ORI Introduction to RCR: Chapter 7. Mentor and Trainee Responsibilities
Different mentors establish different research environments. Some laboratories are highly competitive; others emphasize cooperation. Some mentors are intimately involved in all aspects of the projects they supervise; others delegate authority. Similarly, different researchers like to work in different environments. Some enjoy independence; others like to have close working relationships with colleagues. Some thrive in competitive environments; others prefer cooperative working relationships. Although there is no single formula for a “good” research environment, there are some fundamentals that mentors and trainees should keep in mind.
Equal treatment. Research ability is not tied to race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. These factors have no bearing on one’s success as a researcher. Therefore, research environments should not put someone at a disadvantage based on who they are. If competition is encouraged in a way that puts any distinguishable group at a significant disadvantage, it is not acceptable. All students should be subject to the same level of supervision and scrutiny. Aside from legal obligations to avoid discrimination in the workplace, researchers have a professional obligation to work to assure equal access to their profession, particularly if their work is publicly supported.
Professional practice. Researchers should maintain research environments that respect accepted practices for the responsible conduct of research. Trainees learn by example as well as formal training. They assume, not unreasonably, that the practices they observe are appropriate practices. Mentors therefore have an obligation to maintain research environments that set appropriate examples. They should not themselves make unreasonable authorship demands, fail to honor agreements made with trainees, inappropriately cut corners in research, or engage in other practices that run counter to accepted practices for the responsible conduct of research.
Training in the responsible conduct of research. Beginning in 1989 and in line with recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine (IOM, 1989), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) required recipients of National Research Service Institutional Training Program awards (training grants) to offer instruction in the responsible conduct of research (RCR). The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a similar requirement for recipients of its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program awards. Later reports, notably by the 1995 Commission on Research Integrity, called for broadening this requirement to all PHS-funded research, but such a requirement has not been implemented. Nonetheless, there is widespread agreement that RCR training should be integral to the research environment, with heavy emphasis given to the role the mentor plays in providing this training.