Responsible Conduct of Research

The various areas of responsible conduct of research and associated policies are described below. For more information, see this comprehensive document regarding UW–Madison Research Safety and Compliance Training Requirements and the Research Policy and Compliance Checklist.

Animal Care and Use in Research

UW–Madison has federal compliance responsibilities that pertain to the use of live, vertebrate animals in research, teaching, and outreach activities. This includes but is not limited to traditional basic and applied research models, instruction of students, and public events. Oversight and evaluation of the humane and ethical use of animals is performed by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs). The Research Animal Resource Center (RARC) provides support to the IACUCs and training to animal users necessary to provide the highest quality care and compliance for the university’s research animals. Learn more about the rules and regulations governing the care and use of research animals, how to prepare and submit animal care and use protocols to IACUCs, and how to obtain veterinary and pathology services at the Research Animal Resources Center webpage. Training and protocol approval are required before one can begin research projects involving animals.


Authors of a research publication are usually those who provide meaningful intellectual contribution to a project in one or more of the following ways: concept, design, supervision, resources, materials, data collection and processing, analysis or interpretation, literature search and writing. Many academic journals may list very specific requirements for authorship. All authors have rights and responsibilities thus any person listed as an author should be knowledgeable and aware of such. Unless the contributions of the co-authors are listed, each author takes full responsibility for the contents of the work. When asked to serve as a publication reviewer, students should treat this material as confidential. See further information about authorship, publication and peer review.

Conflict of Interest

The Conflict of Interest (COI) staff and committee review reports of outside activities and financial interests to comply with federal, state, and university regulations and policies. This committee also works with faculty and staff to eliminate, minimize, or manage any actual or potential financial conflicts of interest identified by the reporting process. For further information see the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research’s Conflict of Interest guidance document and Outside Activities Reporting webpage.

Human Research Protections

In accordance with federal regulations and UW–Madison policies, all research involving human subjects must be reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to any research intervention with participants. All graduate research involving human subjects for inclusion in a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation must be approved by an IRB before beginning the research. Training is required before a project is submitted to an IRB for review. For additional information, see the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research Human Research Protection Program webpage. For additional information visit the Institutional Review Board webpage.

Intellectual Property Rights

Except as required by funding agreements or other university policies, the university does not claim ownership rights in the intellectual property generated during research by its faculty, staff, or students. This policy has proven beneficial to the university, the public, and the creators of such property. In the case of inventions funded in whole or in part by a federal agency or in the case of sponsored research agreements that require the university to grant rights in inventions generated by funding under such agreements, faculty, staff, and students must assign rights to such invention to the university’s designated patent management organization, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Faculty, staff, and students must execute all papers necessary to file patent applications on the invention and establish the federal government’s or other sponsor’s rights in the invention. If there are no specific written agreements or policies to the contrary, the researcher at the university is free to dispose of the rights in the manner of his or her own choosing. The university retains the right to use the products of research conducted as a university activity for its education and research mission. See information and forms for disclosing an invention or read more about intellectual property.

Misconduct of Research

Graduate education is carried in classrooms, laboratories and other research venues, and is often supported by federal or other external funding sources. Maintaining the integrity of academic and research efforts carried out at UW–Madison is an essential priority. At UW–Madison, graduate students are held to the same standards of responsible conduct of research as faculty and staff. Misconduct in scholarly research is defined as fabrication (making up data), falsification (changing or misreporting data), plagiarism (representing work of others as your own), or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scholarly community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. For more information, see the overview of Misconduct in Scholarly Research and Faculty Legislation II-314: Misconduct in Scholarly Research. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research is responsible for investigating allegations of research misconduct. For more information, contact the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Policy and Integrity.

Reporting Wrongdoing, Non-compliance or Research Misconduct

The University of Wisconsin-Madison strives to foster the highest scholarly and ethical standards among its students, faculty, and staff. As a recipient of federal funding, the University of Wisconsin must comply with federal laws related to civil rights, animal welfare research misconduct, and others. Though extremely rare, we realize there are times when reportable events of wrongdoing, noncompliance, or misconduct may occur in our midst and that it is our responsibility as an academic community to take steps to rectify them. See the Whistleblower Protection Policy and the policy on Obligations and Protections for Graduate Students.


A patent is an exclusive statutory right available to the inventor or inventors of new material. As inventors, students may have the right to seek patent protection for their invention (for example, for a product that results from the research documented in their dissertation).

If students have received support (for example, an appointment as a Research Assistant or Project Assistant) for the work leading to an invention, or used any other university funding, supplies, equipment, or university premises, in the work leading to an invention, they may have obligations that affect their rights to seek patent protection for an invention. It is important to discuss patents with their advisor. Also, students should review the Intellectual Property Policy for Research.

Research Regulatory Compliance

If students’ research involves human subjects (including data sets, surveys, human blood, or other body materials), live animals, recombinant DNA, infectious agents, stem cells, or biological toxins, they should consult the Research Ethics webpage.


Biological Safety

The Office of Biological Safety (OBS) assists faculty, students, and staff in observing safe practices in research in the biological sciences as prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and endeavors to ensure that research is done in secure facilities in compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations. As an institution receiving NIH research funds, UW–Madison is subject to the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules (rDNA). OBS provides the administrative mechanism by which research involving rDNA can be reviewed, thereby assuring compliance with the NIH guidelines. This institution adheres to the guidance of the CDC/NIH publication, Biosafety in Biomedical and Microbiological Laboratories. Institutional policies are described in the UW–Madison Researchers’ Biosafety Manual.

Chemical Safety

The UW–Madison Chemical Safety Office, working in conjunction with the campus Chemical Safety Committee, establishes policies and procedures for the safe acquisition, use, storage, and disposal of chemicals on campus. The Chemical Safety Office also advises campus chemical users on best practices and helps the university community comply with federal, state, and local chemical and environmental safety laws. See the Office of Chemical Safety website for additional information.

Radiation Safety

The UW–Madison Office of Radiation Safety provides training on the safe use and handling of radioactive materials, which includes ordering, use, disposal, spill cleanup, and shipping for those employees who will need to ship radioactive materials. The Office of Radiation Safety also provides shielding assessments and dosimetry to those users who require it. Additionally, training on safe use of x-ray generating equipment and lasers is also available. See the Office of Radiation Safety website for additional information.