|Quick Start Guide|
Responsible conduct of research (RCR) programming can take a number of different forms depending on what your goals are for your postdoc community. For example, ensuring that postdocs are familiar with a set of research integrity guidelines can often be accomplished with online modules that can introduce and review material as well as provide some testing and interactivity. In contrast, helping postdocs develop a lasting understanding of the principles involved in research integrity and how they might apply them throughout their own career may require a more dynamic and engaging approach, such as small-group seminar or workshop that allows instruction to adapt to the experiences and concerns of the students.
As a first step, determine what might already be available at your institution. Many institutions may already have some sort of RCR training available for postdocs whether as a consequence of funding agency requirements or a more general institutional offering. In some cases, these programs may merely be expanded to reach all postdocs, in others it may be necessary or prudent to create a new or complementary program that can be tailored to the needs and challenges of postdoctoral scholars. In either case, it is important to marshal the existing resources you may have available on these topics and identify the potential stakeholders such as the office of research, the office of postdoctoral affairs or the graduate school.
Designing your program
Next, consider the type of training you would like to offer, and what would work best for your overarching curriculum. There are a number of options:
Some aspects involved in this decision are:
Answering some of these questions can help determine your approach for others. For example, if you have local speakers or instructors you can perhaps more easily offer an ongoing series, but if you must bring in experts from outside, you may want to offer a more occasional series. For an overview of various program formats, with examples of existing programs, consult the NPA's RCR Toolkit article on "Choosing a Program Format."
A 2002 report from the National Academies on Integrity in Scientific Research: Creating an Environment That Promotes Responsible Conduct examined the best approaches for RCR education. They found that the best model is learning from a supervisor or advisor, for example through individual meetings, group meetings, journal clubs or seminars, although this is not always the most practical or uniformly implemented method. In lieu of this, they recommend approaches that teach RCR alongside everyday research skills -- a commonly held recommendation  -- and methods that incorporate adult learning principles, such as fostering active learning and participation and adapting to the diversity of experiences and learning styles among students. They also recommend that instruction take place over an extended period of time, either regular meetings over a year-long course or periodic seminars held over a year or more throughout a postdoc's career. Finally, they suggest that instructors need both science and ethics knowledge, and so ideally instruction would involve a collaboration between research faculty and ethics experts. They stress that involving research faculty also creates role models for postdocs within their own disciplines, emphasizing the importance of these topics.
For more details on pedagogical approaches for teaching RCR, consult Chapter 5 of this report on "Promoting Integrity in Research through Education."
Another important question is what content or material should the program cover. Should it emphasize a few RCR topics to cover briefly, or just one to cover in depth? Should the RCR material be incorporated into a lab management style course, focusing on professional development skills? Should you offer a survival skills type workshop, geared more towards surviving postdoc life? Of course, no program need cover all RCR topics; however it is important to define which aspects you will cover. For more detailed information on defining the goals and scope of your program, visit the RCR Toolkit articles on "Determining the Goals and Content of your Program" and "RCR Topics for Postdocs."
Some other useful articles from Science Careers on how to approach teaching scientific integrity topics:
Ethics and Policy Minifeatures A compilation of Science Careers articles on ethics
On Teaching Scientific Integrity An instructor's perspective on designing an RCR course from scratch for grad students She describes her challenges in engaging the students until she transformed the course into a "survival skills" course.
Getting Scientists to Do the Right Thing Perspectives on how to approach RCR training, including mention of the NAS report on Integrity in Scientific Research
Regardless of whether postdocs are classified as students, trainees, or employees at an institution, a postdoc's main priority is producing research results instead of taking courses. Therefore research integrity programming will undoubtedly require some tailoring to draw postdocs from their offices and labs. Some suggestions for marketing your program to postdocs are included in the toolkit article "Marketing RCR Programs to Postdocs;" however, below are some introductory considerations.
For additional guidance on tailoring your program to the needs postdocs, visit the RCR Toolkit article on “Tailoring RCR Programs for Postdocs.” For insight on RCR issues of particular pertinence to postdocs, visit the RCR Toolkit article on "RCR Topics for Postdocs."In addition, some good background resources on postdocs are available at:
Good resources with which to start
The NPA RCR Toolkit also offers advice and program models that can help with beginning to plan an RCR program for postdocs. Continue on to the rest of the toolkit below. It can be found online at http://www.nationalpostdoc.org/rcr-toolkit.
 See for example, Fischer, B.A. and Zigmond, M.J.(1996) "Teaching Ethics: Resources for researchers." Trends in Neurosciences 19: 523-524, and National Academies (1992) Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process, Vol. 1. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, and references therein.