3 Knowledge provides opportunity
To achieve Norway’s research policy objectives, it is crucial to have an effective, reciprocal flow of knowledge both nationally and internationally between society at large, trade and industry, and stakeholders in the research system. Effective cooperation between research, higher education and innovation communities is vital as well. The generally high level of education in Norway means that the labour force is willing and able to participate in restructuring, and Norway has more employee-driven innovation than countries with a stricter hierarchical structure. These characteristics of the Norwegian model lay a foundation for cooperation and knowledge flow as important Norwegian competitive advantages. Thus, policy that facilitates this flow and that helps to integrate international cooperation more closely into it will be high on the agenda in the upcoming period.
Effective interaction must derive from sound research ethics. The Government seeks to enhance cooperation between the system of research ethics committees and the research and educational institutions, and will use Norway’s participation in international arenas to promote good research practice. Productive cooperation is also dependent on access to research results. In principle, it is the Government’s view that all research that is wholly or partially funded through public allocations must be made openly available. Open access to scientific articles means that readers may read them without restriction on the Internet. The Government will require that all scientific articles that are wholly or partially publicly funded must either be published as open access articles or self-archived as agreed on with the publisher.
The labour market is changing faster than ever. This gives good reason to direct broad attention to new needs for knowledge and expertise, and the Government wishes to stress the important role that educational quality plays in society’s ability to adapt and innovate. To support the co-action between what educational institutions have to offer and society’s need for appropriate, high-level expertise, the Government will establish a system for analysing future competency needs. The Government will also examine the possibility of establishing a scheme for public enterprises similar to the Industrial Ph.D. Scheme. In addition, 10 years have passed since the Quality Reform in higher education was introduced.1 One of the primary objectives of the reform was to raise the quality of higher education through closer follow-up of the students. A status report on the evaluation of the reform in 2007 stated that it was too early to measure whether the reform had strengthened quality in higher education and whether the overall objectives had been achieved. The Government therefore plans to carry out an evaluation of parts of the Quality Reform related to educational quality.
Research and higher education, together with better utilisation of the labour force through expertise and use of technology, will remain key factors in the Government’s efforts to promote more value creation in and the restructuring of the Norwegian economy. The Government will continue to give priority to a broad spectrum of instruments, including open research and innovation instruments as well as thematic initiatives in areas where Norway has strategic advantages, such as marine research. Similarly, research and higher education play a central role in the development of the public sector. The Government will expand the framework for effective cooperation between educational and research environments and the public sector throughout the country, and expects the Research Council of Norway to expand its efforts to promote innovation in the public sector. The health and care services, along with climate change, are fields in which research-based knowledge is crucial to future development. The Government will strengthen research and development as an instrument in the health and care services, and give priority to research on climate change on society, climate measures and the transition to a low-emissions society.
The core of research and higher education activities revolves around people. To promote knowledge development and knowledge sharing, the Government will seek to expand the framework for mobility of research and development personnel between institutions, sectors and countries. The Government also emphasises how crucial it is for universities and university colleges to have an institutional, strategy-based, transparent personnel policy to help make their institutions attractive as workplaces. The Government will make a concerted effort to follow-up measures designed to reduce the proportion of employees on temporary contracts, in part through targeted follow-up of institutions exhibiting inadequate results. Financial instruments may be used to address this. To strengthen recruitment of especially talented researchers in mathematics and natural sciences, technology, medicine and dentistry, the Government will establish a trial scheme for tenure-track positions with a quota of up to 300 positions.
Differentiation and profiling of activities at universities and university colleges are an important means of achieving the objectives of higher quality and greater impact for Norwegian research and higher education. Together, profiling and specialisation will enhance the diversity of the higher education system. There is a demand in all parts of the country for good access to higher education and specialist knowledge environments. The need for educational programmes and skilled personnel at the regional level is an important argument for quality-promoting specialisation. In the coming four-year period the Government will therefore focus particular attention on advancing the development of internationally leading Norwegian educational and research institutions that score highly in international evaluations, and on intensifying the national effort to strengthen expertise and research in the professional disciplines. Norway needs financial instruments that adequately support quality development through profiled universities and university colleges, promote effective task distribution, ensure sound scientific concentration and encourage each institution to focus on its own specific advantages. Thus the Ministry of Education and Research will assess the structure of its overall funding to universities and university colleges, including the balance between the direct allocations and external research funding through the EU and the Research Council of Norway.
In connection with the preparation of this report, updated information was compiled about the role of the independent research institutes in Norway. On the basis of this information, it has been decided that no major changes will be made to Norwegian policy relating to these independent institutes. Overall, the independent research institutes fulfil their role and achieve good results. However, the Government will simplify the system for basic funding of independent research institutes.
The Research Council of Norway was evaluated in 2012.2 The main conclusion is that the Research Council functions well and enjoys high user confidence. The Research Council of Norway is the Government’s most important implementer of national research policy priorities and is the principal instrument for developing the research system as a whole. The organisation must continue to refine its funding instruments and work methods with an eye to enhancing the quality of Norwegian research even further. The Research Council will therefore need work methods, instruments and procedures that can be adapted to different user groups. The Research Council must also strengthen the knowledge base for its advisory activities, expand its strategic efforts to develop the independent research institute sector, promote clearer profiling of universities and university colleges, and help to set clearer priorities in international research cooperation.