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Research Protections Office

The Research Protections Office (RPO) coordinates and implements several research compliance programs at NIST, including the following:


Human subjects research at NIST is guided by and adheres to the ethical principles set forth in the Belmont Report. These principles are ratified into federal regulation in Department of Commerce regulations at 15 CFR 27 and the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations at 21 CFR 50 and 21 CFR 56.

The objectives of the RPO are to:

  • Ensure the rights and welfare of human subjects are protected
  • Facilitate the timely review of NIST research protocols
  • Provide education and training to NIST staff participating or reviewing research

The RPO makes determinations regarding whether a project is considered research, research not involving human subjects or exempt human subjects research. In addition, the RPO will make institutional engagement determinations to determine whether NIST is engaged in non-exempt human subjects research.  For non-exempt research conducted by NIST researchers, the NIST Institutional Review Board (NIST IRB) reviews the project.  The IRB Program Manager within the RPO assists researchers, manages, and supports this review process by the NIST IRB.

Humane care and treatment of vertebrate animals at NIST is guided by and adheres to the ethical principles set forth in the U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training.  These principles are embodied in the federal law and regulations that protect animal welfare, including but not limited to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the AWA implementing regulations (AWAR), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidance, when applicable.

The objectives of the RPO in vertebrate animal research are to:

  • Ensure the humane care and treatment of vertebrate animals in research conducted or supported by NIST
  • Facilitate the timely administrative review of NIST research protocols
  • Provide education and training to NIST staff participating in animal research

The NIST Animal Care & Use Coordinator (NIST-ACUC) within RPO assists researchers on whether an activity is considered to involve live vertebrate animals.  If live vertebrate animals are involved, the NIST-ACUC facilitates the RPO administrative review of external Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval for the activity.  In addition, the NIST-ACUC reviews the use of pre-existing specimens and data originally collected from vertebrate animals.

Export Control and Compliance Program at NIST values the contributions of international collaborations to the scientific and technological strength of the United States and to NIST mission success. Inclusivity is one of the four core values of NIST. Meetings, visits, and guest researcher contributions by foreign persons are common means to facilitate interchange with international scientific and technical counterparts in support of broad agency mission objectives and program goals, including development of international standards. However, NIST must balance this openness with the need to adhere to export laws and regulations. The Export Control Program is the mechanism within the Agency that provides checks and safeguards at key steps in program development and implementation, to help manage and support international activities.

The NIST Export Controls Manager (ECM) is responsible for assessing and ensuring compliance of all NIST program activities with U.S. export control laws and regulations. 

The Scientific Integrity Program is guided by NIST's Policy to promote scientific integrity by creating a culture of personal and organizational responsibility where the practice and management of scientific research and of its products are free from undue influences that are not essential to the practice of science such as personal or social allegiances, beliefs or interests.

NIST’s dedication to scientific integrity is highlighted with this assertion: NIST is an organization with strong values, reflected both in our history and our current work.  NIST leadership and staff will uphold these values to ensure a high performing environment that is safe and respectful of all.

  • Perseverance: We take the long view, planning the future with scientific knowledge and imagination to ensure continued impact and relevance for our stakeholders.
  • Integrity: We are ethical, honest, independent, and provide an objective perspective.
  • Inclusivity:  We work collaboratively to harness the diversity of people and ideas, both inside and outside of NIST, to attain the best solutions to multidisciplinary challenges.  
  • Excellence: We apply rigor and critical thinking to achieve world-class results and continuous improvement in everything we do.