Training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) is required for many research trainees nationwide, but little is known about its effectiveness. For a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of a short-term course in RCR, medical students participating in an NIH-funded summer research program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) were surveyed using an instrument developed through focus group discussions. In the summer of 2003, surveys were administered before and after a short-term RCR course, as well as to alumni of the courses given in the summers of 2002 and 2001. Survey responses were analyzed in the areas of knowledge, ethical decision-making skills, attitudes about responsible conduct of research, and frequency of discussions about RCR outside of class. The only statistically significant improvement associated with the course was an increase in knowledge, while there was a non-significant tendency toward improvements in ethical decision-making skills and attitudes about the importance of RCR training. The nominal impact of a short-term training course should not be surprising, but it does raise the possibility that other options for delivering information only, such as an Internet-based tutorial, might be considered as comparable alternatives when longer courses are not possible.