Reflecting on Responsible Conduct of Research: A Self Study of a Research-Oriented University Community

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Abstract: Research-oriented universities are known for prolific research activity that is often supported by students in faculty-guided research. To maintain ethical standards, universities require on-going training of both faculty and students to ensure Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). However, previous research has indicated RCR-based training is insufficient to address the ethical dilemmas that are prevalent within academic settings: navigating issues of authorship, modeling relationships between faculty and students, minimization of risk, and adequate informed consent. U.S. universities must explore ways to identify and improve RCR concerns for current (faculty) and future researchers (students). This article reports the findings of a self-study (N = 50) of research stakeholders (students and faculty) at a top tier research institution. First, we report on their perceived importance of applying RCR principles. Second, we explore relationships between stakeholder backgrounds (e.g., prior training, field, and position) and how they ranked the degree of ethical concerns in fictitious vignettes that presented different unethical issues university students could encounter when conducting research. Vignette rankings suggested concerns of inappropriate relationships, predatory authorship and IRB violations which were judged as most unethical, which was dissimilar to what sampled researchers reported in practice as the most important RCR elements to understand and adhere to for successful research. Regression models indicated there was no significant relationship between individuals’ vignette ethics scores and backgrounds, affirming previous literature suggesting that training can be ineffectual in shifting researcher judgments of ethical dilemmas. Recommendations for training are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-419
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Academic Ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Ethical Dilemmas
  • Research-Oriented Universities
  • Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Self-Study


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