Research Ethics & Safety

Students palpating a cow.Research is an activity with real-world implications and applications, which is one reason why working to create new knowledge is so exciting. However, conducting research involves certain risks and it is critically important to ensure that projects are conducted safely, ethically, and with respect for the rights of individuals as well as animals.

If you are an undergraduate researcher who works with human subjects, animal subjects, recombinant DNA (rDNA), potentially hazardous biological materials or toxins, or human stem cells, that work is overseen by Research Integrity and Compliance Services, which is charged with ensuring that all research conducted at UConn complies with state and federal research regulations.

Your faculty mentor is the best source of information about what training is required in order for you to be involved in research. That training is an essential part of your professional preparation as a researcher and is a credential worth listing on a résumé when applying for a research opportunity.

Learn more about the oversight committees and training requirements associated with different types of research:

IRB: Research with Human Subjects

You may have heard or seen references to the IRB, which stands for the Institutional Review Board. The Institutional Review Board is responsible for the review of all human subjects research conducted at or by the UConn campuses. The IRB works with faculty and students to ensure that research involving human subjects complies with legal requirements and conforms to the ethical principles of Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice.

The UConn IRB requires UConn faculty, staff, and students (including undergrads!) who are conducting research as investigators or key personnel to take the course appropriate to their type of research (Biomedical Research or Social and Behavioral Science) on the CITI website and complete certification before submitting protocol applications for initial approval, amendment, or re-approval. More guidance on Human Subject Protection Training is available on the IRB website. In addition, we encourage you to talk to your faculty advisor to seek advice on the type of training you will need and, if you will be joining a project with an approved IRB protocol in place, to learn about the procedure for being added to that protocol if you will be serving as key personnel.

IACUC: Animal Care and Use

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is the University committee responsible for reviewing the University’s program for humane care and use of animals, for reviewing concerns involving the care and use of animals, for inspecting the University animal housing facilities and study areas, and for reviewing and approving any proposed activities relating to the care and use of animals.

Depending on the kind of animal you work with, you may need to seek IACUC approval before starting your research, and you may be required to complete training to make sure you know how to work appropriately with live vertebrate animals. Consult with your faculty advisor for advice on the type of training you might need and to determine whether IACUC forms need to be filed.

Safety: EHS Training and University Policies

The UConn Environmental Health and Safety Office administers training and procedures that prevent personal injuries and maintain regulatory compliance in the areas of biological, chemical, occupational, and radiation safety. You can complete many of the training courses for biological, radiation, chemical, and other safety courses online. Visit the Environmental Health and Safety website to learn more about available training and to access their Employee Safety Training Assessment (ESTA), which will help you determine what training you need to complete (even if you’re not employed by the university).

For information about how to document your completion of the ESTA and related training requirements for OUR funding programs, visit the Documenting Safety Training for OUR Programs page.

The University’s Working Alone Policy states that no student is permitted to Work Alone in an Immediately Hazardous Environment. This policy has been developed to minimize the risk of serious injury while Working Alone with materials, equipment, or in areas that could result in serious injury or an immediate life threatening hazard. This policy applies to undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students performing academic or research related work at the University of Connecticut Storrs, regional campuses, and the Law School. Students are directly responsible for adhering to all safety procedures, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, and being current in training requirements.

SCRO: Stem Cell Research

The Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee (SCRO) ensures that research at UConn involving human stem cells is well justified and conducted ethically. Successful completion of online training is required of all students before they begin working with human embryonic stem cells (hESC).

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training

If you are working on a project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Institutes of Health (NIH), you will be required to complete Responsible Conduct of Research training to ensure that you understand how to conduct research ethically. Refer to Research Integrity & Compliance’s RCR webpage for more information.