Your Responsibilities as a Researcher

Ethics and Compliance with Research Policies

Even at the earliest stages of exposure and experience, Harvard undergraduates are expected to become familiar with their discipline’s ethical standards and to conduct their research activities with the highest level of integrity and commitment to excellence. Research is governed at both the institutional and federal level.  As an undergraduate, you are expected to uphold the Harvard College Honor Code in all of your academic endeavors, including research.  We encourage you to ask questions about proper practices and procedures, to be organized and accurate in all of your research activities, to get safety and ethics training early on, and to follow the directions of your faculty mentors and other research staff closely.

This section highlights the primary responsibilities of undergraduates conducting research.  More detailed information about institutional and federal research policies may be found at the websites of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Research Administration Services, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

RCR Training

Undergraduate students conducting research are expected to apply the highest standards of ethical conduct in the development of projects, the collection and analysis of data, and the reporting of results.  You are likely to receive information of which you should take particular note about research integrity in concentration courses and as a natural extension of lab-based research.  In addition, during the summer of 2010, a pilot training workshop in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) was initiated for Harvard College undergraduate scientists participating in PRISE, which included on-line course readings and a case-study seminar. 

Future iterations of RCR training for undergraduates are in the planning stages.  However, you may get a head start by perusing on-line course materials available from the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative.

After registering and selecting "Harvard University," you may choose the RCR course for the disciplinary area of your research.  Undergraduates are encouraged to complete the modules for general responsible conduct, data acquisition and management, and publication practices.  (Other modules listed are intended for more advanced researchers and faculty.)  Once you have completed the modules and responded to the general test questions, your record will reflect that you have completed the on-line training. 

Questions about undergraduate training in the responsible conduct of research may be directed to Greg Llacer in the Harvard College Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Course Credit for Research Experience

Undergraduates may pursue course credit for research in the following ways:

Courses labeled "91r": The parameters for 91r credit, when offered, are set by academic departments.  These courses are designed to conduct independent research under the direction of faculty, which must be approved before enrollment by the head tutor or director of undergraduate studies (depending on the academic department).  The "r" indicates that the course may be repeated for credit. 

Tutorials (other 9Xr courses):  These courses are designed to prepare for thesis research in a primary concentration, which must be approved in advance by a thesis advisor in the academic department.  Like 91r, the "r" here indicates that the course may be repeated for credit; however, there may be other appropriate tutorial courses within an academic department that reflect a specific course year (for instance, sophomore tutorial versus advanced tutorial). 

Independent Study:  These courses are designed for research (or other academic study) not available in regular coursework offered by a Harvard academic department.  A plan to undertake Independent Study requires a petition signed by the Advising Programs Office and the applicant's Resident Dean.  More information about independent study may be found in the Harvard Undergraduate Student Handbook.

Please note:  Research funding and fellowships may support and inform academic projects; however, payment for research (such as remuneration for course assistance or research assistance, or a specific course requirement) may NOT be received in conjunction with academic credit.  If you have a question about whether or not your project is eligible for academic credit, please contact the appropriate academic department/concentration, the office of the funding source, or the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. Please see the reference at the bottom of the page in 'Course Administration' from the faculty handbook Information for Faculty Offering Instruction in Arts and Sciences for the policy statement.


Obtaining approval to conduct research with human subjects

Any living person from or about whom information is collected for a scholarly study is considered a "research subject."  The term is not limited to subjects involved in clinical or laboratory studies--it also extends to social science and humanities work, especially in the application of survey research methodology.  University regulations and federal rules require advance review and approval of most human subjects research.  In many cases, undergraduate students may get a waiver if the work contributes to the data collection effort of the faculty sponsor.  However, whether or not the project is independent or part of a larger research endeavor, students and facutly should ascertain whether the project requires review.

The FAS Committee on the Use of Human Subjects is responsible for the review and approval of proposed studies.  More information about the Committee may be found in the Intelligent Scholar's Guide to the Use of Human Subjects in Research, on the FAS Research Administration Services web site.

Approvals for Animal Research

The care and use of non-human vertebrate animals is strictly regulated by the federal government.  Approvals and oversight are administered by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) of the Harvard school in which the research is engaged.  For undergraduates, all research protocols (including independent projects) involving non-human vertebrate animals must be initiated by Harvard faculty, and affiliated with laboratory research of a principal investigator.  As an undergraduate, you would not be expected to obtain this approval on your own, so please be sure to seek guidance for your research project from your faculty host.  More detailed information about institutional and government policies may be found on the Faculty of Arts and Science Research Administration Services IACUC web site.