Responsible conduct of research (RCR) courses are widely taught, but little is known about the purposes or effectiveness of such courses. As one way to assess the purposes of these courses, students were surveyed about their perspectives after recent completion of one of eleven different research ethics courses at ten different institutions. Participants (undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty, staff and researchers) enrolled in RCR courses in spring and fall of 2003 received a voluntary, anonymous survey from their instructors at the completion of the course. Responses were received from 268 participants. Seventy-seven percent of open-ended responses listed specific kinds of information learned; only a few respondents talked about changes in skills or attitudes. The perception that courses did more to provide information than to foster skills or attitudes was verified in quantitative responses (P<0.0001). Over 75% of the respondents specifically noted that courses were useful in preparing them to recognize, avoid, and respond to research misconduct. The two principal findings of this multi-institutional study are that respondents reported: (1) a wide variety of positive outcomes for research ethics courses, but that (2) the impact on knowledge was greater than that for changes in skills or attitudes.
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