comment 5: Three comments noted the challenge with identifying and 
tracking postdocs and students to receive RCR training and suggested 
that for tracking purposes it would be easier to extend the training 
requirement to all students.
    Response: NSF is requiring RCR training and tracking only for those 
postdocs and students who receive support to conduct research on NSF 
grants. However, NSF recognizes that all student and postdocs would 
benefit from RCR training and that institutions may decide to extend 
the training beyond NSF-supported students and postdocs at their 
discretion.
    Comment 6: 24 respondents provided input in response to NSF's 
question on the role of the Principal Investigators in meeting NSF's 
RCR requirement.
    Response: The institution is responsible for certification that the 
RCR training plan is in place and verification that the students and 
postdocs have completed the RCR training. The role of a PI in meeting 
these institution responsibilities is determined by the institution.
    Comment 7: One respondent noted that NSF should encourage PIs to 
include RCR training in annual and final reports.
    Response: NSF will not require PIs to report on RCR training in 
annual and final reports because the requirement for verifying training 
will be part of the standard award conditions and institutions will 
decide how they will track completion of training.
    Comment 8: 15 respondents noted that an NSF-supported online RCR 
resource will be an invaluable resource for materials, research and 
innovative teaching and delivery methods.
    Response: NSF is supporting two beta sites that provide resources 
on ethics education in science and engineering. These sites will serve 
as a foundation for an open competition for an ongoing on-line RCR 
resource on ethics education in science and engineering. This resource 
has the potential to provide a centralized location for information 
that can be used to help institutions and PIs meet their own particular 
needs. The resource will contain information the community develops 
including research findings, pedagogical materials, and promising 
practices regarding the ethical and responsible conduct of research in 
science and engineering. The development and evolution of the ongoing 
on-line RCR resource will be informed by the research communities that 
NSF supports, and will serve as a living resource of multimedia 
materials that may be used to train current and future generations of 
scientists and engineers.
    Comment 9: 11 respondents noted that although online training 
modules may teach rules, policies and guidelines, they should be 
complemented by more interactive, mentored-discussion of ethical 
principles and evaluation of case studies.
    Response: It will be up to each institution to determine how best 
to ensure effective and appropriate education in responsible research 
practices.
    NSF funds innovative research and education projects in ethics 
education in science and engineering including the development of 
resources and forums for the research community to discuss the most 
appropriate content in ethical research training and to develop shared 
guidelines. For example, NSF funded a workshop held at the national 
Academies of Science and Engineering in August 2008 entitled, ``Ethics 
Education: What Have We Learned? What Should be Done?'' The workshop 
report is available at the NAE's Center for Engineering, Ethics and 
Society's

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Web site: http://www.nae.edu/?ID=14646.
    Institutions are encouraged to visit the two beta sites NSF is 
supporting that provide resources on ethics education in science and 
engineering. These sites will serve as a foundation for an open 
competition for an ongoing on-line RCR resource on ethics education in 
science and engineering. This resource has the potential to provide a 
centralized location for information that can be used to help 
institutions and PIs meet their own particular needs. The resource will 
contain whatever information resources the community chooses to develop 
and share including research findings, pedagogical materials, and best 
practices. It will be up to each institution and discipline to 
determine how best to ensure effective and appropriate education in 
responsible research practices.
    Comment 10: Six respondents noted current online resources that 
might be used with the online resource.
    Response: NSF will forward the recommended resources to the on-line 
resource beta-site for consideration.
    Comment 11: 20 respondents either suggested that NSF allow 
institutions to develop their own systems to track and verify the 
delivery of the required training or provided potential approaches to 
accomplish this.
    Response: NSF recognizes that there are many ways to achieve the 
training objectives of RCR, each with strengths and potential pitfalls. 
NSF intends to allow institutions to meet the verification requirement 
using appropriate systems of their choosing.
    Comment 12: One commenter suggested that NSF's proposed 
implementation plan will not be effective because it does not include 
systems to mitigate against unethical behavior.
    Response: We note that the National Science and Technology Council 
has developed a Federal policy on research misconduct, which authorizes 
agencies to impose administrative actions on those who engage in 
research misconduct. See NSF's implementation at 45 CFR Part 689. The 
NSF Office of the Inspector General investigates reports of research 
misconduct and refers the results of their findings to NSF management 
for appropriate action.
    Institutions involved in international collaborations might find 
materials provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and 
Development (OECD) ``Research Integrity: preventing misconduct and 
dealing with allegations'' useful. See: http://tinyurl.com/l76p3b.
    Comment 13: Six comments suggested that reviewers of proposals and 
other faculty members should be required to take RCR training. These 
comments appear to be aimed at the issue of plagiarism when reviewing 
proposals. Another commenter suggested that only Ph.D. students should 
be required to take such training.
    Response: Section 7009 of the COMPETES Act mandates that 
institutions applying for financial assistance from the Foundation 
provide such training for undergraduate students, graduate students, 
and postdoctoral researchers participating in the proposed research 
project. Thus, reviewers and other faculty members are not required to 
take such training, although undergraduate and graduate students are 
subject to such a requirement. As to faculty members, institutions, at 
their discretion, may expand the scope of such training to include 
other categories of individuals not covered by Section 7009 of the 
COMPETES Act. As to reviewers, NSF has a longstanding policy of 
providing guidance and instructions to our reviewer community on the 
confidentiality of information, which includes plagiarism, contained in 
proposals and the treatment of conflicts-of-interest.
    Comment 14: Two respondents suggested alternate mechanisms for an 
institution to inform NSF that it has an appropriate training plan. One 
commenter suggested that NSF require investigators to include a short 
summary of their institutions' training plans in the body of the 
proposal. Another commenter suggested that, in lieu of an institution 
providing a certification with each proposal, an institution should 
only have to submit such a certification once and, NSF should simply 
compile a list of institutions that have provided the requisite 
certification.
    Response: Although these alternative mechanisms have merit, NSF has 
chosen the implementation approach that is consistent with how NSF has 
had institutions certify their compliance with statutory requirements 
such as Non-discrimination, Conflict of Interest, Drug Free Workplace, 
etc.
    Comment 15: One respondent recommended that NSF make the 
development of conceptual models and practical assessment of the 
effects of RCR education a research priority.
    Response: Although not an explicit research priority, NSF may 
support proposals that address these topics. For example, proposals for 
the development of conceptual models and assessment methods for RCR may 
be appropriate for submission to programs in the Directorate for 
Education and Human Resources. Innovative research on ethics and values 
in science and engineering may be appropriate for submission to 
programs in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate. 
NSF expects that such proposals would compete for resources along with 
other important educational and research activities.
    Comment 16: NSF received 19 general comments. These include: (a) 
comments expressing support for the requirement or support for the 
value of RCR training in general; and (b) comments not related to the 
RCR requirement.
    Response: These comments provide valuable perspectives on RCR 
training. However, no NSF responses are needed for purposes of this 
Federal Register Notice.

    Dated: August 14, 2009.
Suzanne H. Plimpton,
Reports Clearance Officer, National Science Foundation.
[FR Doc. E9-19930 Filed 8-19-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7555-01-P