Course Syllabus

Responsible Conduct in Research


Course #: ID500 

CRN: 23406

Semester: Spring Semester

Credits: 0 credit course, Pass/Fail

Timing/Location: Spring Semester 2024, 3-3:50 PM on Mondays in Daniels Hall B13/Zoom (Hybrid Course) 

Director: Rory Flinn, Ph.D.

Contact: 508-831-6360,

Registration: Available in Workday starting in September 2023.  Postdocs and visiting researchers may contact Rory Flinn to be added to the course. 



The purpose of this course is to familiarize pre-doctoral and postdoctoral trainees with basic ethical issues in research confronting scientists and engineers. The course has three broad learning goals for the students/postdocs taking the course: 1) To gain insights into how one can responsibly conduct research throughout their career. 2) To know how to properly address unethical situations. 3) To comprehend that new ethical issues/concerns will arise and that the best way to tackle these will be to discuss ethical situations with colleagues, seek guidance from proper channels, and routinely participate in responsible conduct in research training courses/seminars.


The course typically includes 14 sessions, a mixture of seminars and discussion sessions. Attendance is taken, and students missing more than 4 sessions will not pass the course. For the 2024 Spring semester course we will be using a hybrid format with about half of the sessions in person and half over Zoom.  

The seminars will delve into best practices in research and experimental design, authorship, data management and record keeping, intellectual property and ownership of data, as well as research misconduct and rigor and transparency. The discussion sessions will focus on ethical considerations for human and animal research subjects, conflict of interest, mentoring, collaborations, peer review, lab safety and research training, and environmental and societal impacts of scientific research.

The course is designed to meet or exceed all NIH requirements for instruction in the responsible conduct of research, as updated in NOT-OD-10-019 Nov. 24, 2009.

Learning Objectives:

  • Summarize the best practices to use in research and experimental design
  • Recall generally accepted practices for assigning authorship in research manuscripts as well as rights of authors
  • Comprehend the rules surrounding ownership of data and intellectual property in a university setting
  • Learn to evaluate and differentiate fair research practices from research misconduct
  • Identify obligations of a mentor and mentee as well as different types of conflicts (e.g. conflict of interest)
  • Utilize best practices when conducting research using animal or human subjects
  • Describe the merits and disadvantages of the peer review process and detail the important considerations related to collaborations
  • Summarize some of the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research
  • Identify some of the current challenges around lab safety and research training


Scientific Integrity by Francis L. Macrina, ASM Press, Washington, D.C., 4th Edition (2014).  

Location & Times:

Class sessions will be in Daniels Hall B13 or over Zoom, depending on the session, from 3-3:50 PM on Mondays.  

Course Structure:  

The seminars are led by WPI faculty and staff members, and students are expected to participate in discussions and activities during these sessions. For the discussion sessions, students will be placed in groups and will be assigned a session to lead. The student group will develop a short presentation on the assigned topic and lead a discussion on the topics using case studies and discussion questions.


Students are are encouraged to complete the suggested reading prior to attending each session. The course text book will be on reserve at the library. Individual session leaders may recommend additional readings for their session.



While no summative assessment (e.g. final exam) will be administered in this course, students will be assessed on progress towards learning objectives through participation in class session activities and discussion. Participation is required. Students in the discussion sessions will be placed in a group and will research the topic assigned in order to develop a group presentation. Students not part of the presenting group will use a rubric to evaluate group presentations.

2022 Class Schedule (was in C-term, not across whole Spring semester) is provided below for reference. The 2024 course will have similar topics and schedule will be posted in December 2023:





Pre-Class Recorded Lectures and Readings

January 12, 2022

Research Misconduct

Rory Flinn, Graduate Studies

No pre-recorded lecture, live lecture will be provided in class

Chapter 1

January 19, 2022

Research and Experimental Design



Aaron Deskins, Chemical Engineering (pre-recorded)

Pre-recorded lecture (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

and (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Additional reading to be announced if applicable

January 24, 2022

Rigor, Reproducibility, and Transparency

Liz Ryder, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Pre-recorded lecture

Readings in module and NIH Rigor and Reproducibility Training Video Modules 1-4  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. 


January 26, 2022

Data Management and Record Keeping

Lori Ostapowicz-Critz, Gordon Library (pre-recorded)

Pre-recorded lecture

Chapter 10 and Appendix VI

January 31, 2022

Intellectual Property, Patents, Ownership of Data

Todd Keiller, Technology Commercialization (pre-recorded)

Pre-recorded lecture

Chapter 9

February 2, 2022


Pamela Weathers, Biology and Biotechnology (pre-recorded)

Pre-recorded lecture

Chapter 3 

February 7, 2022

Human Subjects Research and Ethical Considerations

Karen Troy, Biomedical Engineering, and Jeanine Skorinko, Social Sciences (pre-recorded)

Pre-recorded lecture

Chapter 5

February 9, 2022

Animal Subjects Research and Ethical Considerations

Jeannine Coburn, Biomedical Engineering

Chapter 6

February 14, 2022

Collaborations, Authorship, Publishing, and Peer Review


Rory Flinn, Graduate Studies (pre-recorded)

Pre-recorded lecture

Chapters 4 and 8

February 16, 2022

Conflicts of Interest, Time, and Effort

Student Group 1

Chapter 7

February 21, 2022

Lab Safety and Research Training


Student Group 2

Appendix VII

WPI EHS website and resource guides ( )

OSHA website (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. ( )

Group is welcome to identify other sources as well 

February 23, 2022

 Computational, Technological, and Big Data Ethics


Student Group 3

Group is welcome to identify other sources as well

February 28, 2022

Environmental and Societal Impacts of Scientific Research


Student Group 4

Chapter 2 and 11, plus group should identify sources in popular media, scholarly articles, etc. 

March 2, 2022

Make up session if needed




Course Summary:

Date Details Due