NOU 2022: 2

Academic freedom of expression — A good culture of free speech must be built from the bottom up, every single day

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7 Measures

7.1 Governance and awareness raising

In this chapter, the Commission proposes a number of measures to strengthen academic freedom of expression. The proposed measures are based on the descriptions of challenges in chapter 6 and other available sources of knowledge. The aim of the measures is to ensure that academic freedom of expression can contribute to the realisation of the ideals highlighted in section 3.2.

Not all of the challenges in chapter 6 are addressed by the measures proposed here. Some of the challenges are due to factors outside academia and are therefore outside the Commission’s mandate. While some challenges can be resolved with specific instruments, such as laws and governance tools, others are of such a nature that they can only be «resolved» through sustained deliberation and discussion within academia and in society at large.

Textbox 7.1

It is the debate that the report sparks and the practical work it will trigger throughout Norway that will provide the greatest benefit. Science must rise up in the battle for the truth in a world where alternative facts, logarithms and hidden agendas can easily proliferate.

Gunnar Yttri, Rector of Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, article in the online newspaper for higher education and research Khrono on 29 December 2021.

Source https://khrono.no/framifra-i-kvardagen/645622

This is reflected in the fact that the measures are primarily aimed at the regulations and system of governance for academia, the academic institutions, managers and employees in the sector, and the authorities. It is more difficult to propose measures to address the challenges that academic freedom of expression faces from outside the sector. These are of such a nature that it is difficult for both the academic community as a whole and the individual academic institutions to protect themselves against them. As a society, we have a shared responsibility to support our academic institutions, their staff and students. This responsibility lies not least with the political authorities and the media. Moreover, it will benefit these institutions to join forces with academia in efforts to seek truth and promote free speech.

As stressed in section 6.1, our point of departure is that many of our academic staff and students could do more dissemination work and make a better contribution to academic freedom of expression. This goal can only be achieved if the entire sector feels and assumes a responsibility for ensuring that the dissemination of knowledge and active, knowledge-based participation in the broader public spheres become an integral part of academic work.

7.2 Regulations

7.2.1 Introduction

As described in section 5.1.1, academic freedom of expression enjoys strong protection pursuant to Article 100 of the Norwegian Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The challenges described in chapter 6 are primarily due to actual circumstances, as opposed to legal factors. Freedom of expression is well protected; it is the arena of expression that is under pressure.

Changes to rules will therefore only be able to have limited effect. That said, where legislation already exists in an area, it is important that it is as precise as it can be. This is partly to ensure that the law has the intended legal effects, and partly to ensure their democratic foundation. Unclear rules are unfortunate, both legally and democratically. They are particularly unfortunate in the field of freedom of expression. If we imagine the space for protected expressions as a circle in which the statutory boundaries of legal expressions define the perimeter, uncertainty about these boundaries will make it difficult to discern what constitutes a protected expression. For example, if the boundaries can be understood as being more narrow than what was intended, the arena of expression will be perceived as smaller than it actually is. People might then withhold expressions that they could legally have made, and the public would be denied access to the ideas that were expressed.

Further, it can be assumed that the more conscientious people are, the stronger this effect becomes. It can also be assumed that people who are less conscientious would be less affected. This would result in a relatively greater loss of the more enlightening and nuanced voices.

We propose amendments to only one statutory provision, namely section 1-5 of the Universities and University Colleges Act. We find that it should be stipulated more clearly how it protects academic freedom of expression, who is responsible for safeguarding this freedom, and how.

We have also looked at some of the provisions in other Acts of law that impact academia, which are mentioned in section 5.1.3. We are not proposing amendments to these Acts, as these amendments would also have effects far beyond our mandate. Since we have received consultative statements claiming that several of these provisions may affect academic freedom of expression, we identify in section 7.2.3 how some of them pose challenges because they are unclear or can be misunderstood for other reasons. The rationale behind this is to provide ideas for other or subsequent reports or revisions that assess these provisions.

7.2.2 Amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act

Academic freedom is currently protected in section 1-5 of the Universities and University Colleges Act. We propose five amendments to this provision. These amendments have four main objectives:

  • 1. To clarify the institutional responsibility for the staff and students’ academic freedom

  • 2. To specify that the institutional responsibility entails ensuring training in and the prerequisites for staff and students to be able to exercise academic freedom, including academic freedom of expression

  • 3. To clarify that the academic freedom from external instructions and control also applies to the dissemination part of the academic tasks

  • 4. To promote the individual right, and responsibility, to conduct academic dissemination.

The proposed amendments are highlighted in italics in the current statutory text, and are explained in more detail below.

Section 1-5 Academic freedom and responsibility

(1) Universities and university colleges must promote and safeguard academic freedom, and those who exercise it. The institutions are responsible for ensuring that teaching, research and academic and artistic development work maintain a high professional level and are conducted in accordance with recognised scientific, artistic, educational and ethical principles.

(2) In other respects, universities and university colleges are entitled to establish their own academic and value basis within the framework laid down in or pursuant to law.

(3) Universities and university colleges must ensure that staff and students receive adequate training in and have the prerequisites for the exercise of academic freedom, including academic freedom of expression.

(4) Universities or university colleges may not be instructed regarding

  • a) the academic content of their teaching

  • b) the content of research or artistic or academic development work

  • c) the content of dissemination

  • d) individual appointments.

(5) Each person teaching at institutions subject to this Act has an independent academic responsibility for the contents and plan for the teaching within the framework that is determined by the institution or that follows from statutes or regulations pursuant to statutes.

(6) A person appointed to a position where research or academic or artistic development work is part of the duties, is entitled to choose the topic and method for his/her research or development work within the framework that follows from the employment contract or a special agreement.

(7) A person covered by the fifth or sixth paragraph has the right and an academic responsibility to conduct dissemination.

(8) Universities and university colleges must ensure transparency regarding the results of research or academic or artistic development work. Anyone appointed to a position as mentioned in the fifth paragraph is entitled to publish their results and must make sure such publication takes place. The relevant research basis must be made available in line with good practice in the field. The board may consent to postponed publication when required for legitimate reasons. No permanent restrictions in the right to publish results can be agreed or stipulated beyond what follows from statute or pursuant to statute.

Introduction

The proposed amendments build on the assessments of both the Universities and University Colleges Act Commission (the Aune Commission), and this Commission. In those cases where our proposals follow the Aune Commission’s proposals, we refer to Aune Commission’s reasoning.

The proposed amendments are aimed at both institutional and individual responsibilities. The difference between these two determines who is covered by which proposed amendments:

It is not only academic staff who need protection of their academic freedom and freedom of expression – the students do as well. Together, these two groups constitute the academic community, which relies on academic freedom and academic freedom of expression. In many cases, these two groups will also do research and teach together.

However, the groups differ from each other in some key respects: the students are in education and training, and they are not employees pursuant to labour law.

The individual responsibility for dissemination is one of the work tasks of academic employees. The individual freedom in our proposal for a new seventh paragraph should therefore only be formulated as a right and responsibility for academic staff. By contrast, the institutional duties to safeguard the academic freedom and freedom of expression of academics – the amended first paragraph and new third paragraph – should also apply to students.

In connection with the wording, the Commission has given priority to using concise, clear language, and consistency with the formulations in the other provisions of the Act.

The heading: The amendment from «faglig» [professional, academic, technical] to «akademisk» [academic] in the section heading in Norwegian is intended to better capture the breadth of what is regulated by section 1-5. Irrespective of this, with the amendments proposed by the Commission, the provision will address most aspects of academic freedom and responsibility – both institutional and individual, with regard to teaching, research and academic and artistic development work and dissemination.

One challenge with this proposal is that in Norwegian, section 1-1 (c) of the Universities and University Colleges Act uses the formulation «principle of academic freedom», using the word «faglig» instead of «akademisk». However, most people would interpret this provision as referring to academic freedom in the broadest sense. This can be resolved by also amending section 1-1 (c), but we will leave this question to any further review of the Act.

The addition to the first paragraph: This addition applies to the academic institutions. It clarifies the institutions’ responsibility for individuals who exercise academic freedom.

This formulation originates from the Aune Commission, but differs on one point. While the Aune Commission proposed the addition «and the employees exercising it», our proposal replaces «the employees» with the broader «those». We believe it is important to emphasise that the institutional responsibility for the individuals who exercise academic freedom covers not only the staff, but also the students. They are a central part of the academic community. The overall institutional responsibility for academic freedom should therefore also encompass them.

As discussed in section 5.1.2, the Aune Commission was concerned with highlighting the institutional responsibility to defend and support employees in a harsher climate of debate.1 This need is also central to our mandate and work (see sections 2.1 and 6.5). The Aune Commission stated that the current provision already implies that «the institutions’ statutory responsibilities include supporting their employees in such situations» (in this context, «such» means when employees are subjected to targeted campaigns, intimidation, harassment, etc.). At the same time, the Commission also accepted that developments in society may provide grounds to emphasise further the responsibility of the institution’s management «to protect the staff from bullying and intimidation». The Commission also held that the clarification might «serve to protect individual employees from being subjected to sanctions from the employer in a situation where the employee has exercised their academic freedom of expression and faced reactions that the management finds unpleasant».

This proposal from the Aune Commission has not been implemented. This is because the Ministry found that the clarification would not entail a material change.2 The Ministry did however stress that new technology and changes in the climate of debate are creating new challenges for academic freedom and responsibility, and that they would appoint an expert group – this Commission – to investigate these issues.

We understand the Ministry’s objection, but have reached a different conclusion regarding the legal and practical effects of the proposed amendment. The addition clarifies that the institutions are responsible not only for safeguarding academic freedom as an abstract concept, but also the individuals who exercise it. This constitutes a material change: Their exercise of academic freedom must be both safeguarded (against attacks) and actively promoted (by appropriate measures – such as the measures in the Commission’s proposed new third paragraph and training as outlined in section 7.4.3, for example).

This responsibility can to a certain extent be derived from the current provision read in the context of the institutions’ responsibilities as an employer, but the content of these responsibilities has not been discussed and precisely defined. Regardless, a legal interpretation is of little use if the institutions do not follow up on these responsibilities in practice.

Although the addition does not stipulate specific legal effects, it establishes a positive duty for the institutions that may be of significance in, for example, labour law assessments. Duties without specific legal effects are not a new invention. A parallel example to clarify this is the definition in human rights law of «positive duties» to ensure what are essentially negative freedoms (see section 5.2.1, for example). Specification of the positive duties in concrete terms can make detailed regulation difficult. This means that guidelines such as that which has been proposed may be a suitable legislative technique to highlight a responsibility at an overall level. The scope and content of this responsibility can then be further outlined in different directions, as we do in the other proposed amendments to section 1-5, and the other measures proposed by the Commission (see chapter 7).

There is an inherent tension in the first paragraph. The institutions must ensure quality, but also individual academic freedom and freedom of expression. This tension is discussed in section 6.2.2 of the Commission’s report. Among other things, the Underdal Commission stressed that all academic management and leadership must be exercised with respect for the individual researcher’s freedom to choose their own topics and methods and publish their results, and that «an institution cannot be held accountable for anything over which it has been deprived of authority.»3 We adhere to these general guidelines for the kinds of dilemmas that this tension might cause.

New third paragraph: This paragraph entails two specifications of the responsibility ensuing from the proposed amendments to the first paragraph:

First, it codifies the institutions’ responsibility to train their staff and students in academic freedom and academic freedom of expression. The employees who require such training are those who need an understanding of these freedoms in order for the institutions to be able to fulfil their responsibilities pursuant to the first paragraph. This will be academic staff, but also administrative staff who interact with academic staff and students in a way that might affect their academic freedom of expression.

In this context, academic freedom means both institutional autonomy and individual academic freedom. Similarly, in this context, academic freedom of expression means freedom of expression used for academic purposes in a broad sense, both within academia, and in the form of outward dissemination and debate, as outlined in section 3.1.2. The reason why this freedom is emphasised in the third paragraph, while the first paragraph refers only to academic freedom, is the special need for employees and students to understand and receive training in the aspect of academic freedom that academic freedom of expression entails.

Second, it codifies the institutions’ responsibility to create a space to ensure that academic freedom and academic freedom of expression can be exercised in practice.

The responsibility to ensure sufficient training in academic freedom and academic freedom of expression means they must create understanding of what these freedoms entail, why they are important, and how they can be exercised.

In its work, the Commission has gained a clear impression that it cannot be assumed that the management, university employees or students are familiar with the fundamentals of academic freedom and freedom of expression. Without this knowledge, it is difficult for them to fulfil the statutory tasks ensuing from section 1-3.

Knowledge requires training. The institutions currently have systems and routines to provide their employees with the training necessary for them to be able to fulfil their research and teaching tasks. With the Commission’s proposed new third paragraph, they will also be responsible for having systems and routines for training in dissemination. The Commission discusses the training that will be needed in section 7.4.3.

The responsibility to ensure the prerequisites for the exercise of academic freedom and academic freedom of expression means that the institutions must ensure that the academic employees have the opportunity to fulfil all the tasks they are to perform pursuant to sections 1-1 and 1-3: i.e. research, teaching and dissemination. This requires an understanding of what all the tasks entail and how they can be developed, as outlined under the section on training.

They must also ensure that employees have the time and opportunities to exercise academic freedom of expression, including through dissemination activities. This is not intended to limit the freedom of contract to create positions where employees have a particular responsibility for certain parts of the academic mission – be it research, teaching or dissemination. Nevertheless, the requirement to ensure the prerequisites for the exercise of academic freedom of expression is particularly relevant to the task of dissemination, since this task is currently often given lower priority than the other tasks. Ordinary academic positions with stipulated percentages where research and teaching together make up 100 per cent of the working hours may be in violation of the requirement to ensure the prerequisites for the exercise of academic freedom and academic freedom of expression.

The responsibility to ensure there are prerequisites also entails a responsibility to protect people who are exposed to unlawful expressions and threats or highly unpleasant and unreasonable treatment in edited and unedited media. Ways in which this can be done are outlined in section 7.4.

New point (c) in the fourth paragraph: This point makes it clear that institutional academic freedom also applies to the dissemination task. The addition is intended to highlight and secure the freedom to disseminate, thereby strengthening the freedom of dissemination of institutions that perform research, and thus also academic staff.

Pursuant to sections 1-1 and 1-3 of the Universities and University Colleges Act, dissemination is part of the purpose of and one of the tasks of universities and university colleges, in addition to education and research. The institutional academic freedom to disseminate presupposes that the content of the dissemination, in line with the content of the teaching and research, is free from instructions and orders.

This can be ensured in two ways: either by including dissemination together with teaching and research and artistic and academic development work in point (a) of this paragraph, or by dividing the different tasks into four different points. The Commission proposes the latter. Clear division into three tasks will make section 1-5 better aligned with the divisions in section 1-1 (a)–(c) and section 1-3 (a)–(c). It will also ensure the task of dissemination is more clearly visible. Finally, it makes for easier reading: If all three tasks are included in the current point (a), it becomes very convoluted.

As described in chapter 3, the task of dissemination includes not only making research findings available, but also the transfer of general knowledge in the discipline and issues of importance to academic work, both within the institutions, and outwardly to society at large. Dissemination must therefore be interpreted in a broad sense here and in the proposed new sixth paragraph. However, it is academic dissemination, not academic employees’ dissemination of other opinions or ideas, or participation in debates on other types of topics, that we are trying to clarify and highlight. The Commission has considered emphasising this by using the formulation «academic dissemination». However, since this term does not appear elsewhere in the Universities and University Colleges Act, this formulation may create uncertainty as to whether what is being regulated here is something other than the dissemination mentioned in, for example, sections 1-1- and 1-3. We therefore believe that it is better to only use the term «dissemination» both here in the proposed new point (c), and also in the proposed new sixth paragraph.

New seventh paragraph: This proposal has two objectives: To highlight the individual freedom of dissemination in line with the freedom of teaching and freedom of research, and to emphasise that dissemination (i.e. academic dissemination in a broad sense, as described above) is both an individual right and an individual responsibility.

Freedom of teaching and freedom of research are set out in the current fourth and fifth paragraphs. In order to highlight that dissemination is a task in the same way as these two other tasks, in line with the reasons cited for the new point (c) in the fourth paragraph, the Commission proposes emphasising freedom of dissemination in a separate paragraph that corresponds to these two paragraphs.

Freedom of dissemination and responsibility for dissemination lie with academics who both do research and teach, but also those who only do one or the other. We have therefore formulated the subject of the new seventh paragraph in line with what is covered by the (new) fifth or sixth paragraph.

These paragraphs (the new fifth to seventh paragraphs) specify the three work tasks of academic staff. In principle, the employees’ right to disseminate provided by the new seventh paragraph is a right the individual has in relation to an employer’s right to direct and supervise the workforce. The fact that employees have this right should not be read antithetically, to imply that students do not have a right to engage in dissemination.

The content of the freedom of dissemination is outlined in chapter 3. As highlighted in that chapter, academic freedom of expression, entails both a right and a responsibility, including in connection with the task of dissemination.

Safeguarding the individual academic freedom of expression for dissemination is the crux of the Commission’s mandate. The measures we are proposing are essentially measures to strengthen this freedom. However, several of the descriptions of dilemmas in chapter 6 show that academics do not always fulfil the responsibility that comes with this freedom in ways that promote the pursuit of truth and free exchange of opinions.

We have therefore sought to highlight this responsibility here. This responsibility has two sides. First, academic staff have a responsibility to pursue the truth by complying with the norms regarding quality, ethics and objectivity that apply in their field. Second, they have a responsibility to help their peers adhere to these norms, for example by conducting peer reviews, proposing alternative hypotheses or falsification, or presenting counter-arguments and clarifications of academic questions they themselves believe to be incorrect or inadequately elucidated in the public dissemination or debate.

We have tried to underline this understanding of the responsibility to conduct dissemination by formulating it as an «academic responsibility».

One challenge in connection with formulating the responsibility dimension of freedom of dissemination is that this kind of formulation may be (mis)used to limit or restrict freedom of expression, both for oneself and others. This is not our intention. Even dissemination that some people find irresponsible may also be decisive to the seeking of truth and democracy. Exploring dead-ends can help identify more promising paths, and daring to make claims that turn out to be wrong can constitute good exercise of the responsibility of academic expression.

An absolutely key issue is this: The risk of «well-intentioned» interference with the legal and often important freedom of expression that academics exercise is always present – especially in connection with expressions that are controversial, do not align with prevailing opinions, or are forcefully and provocatively formulated. This risk can be further exacerbated by those who want less of this type of expression pointing out that academic freedom of expression must be exercised «responsibly».

In light of this risk, the Commission has considered suggestions proposed by the consultation bodies on adopting a provision in the Universities and University Colleges Act that corresponds to section 14(2) of the Irish Universities Act:

A member of the academic staff of a university shall have the freedom, within the law, in his or her teaching, research and any other activities either in or outside the university, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions and shall not be disadvantaged, or subject to less favourable treatment by the university, for the exercise of that freedom.

What the Irish law expresses – freedom «within the law» – is already applicable law in Norway. This follows from the protection of the general freedom of expression in Article 100 of the Norwegian Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which also applies to academics (see section 5.1.1).

One advantage of expounding on some of the content of this protection of the freedom of expression in the Universities and University Colleges Act would be that the scope of academic freedom of expression would then be more clearly defined in the very Act that governs universities and university colleges.

A disadvantage is that these kinds of definitions always risk omitting parts of the protection that may also be central. Another is that our legislation would be significantly more ponderous and wordier if the exact content of all our freedom rights had to be spelled out for every single context where these freedoms risk coming under pressure. The system we have for safeguarding these rights in Norway is that they are protected unless restrictions are explicitly stipulated in laws.

The Commission has therefore decided instead to propose the specified amendments to section 1-5 of the Act to clarify the institutional and individual responsibility to ensure that academic freedom of expression can be exercised in practice.

The purpose of highlighting academic responsibility in the proposed new seventh paragraph is to clarify the kind of responsibility for impartiality and the seeking of truth that comes with the freedom of dissemination academic employees have pursuant to the Universities and University Colleges Act. All citizens have the right to say whatever they want, however they want, within the statutory limitations of the general freedom of expression. Whether these legal boundaries have been breached is determined by regulated processes, and in the final instance before the courts. Questions about the use and misuse of the professional responsibility for dissemination are essentially a matter for academic deliberation.

Academic staff in sectors other than universities and university colleges

The Commission has not further examined the general rules and frameworks for freedom of expression in working life, restrictions in employment contracts, duty of loyalty, duty of confidentiality, etc., because these will be included in the Freedom of Expression Commission’s report.4

The health trusts are a major and important player in research, and have a primary responsibility for patient-oriented clinical research. The health trusts have employees in purely academic positions, and employees in positions where they split their time between working as a health professional and doing academic work (research). Some employees have an employment relationship with both a hospital trust and a university, a so-called combined position. The ratio between the two employers may vary.

Employees in the health trusts are subject to the Working Environment Act and have ordinary freedom of expression.

For combined positions, an employee will be covered by the rules on academic freedom laid down in the Universities and University Colleges Act in respect of that part of their job that is linked to a university. However, all academic staff at the hospital trusts should, regardless of whether they are in a combined position or not, have the same academic freedom and academic freedom of expression as people employed by the universities. This is vital in order to ensure that the important research that takes place in the health trusts (alone and in collaboration with the universities) can maintain the same level of confidence as other research. As an employer, the research institution has a responsibility to ensure that this is enshrined in the institution’s frameworks. People who are in positions in which they alternate between roles as a health professional and an academic employee have a particular responsibility to be clear in their understanding and practice of their roles, also in their communication with the outside world. Section 6.3.2 discusses issues related to «uniformed» health professionals and balancing their roles as a researcher or doctor.

The third important provider of research is the research institutes. The organisational structure of these institutes varies widely (see the discussion in section 5.4). The institutes that receive basic funding from the state are subject to requirements, which are stipulated in guidelines5, and section 4.2 deals with academic freedom:

The institute must ensure that the principles of academic freedom apply to all publicly funded research carried out by researchers employed at the institute, provided this does not come into conflict with the employer’s right to direct and supervise the workforce.
Researchers shall have the freedom to ask questions, including with regard to what is considered established knowledge and understanding, the greatest possible freedom to speak publicly about their research, freedom to propose new ideas, and freedom to choose the method and material for their research and development work within the frameworks that follow from the employment contract, project description or other special agreements. As a general rule, researchers employed at the institute shall have the right to publish their results and shall ensure that publication takes place if the assignment is publicly funded. If an assignment is partially privately funded, procedures for publication must be clarified before entering into a contract and must be included in the contract for the assignment. If publication will prevent protection or commercial exploitation of the results of the research, publication may be postponed.

Academic staff at research institutes are not covered by the provisions of the Universities and University Colleges Act on academic freedom. In the Commission’s opinion, it is important that academic staff at these institutes have the same academic freedom as those employed at universities and university colleges, to the extent that this is possible in view of the unique characteristics of the individual research institute. The institutes that are partly research institutes and partly administrative bodies will be in a similar situation as the health trusts. The «pure» research institutes depend on income from commissioned work to varying degrees, and the employer must therefore be able to direct the researchers towards research activities that an external actor is willing to pay for. The institutes must be able to instruct their researchers to sell their research time to a client. However, once the contract has been signed, the researcher must be ensured the freedom to carry out the project in accordance with their own academic judgment. Researchers in the institute sector must have the freedom to conduct research within the concluded research contracts in an academically untethered manner. The assignment contracts may also limit the researcher’s academic freedom of expression. When this concerns legitimate interests, it is acceptable for an institute to agree that the client owns the results in a way that restricts the researcher’s freedom of expression. These will primarily be commercial interests.

7.2.3 Assessment of the Constitution and other regulations

The Norwegian Constitution

Several of the consultative statements the Commission has received suggest that the Commission should propose amendments to the Constitution to ensure academic freedom of expression. Different grounds and formulations are used in the proposals. Some argue that academic freedom ought to be enshrined in the Constitution as a general principle. Others are more specific, but also more comprehensive in their formulations, with proposals such as the protection of «the freedom of academia, art and scientific research», or that «Art and science, research and teaching shall be free. Teaching must respect the ideals on which the Constitution is based.»

As highlighted in section 3.1, academic freedom is broader than academic freedom of expression. Academic freedom also includes institutional freedom (i.e. institutional autonomy), which is outside the Commission’s mandate. We have therefore not considered whether academic freedom ought, as a general principle, to be enshrined in the Constitution.

The question is whether academic freedom of expression can be better ensured by amending Article 100 of the Constitution to specifically mention «academic» freedom of expression, or by including academic freedom in one of the «vacant» provisions of the Constitution, such as Article 99.

As explained in section 3.1, the Commission considers academic freedom of expression to be a subcategory of the general freedom of expression – that it is an exercise of the freedom of expression and information for the particular purpose of seeking truth. As discussed in section 5.1.1, academic expressions already have strong protection at the constitutional and human rights levels. For a more in-depth assessment of this issue, see the Institute for Social Research (ISF) report referenced in that section.6

The Commission does not believe that an amendment specifically stipulating that «academic» freedom of expression is also protected by the Constitution would provide academic freedom of expression with better legal protection than it already has. An amendment of this nature might also trigger questions about the impact that specifically mentioning one field might have for all the other contexts in which freedom of expression is used, but which were not specifically mentioned, such as the fields of art, politics or journalism. Would they still have the same protection, or would their protections be slightly less, since they were not specifically mentioned? Nor is it the case that including different aspects of rights, or defining them more precisely, in the Constitution will automatically ensure that the rights are better protected in practice.7

A few of the consultative statements appear to indicate that the authors behind them think that specification of academic freedom of expression in the Constitution would make this freedom more absolute, such that it would outweigh other rights and considerations. However, this is not the case. There are few absolute constitutional and human rights (one example is the prohibition against torture). Most rights, including freedom of expression, are relative. This means that the state can interfere with them on specifically defined conditions – in order to safeguard the rights of others (e.g. protection of privacy, anti-discrimination protection) or compelling societal considerations (such as national security).8 It is this relativity that allows legal restrictions to be imposed on freedom of expression, including academic freedom of expression. Examples of restrictions that apply, both in general and in academia, are laws that make it illegal to threaten people, violate their honour or privacy, incite terrorism or violence, commit qualified hate speech, or harass people. These restrictions will remain, even if the Constitution were to specifically mention academic freedom of expression.

For these reasons, the Commission is not proposing any amendment to the Constitution.

Labour law provisions

Employees have a non-statutory duty of loyalty to their employer to do what they can to ensure the best possible fulfilment of the employment contract. This is a fundamental social consideration. At times, the duty of loyalty can come into conflict with employees’ freedom of expression. Non-statutory rights may satisfy the requirement for a legal basis for interference with the freedom of expression. In the face of non-statutory norms, however, the need for clarity becomes particularly important, because the absence of a legal text makes it even more difficult than usual for people to inform themselves about their legal status.

As pointed out in the report Ytringsfrihet i akademia [Freedom of speech in academia], a number of cases from the Parliamentary Ombud pertain precisely to demarcating the boundary between freedom of expression and duty of loyalty.9 Studies show that both employers and employees believe that, in practice, the duty of loyalty limits far more expressions than it legally should.10 The Commission has not considered whether the challenges entailed by the current regulatory solutions in striking a balance between freedom of expression and duty of loyalty could be remedied by codification, and if so, how this might be achieved.

Freedom of speech issues may arise in various areas, including in connection with whistleblowing cases, both pursuant to chapter 2A of the Working Environment Act and in the various internal systems for reporting irregularities at the institutions. These must be handled astutely by managers or others who administer the systems, with a main focus on the assumed intention of the person who made the disputed statements. If the disputed statements are an element of truth-seeking academic activities, the threshold for their being considered to constitute legitimate grounds for a whistleblowing case is very high. Nor should the exercise of academic freedom of expression be a grounds for sanctions pursuant to the Civil Service Act.

Section 185 of the Penal Code

Several commentators have pointed out in their consultative statements that section 185 of the Penal Code on hate speech is a provision that may restrict academic freedom of expression. The Commission is aware that the Freedom of Expression Commission has also received consultative input on this provision and has held its own consultation meeting in connection with this.11 Changes to section 185 would have consequences far beyond this Commission’s mandate, and we are therefore not proposing any such amendments. We would, however, like to highlight some challenges that we believe should be taken into consideration if it were to be revised.

Many of the consultative statements the Commission has received have focused on the fact that it is very unclear as to what is covered by the provision, and that it therefore ought to be repealed or amended. Examples of challenges that have been reported to us are that the provision can prevent statements that are critical of religion or gender categories.

Blasphemy and other criticism of religion are not a criminal offence under Norwegian law. Even criticism that is perceived as deeply offensive to followers of the religion that is being criticised is protected. The Supreme Court draws a sharp distinction between statements directed at topics or institutions, such as religion, and statements directed at the individuals who practise this religion.

The first group of statements is normally encompassed by the general freedom of expression and is not a criminal offence pursuant to section 185 of the Penal Code, even if they are perceived to be offensive. These kinds of statements – such as political statements, for example – do not target «a person», which is a condition for the application of section 185.12

Fact-based, truth-seeking expressions are not covered by the provision, even though some people may find them offensive. Expressions of this nature are at the very core of the protection of the freedom of expression pursuant to Article 100 of the Norwegian Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – even expressions that, objectively, are clearly rude, and not particularly well suited to advancing the pursuit of truth or promoting democracy. In several cases pertaining to section 185 of the Penal Code, the Supreme Court has stressed that «beyond the core area for the freedom of expression[s], there is a relatively spacious margin for tasteless expressions».13

However, section 185 of the Penal Code has rather obscure wording. It has been tweaked on a number of occasions, in part to include more protected groups, but it has retained several formulations that no longer align with the current legal reality.

In the first paragraph, it states that it applies to any person who «… publicly makes a discriminatory or hateful statement…», such that the terms «discriminatory» and «hateful» are alternatives. In legal practice, however, discriminatory statements are not covered unless they are also hateful.

The second paragraph states that «‘discriminatory or hateful statement’ means threatening or insulting a person or promoting hate of, persecution of or contempt for another person based on his or her…» (followed by a list of the protected groups).

Threats are already prohibited by sections 263 and 264 of the Penal Code. The word «ringeakt» («contempt» in the English translation) is rather antiquated in Norwegian and not particularly readily comprehensible. Linguistically, the word «forhåne») («insult» in the English translation) is often used for statements that are much milder than those covered by section 185 of the Penal Code.

Pursuant to legal practice, only statements of a «qualified offensive nature» are affected. This includes expressions that «incite or support violations of integrity» and expressions that entail a «gross disparagement of a group’s human dignity».14

The threshold for being covered by section 185 of the Penal Code is thus much higher than the current wording of the provision implies, when applying a standard linguistic interpretation of the wording. It is not uncommon for laws to need to be interpreted in the light of several sources of law before the precise norm they express can be established. However, it is extremely unfortunate to have a statutory provision in the area of freedom of expression that both carries defined penal sanctions and that can mislead people into believing that a wider range of acts will entail punishment than is actually the case in terms of legal practice. It will clearly have the potential to silence more statements than the provision is intended to encompass. The wording should be changed to reflect the qualifications that have been established through legal practice.

The Commission would also like to draw attention to two additional challenges with this provision. The first is linguistic; the second is legal.

Linguistically, it is a problem that the term «hate speech» is used in a range of contexts in everyday speech in ways that are different to its use in the Penal Code. Everyday usage tends to include much more than what is covered by section 185 of the Penal Code.15

This, in turn, is related to the different ways in which «hate» is used as a noun and an adjective. They can be roughly grouped into two categories:

Some people will reserve the term «hate» for statements made with a hateful intention: either a hate of others due to individual or collective characteristics, or a wish to harm or harass them for other reasons. If this kind of intention is absent, the subjective experience of the people exposed to the expressions becomes irrelevant.

Some people use the term more widely, to refer to expressions that are experienced as hurtful, offensive or hateful by either the recipient or bystanders. When «hate» denotes a phenomenon in which the subjective experience of the listener or reader is decisive, the intention of the person behind the expression is irrelevant.

Both of these approaches are difficult to reconcile with ordinary linguistic usage. The first because meaning cannot be determined by the person behind an expression alone, it also depends on how others perceive what is said, in light of the entire context of the expression. The second because it overlooks what the person who made the expression actually meant.

The second use of the term «hate» differs from dictionary examples, which imply that ill intention is a determinant for hate.16 It is also problematic legally, because an understanding in which the expresser’s intention is irrelevant contradicts the principle of legality as explained in section 5.1.3. In addition, assumptions regarding intention are also crucial in determining culpability in legal terms. Section 185 of the Penal Code covers hate speech made with intent or gross negligence. None of these forms of culpability can be established if the expresser’s assumed intention or the assumed understanding of what the expressions he or she made conveyed to others is disregarded.

Legally, it is also a question of whether in legal practice the provision has been given a wider scope of application than its position in the Penal Code might imply. Section 185 is in chapter 20 of the Penal Code, «Protection of public peace, order and security». The objectives of the provisions in this chapter are public security and the protection of collective interests.

A key consideration behind section 185 of the Penal Code is to counter the hate that may arise in society at large, against a minority, as a result of aggravated hate speech. This is reflected in the fact that section 185 applies only to statements that are made publicly.17 In principle, the injury that an individual experiences as a result of hate speech is not protected: if a hateful statement is sent to someone directly in a private message or is voiced in private, it is not covered by this provision.

It is also a clear social goal to protect citizens from fear and certain other subjectively perceived violations. Several penal provisions exist for statements that may cause this. However, common to most of them – such as threats, violation of the right to a private life, harassment and stalking – is that they are included in chapter 24, «Protection of personal freedom and peace».

Over the past decade, there have been a number of Supreme Court judgments pursuant to section 185 against statements that are public, because they were made in a public place, but which appear to be more of an aggravated personal attack than statements that are likely to stir or incite hate of a specific group.18 If this provision comes up for revision, it should be considered whether this is a desired development, or whether this form of harassment and violations that target individuals should instead be covered by other, or new, penal provisions.19

Section 13 of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act

This provision prohibits harassment on the basis of one of the grounds for discrimination listed in section 6 of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, plus sexual harassment. The provisions in section 13 of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act apply generally. In employment relationships, harassment is also prohibited pursuant to section 4-3 (3) of the Working Environment Act.20

Protecting people from harassment is a fundamental and important social goal. Prohibition of harassment can affect academic freedom of expression in at least two ways. It can restrict what academics can say to others, including students and each other. It can also enable truth-seeking expressions from academics, by protecting against them being harassed into silence.

The challenge with section 13 of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act is that according to the wording of the provision, harassment appears to be something that can be assessed subjectively, based on the experience of the person who feels that they have been harassed.21 Section 13 (2) of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act defines harassment as «acts, omissions or statements that have the purpose or effect of being offensive, frightening, hostile, degrading or humiliating». Several academic whistleblowing systems refer to this interpretation of harassment.22

It is easy to interpret «purpose or effect» in section 13 of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act as alternative criteria, such that the purpose of and intention behind a statement is irrelevant – harassment has occurred if a person feels offended.

According to the preparatory works for the Act,23 and in the practice of tribunals,24 it is clear that, from a legal perspective, the wording should not be understood in this way. Although harassing effect is also covered by the prohibition, and considerable weight must therefore be attached to the subjective experience of the person subjected to the statement or acts, a certain degree of severity is required. The subjective experience of the person who alleges that they have been harassed must therefore be supplemented by an objective assessment of the severity of the behaviour. Linguistically, the assumed intention of the person who expressed something that was allegedly harassing will also be taken into consideration in the assessment.

Practice shows that many people do not interpret section 13 of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act as requiring an objective degree of severity for harassment to have occurred. Examples illustrating this can be found in many areas of society, including academia. Some recent examples include: A student intern at a hospital experienced academic questions as ethnically degrading and intimidating, and claimed that they had been a victim of harassment, without this actually being the case in legal terms.25 An associate professor experienced the head of department’s conduct and statements as threatening and harassing, on the basis of the associate professor’s gender and/or ethnic background. The Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal ruled that this was not objectively harassment.26 A psychologist was ruled not to have harassed a transwoman she was treating, even though the psychologist had not used the gender pronoun «she» in her journal.27

In asymmetrical power relations, power can easily be abused by people who have more power against people who have less. It is therefore extremely important to have a well-functioning prohibition against harassment. However, if the power to define what is considered harassment lies with the party that perceives that they have been harassed, this also gives them a power that can be abused. Accusations of harassment can be very burdensome for the people accused. They can also change the outside world’s opinion of the individual concerned and are very difficult to defend oneself against.

In some cases, harassment may be a criminal offence (cf. section 39 of the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act). False claims of criminal harassment may be defamatory, in which case, they can be prosecuted in the «opposite direction». «Resolving» allegations of harassment with defamation lawsuits is an unfortunate solution, and does not benefit either the person who feels harassed or the person accused of harassment. Civil litigation is expensive for both parties. The public interest that a trial can generate will often contribute to even more unwanted attention concerning the disputed claim of harassment, with the additional burden this may entail for both parties.

In the event of any revisions to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, the Commission therefore believes that the wording in section 13 ought to be made clearer.

7.3 Changes in the governance of universities and university colleges

7.3.1 Dissemination as an element in the development agreements

The governance system for universities and university colleges is discussed in section 5.3.1. The Commission notes that the Ministry of Education and Research intends to make some changes to the governance system: the national objectives will no longer apply to each individual institution, the national governance parameters are being discontinued, and the institutions will largely be governed on the basis of the individual development agreements.

The Commission has taken a closer look at the existing development agreements and has noticed that most contain very few goals related to traditional dissemination. In terms of civic engagement, the development agreements focus on innovation and collaboration with the labour market.

The Commission is aware that new development agreements are going to be drawn up in 2022 for all 21 public universities and university colleges. We propose that all the development agreements agreed on by the Ministry of Education and Research and universities and university colleges should contain goals related to dissemination. These goals and their appurtenant indicators can be qualitative or quantitative and can vary from institution to institution, depending on the challenges and potentials for improvement at the individual institution. Examples of these kinds of goals include:

  • Increase public dissemination activities

  • Develop institutional systems to protect and support academic employees who are subjected to intimidation and harassment as a result of their dissemination activities

  • Training and practice activities related to dissemination

  • Reward systems for dissemination

  • Include expectations regarding dissemination activities in employment contracts in connection with appointments and promotions

7.3.2 Dissemination indicator in the funding system

The funding system for universities and university colleges is discussed in section 5.3.2. It is stated here that the funding system rewards teaching and research activities, student mobility, and income from sponsored and commission-based activities («BOA»). However, the system does not reward traditional dissemination activities.

Opinions may be divided on the pros and cons of various methods of counting and measuring, but once something has been measured, it counts. And vice versa. Several of the consultative statements suggest that traditional dissemination activities should also be recorded and rewarded through the current funding system.

The indicators in the funding system receive a lot of attention at universities and university colleges, even though in reality some of the indicators, such as the publication indicator, actually carry limited financial resources. Given that other activities such as research, education and commissioned activities are included as components in the funding system, the Commission finds that the current system under-communicates the importance of dissemination. The Commission therefore agrees that a dissemination indicator ought to be introduced in the funding system for universities and university colleges.

The Commission has not assessed the funding system as a whole. The proposal must be assessed in the context of the current system. If the funding system is modified in accordance with the Funding System Commission’s proposals, the question of a dissemination indicator may need to be reconsidered.

The Commission has been in dialogue with the Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir) to discuss possible designs for this kind of dissemination indicator. In its work on a dissemination indicator, the Commission has looked at the assessments made in connection with the development of the publication indicator. Reference is made to these assessments, where relevant.

Prerequisites for a dissemination indicator

The Commission assumes that the development of a dissemination indicator will be based on the following:

  • All activities that are to be documented as rewardable dissemination must be related to activities performed as an academic, not as a private citizen.

  • The dissemination must be related to

    • the academic’s own field of study in a broad sense or

    • structures and/or parameters for academic work

  • The content of the dissemination does not need to be quality assured

  • It must be possible to document and/or retrieve the dissemination retrospectively

  • It must be a simple task to choose the right category when registering dissemination

  • There should be clear criteria for what activities count as rewardable dissemination (with the fewest possible exceptions)

  • There should be equal weighting in the reward system (i.e. no differentiation based on the format and quality level, as is the case for academic publications; cf. the difference between full scholarly articles and chapters in a book, and between level 1 and level 2 publication channels)

  • It is not a goal that the dissemination indicator should be «perfect», i.e. it does not need to take into account all possible dissemination activities that might be considered relevant.

Requirements regarding the dissemination indicator

The Commission finds that specific requirements should be set for dissemination activities that are going to be included in a dissemination indicator.

To earn publication points, academic publications must meet the following requirements:

  • Present new insights

  • Be in a form that ensures that the results are verifiable or applicable in new research

  • Be in a language and have a distribution that makes it available to most researchers who might be interested in it

  • Be published in a publication channel that has routines for peer review

In the light of this, the Commission finds that requirements for academic dissemination should be:

  • The dissemination must be related to

    • the academic’s own field of study in a broad sense

    • structures and/or framework conditions for academic work.

  • The dissemination must be aimed at the general public and/or experts or professionals in other fields (but not peers in the same discipline), and have a distribution that makes it available to most people who might be interested in it

  • The dissemination must be documented in a way that enables retrospective verification

Registration

Academic publications that are ranked in the Norwegian Scientific Index (NVI)28 are based on a system of approved publication channels. Prior approval of dissemination channels is unrealistic – there are too many possible channels of dissemination. Dissemination activities must therefore be registered by the individual researcher or disseminator or a person delegated to do so. As a minimum, it must be registered which dissemination activities have been carried out and in which forum the dissemination has been communicated (medium, organiser, etc.). For a dissemination indicator that will carry financial resources, a control regime must be established, including spot checks or similar, among other things to ensure verifiability and comply with requirements from the Office of the Auditor General of Norway.

Activities that should be included in a dissemination indicator

The Commission finds that a dissemination indicator should be based on a selection of dissemination activities. The following activities will be appropriate:

  • Written texts published in the media (feature articles, guest opinion articles, and encyclopaedia articles)

  • Own digital dissemination (blog posts, podcasts)

  • Interviews, media appearances, documentaries

  • Lectures (not including lectures for peers)

The Commission is aware that the activities included in a dissemination indicator in the funding systems will receive greater attention than other activities. However, the main concern is to establish a simple indicator, as opposed to an indicator that captures every possible form of dissemination. It seems that one of the main reasons why the previously proposed dissemination indicators were not implemented was their complexity. It should also be possible for the arts to be covered by a dissemination component, provided that limits are defined regarding which activities will count.

The weighting of the dissemination indicator

With a view to ensuring simplicity in the system, the Commission recommends that all dissemination activities be counted equally (i.e. no division into «levels», as is currently the case for academic publication).

In the performance-based funding system for universities and university colleges, the performance-based score depends on the institution’s performance on eight quantitative indicators with both open and closed (i.e. zero-sum games) budget frameworks (see section 5.2.2). The publication indicator is included in the closed budget framework.

The Commission finds that it will be most natural for a dissemination indicator to be handled in the same way and to have the same weight as the publication indicator.

7.3.3 Easier reporting of dissemination

As stated in section 5.2.3, the number of categories and subcategories in the current system for registration and reporting of dissemination activities is very extensive, with 11 main categories and a total of 70 subcategories.

In the Commission’s view, the current reporting system appears to be the sum of all the previous systems plus new activities that have been added at the request of the institutions. For example, «feature», «editorial», «letter to the editor», «guest opinion» are all different subcategories related to dissemination in the media. Furthermore, activities may also be registered that have little to do with what most people would associate with dissemination, such as «errata» and «brochure».

Registration of dissemination activities in Cristin is not prioritised because dissemination does not count towards any reward, and registration thus only takes up even more of the academics’ precious time. The Commission assumes that the complicated registration system has also contributed to inadequate documentation of dissemination activities in Cristin.

The Cristin reporting system is now going to be phased out and replaced by the National Knowledge Archives (NVA). In this connection, we propose that the reporting system for dissemination activities be greatly simplified to concentrate on the main elements of academic dissemination. Interrelated dissemination activities ought to be registered together in joint categories. Reporting should be streamlined. One measure to this end is to create systems for direct reporting from other channels, such as directly from the encyclopaedia snl.no, as long as there is adequate security associated with the identification of authors, etc. There is a need for this type of automatic registration regardless of whether or not a dissemination indicator is incorporated into the funding system.

7.4 The institutions’ responsibilities

7.4.1 Declaration on academic freedom of expression

One of the challenges that has been mentioned in many of the consultative statements submitted to the Commission (see section 6.5) is the poor culture of free speech in various segments of academia. A good culture takes time to build and requires continuous maintenance – by the staff, students and management. Cultural changes are not something a commission can propose from above, they must be cultivated from the bottom up and carefully nurtured within the academic institutions – i.e. the universities, university colleges, etc.

A number of universities have tried to improve the understanding of academic freedom of expression and thereby create a better culture of free speech by adopting declarations, principles or policy statements on freedom of expression.29 The Commission has studied a number of these and has drafted a declaration on academic freedom of expression, which we have attempted to adapt to Norwegian conditions. See box 7.2.

Textbox 7.2 Declaration on academic freedom of expression

Academic freedom of expression is rooted in our need to seek truth and knowledge. As a society, we depend on continuously seeking new understanding, which also entails challenging established truths. Free research and open discussion and criticism are prerequisites for scientific advances – and for them to be exploited for the common good. This freedom goes hand in hand with a responsibility to be objective and adhere to the ethical norms and professional standards of the various academic disciplines. Nevertheless, there is always a freedom to challenge these same standards.

As full members of an academic community, students also have academic freedom of expression. However, full membership does not mean they are fully fledged academics: Students must therefore have both the opportunity and a responsibility to receive instruction in scientific argumentation and thinking.

As independent stewards of academic freedom and academic freedom of expression, academic institutions are crucial for diversity and division of power in society. Academic freedom obliges academia to create the broadest possible arena for use of academic freedom of expression. Managers and other leaders in academia must assume responsibility for supporting, promoting and protecting academic staff and students in the active use of their academic freedom of expression.

Free speech is the lifeblood of academia. The institutions must therefore not place restrictions on academic staff and students’ freedom to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn. An employee or student who wants to present problems, theories and views must have the opportunity to be heard – and to be confronted with questions, counter-arguments and criticism.

Academic institutions shall promote a culture of free speech characterised by mutual acceptance and respect for disagreement, thereby contributing to a civilised discussion. They have a duty to safeguard employees and students who are subjected to unlawful expressions. However, it is not up to the institutions to protect staff and students from lawful expressions that many people disagree with or find offensive. Freedom of expression also protects embarrassing, unacceptable, immoral, unpleasant, shocking and offensive expressions. The institutions can regulate the time, place and format of activities in a way that promotes orderly discussion, but this must not restrict free and open debate. It is up to the academic staff and students, not the institutions, to applaud and commend expressions or dispute them using counter-arguments. Academic discussion requires that people’s expressions are not met with silence. It requires recognition that views with which one deeply disagrees also have a place in the public sphere.

It is a central task for academic institutions to nurture academics’ ability and readiness to engage in good debate and to protect their freedom to engage in discourse if someone tries to restrict it. Academic freedom and academic freedom of expression require an open culture of debate, and the institutions should therefore defend and promote debate on controversial topics. Both staff and students must engage in free discussion of controversial academic issues and be given training in critical assessment of different views, including their own.

Disciplines, faculties or institutes characterised by conformity or limited diversity of opinion are particularly encouraged to open up to and explore contrary views and approaches from outside their field.

The idea is that this draft declaration can act as a springboard for discussion and raising awareness about academic freedom of expression. Awareness-raising is one precondition for building a better culture of free speech. The text is offered as a proposal; it is not intended to be regarded as a requirement or order. It can – and should be – criticised and modified.

The text can be used as a starting point for declarations, position statements, etc. on academic freedom of expression, with those adjustments, adaptations and references the institutions and units deem appropriate.

Documents like this can be used to raise awareness and ensure focus, but they are not governing. They have the same relationship to freedom of expression as a legal right as Norwegian national day oratories (so-called «17 May speeches») have to the Constitution: they shall encourage deeper understanding and reflection, as opposed to a narrowing down or hollowing out. In discussions and adaptations of the declaration, it is important not to get too wrapped up in fine formulations crafted for the purpose of providing a basis for broader and better academic freedom of expression. These kinds of formulations always entail a risk of having the opposite effect, i.e. resulting in a narrowing down of academic freedom of expression in practice. Regardless of the form in which the text is adopted, it must be read and implemented with this risk in mind. The point is to promote greater and better understanding of academic freedom of expression, not to create doubts and uncertainties that result in expressions being withheld.

7.4.2 Management – institutional and individual

Legislation and other formal governance instruments are a necessary but inadequate condition for safeguarding academic freedom of expression within universities and university colleges. Several of the consultative statements the Commission has received suggest that culture, good leadership, openness, transparency and continuous, stimulating dialogue are more important for building a good culture of free speech in academia. In this section, we make some recommendations that may help with the practical implementation of the regulatory governance instruments.

Some challenges are of such a nature that they should not be the responsibility of the individual manager, but must be addressed at the institutional level. Others pertain to astute leadership.

Institutional strategies

The institutions should clearly emphasise in their strategies that academic freedom of expression, academic dissemination aimed at the general public, and active participation in public discourse are natural elements of the mission of universities.

The expectations concerning academia’s enlightenment role and contributions to the public seeking of truth are already enshrined in Article 100 (6) of the Constitution and sections 1-1 (c) and 1-3 (c) of the Universities and University Colleges Act.

In many institutions, much greater value and rewards are attached to research, education and, in some areas, innovation than dissemination. This must change if academic freedom of expression is to be stimulated. The changes will require both active cultivation of academic expressions through recognition and solicitation, and vigilance in protecting free speech and avoiding restrictions on expressions that might be perceived as controversial. In connection with appointment processes, the management should have clear expectations and defined criteria for assessing the candidates’ dissemination results, skills and experience.

Both statutory objectives and institutional strategies can exert an influence on research, teaching and dissemination. The institutions must be aware of this in order to ensure that academic freedom of expression is safeguarded. An example of the types of dilemmas that may arise is that institutional cooperation with the petroleum sector and research on petroleum technology have posed challenges, among other things in relation to section 1-1 (d) of the Universities and University Colleges Act, which states that the institutions shall contribute to environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development. Strategic or statutory obligations linked to various objectives must not be used to curtail academic freedom of expression.

Institutional collaborative partnerships with certain countries, such as China or Israel, are another example of institutional choices that have sparked debate. The choices the institutions make and any reactions they trigger must be met with open, objective debate and relevant argumentation about the reasons for the choices that have been made. The institutions should also plan to engage in a broad, constructive debate before making choices.

It is important that institutions have a conscious focus on academic freedom and academic freedom of expression in their international engagements. Collaboration with overseas institutions and academic staff will often be unproblematic, especially with countries that have the same or similar attitudes and regulations regarding freedom of expression. However, as we have shown in chapter 4, there are also countries not so very far from home that require particular vigilance from the institutional management and the individual employee. In sections 4.2.3 and 6.3.4, the Commission points out that some countries are particularly demanding to collaborate with, and that partnerships with these countries may require the institutions to adhere to special guidelines and regulations. This does not mean that Norwegian institutions and Norwegian researchers should refrain from collaborating with institutions and researchers from these countries. Indeed, in many cases, this collaboration is encouraged and facilitated on the national level, including through the Panorama strategy. There are multiple reasons why Norwegian institutions should engage in this kind of cooperation. In many cases, it is needed in order to remain at the forefront of research, but it can also be important for political and cultural reasons. Here too, however, the Commission would stress that it is important for the individual institution and scholar to think through various aspects of these partnerships. Norwegian institutions are responsible for creating conditions that ensure that their employees are free to communicate about the findings of their research.

The export control rules are critically important for Norwegian society, as are academic freedom and freedom of expression. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs possesses knowledge about the former, but not the latter. In the Commission’s view, this should have two important consequences in the application of the new regulations. The first is that universities, university colleges and research institutes that have activities in and with states with which Norway does not have a security policy agreement should strengthen their own competence to assess the risks associated with the collaboration and have a quality assurance process in place it in order to ensure this is operated in line with both academic standards and national security considerations. In addition to keeping up to date with the latest advice from the security services and others on an ongoing basis, it may be pertinent to establish a permanent expert panel that can assess collaborative projects and agreements before they are entered into and during the partnership period and provide advice on responsible academic cooperation at the institution.

The second consequence is that the institutions must participate in consultation and decision-making processes concerning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ enforcement of the export control regulations in connection with collaborative knowledge partnerships (see section 7.6.2).

The review in section 6.4.2 shows that internationalisation can create a number of challenges for the institutions, which may in turn have consequences for academic freedom of expression. How are internationally recruited employees welcomed to the institution? How are they included in the academic community in Norway? The Commission would encourage the institutions to adopt a more focused and coordinated approach to internationalisation, not least in connection with recruitment. How will we welcome and onboard academic staff recruited from abroad? What requirements and offers will the employer have to ensure new internationally recruited employees acquire knowledge of the Norwegian language, culture and social norms, culture of cooperation, and culture of free speech? It is also important to look at the impact of a growing proportion of internationally recruited academic staff on the development of the discipline, the distribution of tasks among employees, the dissemination of knowledge to society, etc. Internationalisation necessitates awareness in the design of personnel policy, including recruitment, and in plans for development of the discipline.

Employee’s use of their title and institutional affiliation is often a contentious issue in academia (see section 6.3.1). It is up to the individual institution to decide who can speak on their behalf. Legally, it is up to the individual employee to choose how they wish to present themselves in public, provided they are speaking on their own behalf. Most experts do this. Experts who are in a management position must pay particular attention to clarifying which role they are speaking in the capacity of at any one time. Irrespective of this, awareness of how one uses one’s academic legitimacy and credibility in the public domain is a general aspect of the individual responsibility of academic expression. The institutions should work to raise awareness of the various considerations that must be weighed up when using one’s title and academic affiliation in connection with expression of views and opinions in different situations. This would both help minimise this type of conflict and make the individual employee more confident about what assessments they themselves need to make.

The focus that institutions have on their reputation can raise some particular issues. What is a university’s reputation and what threats is it exposed to? An academic institution’s reputation requires not only high quality in research and teaching, but also that the institution actively promotes and protects academic freedom and academic freedom of expression. The civic mission of universities is changing. From relatively small, introverted, elitist institutions with limited impact on the surrounding community, universities have evolved to become major social institutions with extensive influence on large swathes of young people. They exert an influence through the education they provide, but are also an arena for further general personal growth and broadening of horizons. Universities have active interfaces with private businesses and the public sector, and also benefit from substantial funding from them. In this sense, reputation is important, but both the ways in which it manifests itself and the ways it can be safeguarded are different for an academic institution compared with other organisations, especially in the private sector. Academic reputation must be based on openness, transparency, acceptance of disagreement and heated exchange of opinions, albeit based on academic rigour, respect for documentation and insight.

How should an individual scholar exercise their academic freedom of expression in cases where the institution has signalled a particular point of view? The best solution is probably to follow exactly the same principles as otherwise. On issues where universities and university colleges have taken a stand at the institutional level, it is important to affirm and respect divergent views expressed by staff and students. Disagreement is fine, it ensures the world keeps moving forwards, and employees who disagree with the institution’s views should be encouraged to explain their reasons and challenge the institution’s opinion.

As outlined in section 6.2.2, the institutions must be aware of the possible contradiction that lies in both promoting and safeguarding academic freedom and ensuring high quality in research, teaching and dissemination. There is no definitive solution to this potential dilemma. However, it is an institutional responsibility to ensure attention is paid to the issue and to facilitate open, transparent discussions about the various considerations that must be taken into account during the processes that put it on the agenda.

When collaborating with other partners such as businesses, the institute sector, etc., the institutions may face challenges in the form of their partners wanting the rights to the results, patents, etc. This also narrows down the arena of expression for academic staff as outlined in section 6.4.5. These kinds of restrictions may be legitimate, but they must be clarified, discussed and agreed in connection with the conclusion of agreements and project planning. Any restrictions must be of a type that everyone involved agrees on. Although competition factors may make it necessary to delay publication of results, open access publication and opportunities for source criticism should remain the main rule.

The institutions must also pay attention to the kinds of dilemmas that can arise when trying to balance considerations related to protection of privacy and research ethics with academic freedom and freedom of expression. It is very important that these are addressed in a holistic manner where ethical and privacy considerations are weighed up against both freedom of expression and freedom of information. The institutions should involve their academic staff in the development of the systems and routines whose purpose is to maintain a good balance in this respect. The individual institution must decide how much the individual academic employees should be checked and monitored and how much they are to be trusted to strike a good balance themselves. An increased level of awareness and knowledge among the staff at the research institutions will be an important first step, with a focus on the fact that protection of privacy is ensured in part by statutory rules and in part by research ethical norms. Knowledge is necessary to establish good administrative routines and ensure responsibilities have been clearly ascribed. Furthermore, good understanding and reflection are necessary in order to identify and formulate well-considered needs for improvement. This must be included in the training that employees require in research ethics (pursuant to the Research Ethics Act) and in academic freedom (cf. the Commission’s proposal to include requirements for training in section 1-5 of the Universities and University Colleges Act). This proposal is discussed in section 7.2.

Elements that might be included in the institutions’ strategies for dissemination are discussed in section 7.3.1 on dissemination as an element in the development agreements between the Ministry of Education and Research and the public universities and university colleges.

It is important that academic institutions recognise the need for diversity in their recruitment work and contribute to achieving this. In this context, it is particularly important to pay attention to diversity of political and ideological opinion.30 In order to contribute to equality and counteract conformity, the approach to diversity must be broadly based and be applied along multiple axes. It is a management responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of diversity in a broad sense.

The institutions should formulate clear expectations that all employees must bravely and freely use their voice and contribute to the development of a varied, diverse culture of debate. Tolerance of different views and opposing opinions should be cultivated – consensus is not an end in itself. Temporary employees may feel particularly insecure in voicing their opinions. In their personnel policy and strategy, the institutions should be aware of how temporary employment affects opportunities to create a good culture of free speech in academia.

The Commission would encourage the institutions to use Universities Norway as an arena for collaboration on the development of common systems, support systems and tools. There should also be scope for collaboration with other research-performing sectors such as hospital trusts and research institutes.

Astute leadership

Astute leadership starts in harmonious times, and a good organisational culture that promotes collaboration and expression is its most important instrument. However, culture cannot be created by the management alone, although the management does of course establish important premises. It takes time, energy, expertise and constant maintenance. Good academic culture comprises elements such as truth-seeking, equality, openness, transparency, curiosity and collegiality. However, it generally also requires democratic mechanisms, such as acceptance of decisions and the ability to implement adopted measures.

The Commission sees several ways to strengthen astute leadership at the institutions, including:

First and foremost, managers and leaders at all levels must have a good understanding of freedom of expression. What it is, why it is protected, how it is protected – and the conditions that must be met to be able to interfere with it lawfully and astutely. They must also have a good understanding of the relationship between academic freedom, freedom of expression and academic freedom of expression. This is described in section 3.1.

Managers and leaders at all levels have a responsibility to emphasise that academic freedom of expression, both in the form of academic dissemination aimed at the general public and active participation in the public discourse, is part of the mission of universities. All academic staff are expected to engage in this.

There should be ongoing discussion about how the management can contribute to more dissemination, a good culture of debate, open debates, and acceptance of relevant, but forceful disagreement. Managers must be trained to deal with academic disagreements and criticism, and to be visible and responsible, not evasive and passive, in the face of conflicts and seemingly irreconcilable dilemmas.

Managers can benefit from sharing tips with each other on what measures have been proven to work to make academic staff braver, more confident and more active disseminators. One way to do this is to have good routines for dealing with media storms. These routines must be prepared in calm times, so they are ready when a storm hits. Employees must receive training not only in media management, but also in how they can support each other in the run up to and after dissemination in the media that can provoke a storm of reactions. When these storms erupt, managers must quickly step in to provide support and should also encourage the employee’s colleagues to mobilise, either in the public sphere, with valid arguments, or privately as supportive colleagues.

Management development is one of the keys to ensuring a good culture of free speech. In Norwegian universities and university colleges, heads of department, deans and institutional managers are employed on a fixed-term basis. In general, a head of department, dean or rector will be more closely identified with their current management position, as opposed to their original academic position. Thus, there will be a tendency for any statements they make about academic issues to be regarded as reflecting the institution’s view, rather than them expressing an academic opinion. Similarly, their statements will tend to be perceived more as conclusions from the management, rather than part of a conversation among equals. This puts academic managers in a unique position when taking part in debates. Their dual role means they must be extra vigilant in clarifying the capacity in which they are speaking and ensuring compliance with all the rules.

Like research and teaching, dissemination can spark controversy. This can be quite tough for the academic staff involved. The uncivil treatment they can experience in what Jürgen Habermas has called the «wild public sphere» can be particularly trying. The unedited media can be especially merciless. The hostile reactions that employees can be subject to here can be so ferocious that several of the consultative statements have compared it to a «war». Continuing this metaphor, we could look to those who engage in war for advice and ideas. Military leaders must know their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their soldiers. It is a question of mentally preparing yourself and each other for various «line of fire» situations and practising dealing with them. «It’s not how you feel, but how you deal with things that matters – and how you deal with things is something you can actually work on.»31

Several researchers who have disseminated controversial research findings have stated that they felt completely alone in the heat of the battle. This can deter both the individual and their colleagues from engaging in dissemination activities. Managers at all levels, but especially immediate superiors, must follow up academic staff who get into this kind of situation. The experience is much more stressful for the individual concerned than it might appear from the sidelines. Visible management that provides support, encouragement and help with practical arrangements before, during and after dissemination can be a decisive factor for the individual. It can also have an impact on whether others in the team will dare to step into the spotlight when they have something on their minds. It is also important to create a culture where colleagues mobilise in these kinds of situations, to alleviate the individual’s feeling that they are on their own. This support does not have to entail public endorsement of the academic content or the controversial view, but a recognition that instigating debate and airing views is a natural and important part of the academic mission. It is a management task to support dissemination, even when one disagrees with the content of what is being disseminated.

It is important to have systems for «debriefing» once the commotion has died down. For these systems to work, all the parties concerned must be well-versed in all the procedures for support and follow-up before, during and after these kinds of «battles» – before they are needed. They also presuppose a sense of security and trust within the collegiate or a group of colleagues before the battles begin.32 Seen as a whole, these insights into handling «line of fire» situations provide a range of concrete guidelines for how managers can create a culture that can help ensure optimum handling of rough periods in connection with dissemination.

Astute leadership entails ensuring and communicating clearly that «unpopular» views will not be met with sanctions, such as a lower priority when awarding research sabbaticals or being given less meritorious teaching, etc. The criteria for awarding duties and privileges should be discussed in the relevant academic environment. Both the management and individual employees will benefit from the procedures for awarding duties and privileges being as clear and transparent as possible. It is difficult to entirely prevent all suspicion that someone might have been penalised for their unpopular stances, but transparency helps. People should be encouraged to voice any such suspicions openly, so that they can be listened to and discussed freely. The art is to make choices and priorities that have sufficient legitimacy without endless rounds of debate. This is difficult to achieve without openness, transparency and clear procedures for conflict resolution.

It is in the very nature of academic freedom of expression that there will always be some individual scholars or students who claim, without foundation, that they have been robbed of their freedom. Subjective experiences of restricted academic freedom of expression must be taken seriously, but they must also be supported by factual evidence to instigate intervention from the management to rectify the matter. Both the individual employee and the management will be better equipped to confront subjective dilemmas of the type: «I wrote an unpopular feature article, and the following year I was not granted a research sabbatical», if the institution and/or management are prepared for these kinds of situations to arise and have had training in the dilemmas they can cause. However, this is easier said than done. Managers must be prepared to – and be taught how to – deal with these kinds of claims without them leading to long, drawn-out processes. If the processes leading up to a decision have been open, predictable and sufficient, then all the manager has to do is refer to them, stand by the decision, and move on.

Teaching arrangements and statements made in a teaching context may interfere with academic freedom of expression. For example, people may experience that their freedom is reduced by the relatively rigid rules for programmes governed by National Curriculum Regulations. Managers may have to intervene in situations where an individual teacher’s programme constantly receives negative feedback in student evaluations, has declining numbers of students or has consistently poor results in terms of examination statistics. Any dilemmas linked to student relations and teaching arrangements will also benefit from predictability that has been created through a discussion of how the team as a whole can implement changes to promote quality.

There may also be disagreements within the academic community about the content of teaching or situations where a teacher and the students disagree in respect of the content presented. These are real dilemmas, where the academic freedom of the individual teacher will enjoy strong protection. This does not mean that the disagreements should not be addressed, but rather that this must be done through an open, truth-seeking and balanced academic debate. In these types of discussions, it is also important to emphasise that the students must receive training in academic freedom of expression and what it means to engage in an academic exchange of opinions (cf. section 7.4.3).

Astute leadership does not mean abdicating one’s responsibilities as a leader when academic freedom of expression needs to be defended and stimulated. On the contrary, the management should ensure there are legitimate arenas, such as seminars and academic forums, to stimulate prejudice-free debate. This applies not only internally in the unit the manager is responsible for, but also through participation in external events and by inviting the outside world in. Dilemma training can help ensure a good balance is struck, not only for the managers, but for the entire team.

Textbox 7.3 About management

In the past, many people thought academic freedom was about the management being hands-off. Now it means managers must actively support their staff.

Tanja Storsul, Director, Institute of Social Research, at the Management Forum for Research Ethics on 26 November 2021

Source https://www.forskningsetikk.no/aktuelt/akademisk-frihet-krever-aktivt-lederskap/

7.4.3 Training and cultural development

Knowledge requirements for everyone in academia

Institutional academic freedom (i.e. institutional autonomy) entails that systems and routines for training in academic freedom and academic freedom of expression must be developed by and anchored in the individual institution. In this section, we point to some of the training needs that the Commission has identified through its work. Many of these are general and apply to everyone, while some are specific to either staff, students or management. The institutions are responsible for ensuring that the necessary training is provided.

As noted in section 7.2.2, the Commission has gained a clear impression that it cannot be assumed that the management, university employees or students are familiar with the fundamentals of academic freedom and freedom of expression. Without this kind of knowledge, it is difficult to fulfil the statutory tasks ascribed to the institutions pursuant to section 1-3 of the Universities and University Colleges Act and fulfil the purpose defined in section 1-1.

The institutions currently have systems and routines to provide their employees with the training necessary for them to be able to fulfil their research and teaching tasks. With the Commission’s proposal for a new third paragraph of section 1-5 of the Universities and University Colleges Act, they will also be explicitly responsible for having systems and routines for training in academic freedom and academic freedom of expression (cf. section 3.1).

This is important for the fulfilment of all the work duties at academic institutions, but especially for the dissemination tasks that academic staff and students perform – and which the management and other employees in various ways support and enable.

The broad civic mission to which the dissemination aspect of academic work contributes cannot be fulfilled without good knowledge of the grounds for freedom of expression and the role academic freedom of expression plays in the pursuit of truth. This means that everyone who exerts an influence on the academic staff and students’ exercise of academic freedom of expression must have basic knowledge in this area. This applies, for example, to employees in personnel departments, teaching departments, research administration, communication departments and the people who elect and are elected as board members.

Training programmes for new employees must provide good knowledge of academia’s civic mission in its broadest sense, with a focus on how academic freedom of expression is essential for the fulfilment of this mission. Academics who have been trained in countries or cultures where academic freedom of expression is weaker or is administered more hierarchically should be given special support. This is not only to ensure they understand the expectations the institutions have regarding everyone’s duty to contribute to fulfilment of the university’s dissemination mission, but also to ensure they understand the acceptance that everyone – from students to professors – contributes.

The nuanced understanding needed in key parts of institutional management and among the academic staff cannot be achieved through a one-off course. It requires sustained training in the kinds of dilemmas and balancing of different considerations that the exercise of the various freedoms can give rise to. Ideally, training in academic freedom of expression should be a key element in the long course of academic education that all scholars go through – starting from when they are students and continuing throughout their entire academic careers.

The consultative input that the Commission has received indicates that there is a serious need for better knowledge of and training in good debate etiquette. This need also exists at all levels of academia, and overlaps with both training and cultural development: the rules for good debate etiquette can be learned. Adhering to and maintaining good debate etiquette requires ongoing training and practice.

The pursuit of truth requires openness and good listening skills, not merely insisting on one’s own views and opinions. While this may appear obvious, it is often very difficult to implement in practice. For someone to become wiser and gain (and create) more insight, exchanges of opinions must be reasonably unbiased, objective and fair. They must be free from distorted readings, bullying, personal attacks (ad hominem), straw-man argumentation, and tendentious renderings of other people’s views. It is crucial that all the parties interpret each other’s statements charitably, reproduce each other’s arguments fairly, and aim to construct the counterparty’s arguments in the best possible manner – for their sake.

Arne Næss’ norms for objective debate and Jürgen Habermas’ preconditions for an ideal speech situation can be good starting points for constructive discussion in this respect. They can also provide a basis for training in and understanding of how truth-seeking debate can take place. They make it possible for people to discuss factually and rationally, even in situations where they strongly disagree. They pave the way for the conduct of argumentative battle in an orderly form and provide guidelines on how to reach agreement – or justified disagreement.

Good debate etiquette also requires a reasonable degree of collegiality and sense of community among academics, both staff and students. The consultative input the Commission has received indicates that this kind of collegiality is lacking in many places. This may indicate a need for training in why collegial support is important and how a sense of community can be cultivated and nurtured. The goal is not to always agree or to reach agreement, and sharp exchanges of opinion may also be entirely justified and fruitful. However, it is a good idea to show support for each other’s dissemination and engagement, regardless of any disagreements about both content and form. Or perhaps even, especially when you disagree. In situations where scholars are subjected to a great deal of opposition, colleagues can support one another – either by participating in debates in a nuanced, enlightening way, or by directly supporting the individual who is in the line of fire. In the event of unreasonable or unfounded attacks in the public sphere, this kind of collegial presence can be particularly important: Being opposed is one thing, but the feeling of being all alone in facing it can be far worse.

The seeking of truth also requires knowledge about sources of error, so that these can be corrected for. In this respect, insight into human error and cognitive biases, for example, are important. It is crucial to understand both how they can lead to fallacies in one’s own investigations and reasoning, and also how they might affect the audience for the dissemination.

It can be highly demanding to maintain one’s composure in the face of strong opposition from other academics, even if it is reasonably relevant and justified. It is often even worse in the non-academic forums where suspicions, unreasonable claims and conspiracy theories are often rife. Maintaining one’s composure and impartiality is probably even more important when conducting dissemination activities in these kinds of public spheres.

First, this presupposes that academics must comply with the fundamental rules of fair argumentation – even if the parties they are arguing against do not.

Second, academics need to be reasonably well versed in communication methods that encourage people to relate more openly to new ideas, rather than simply seeking confirmation of their existing views.

Prejudice cannot be cured by reference to facts alone. Attempts at enlightenment by «simply» stating that something has been scientifically proven or disproven may in some contexts reinforce people’s belief in myths rather than weaken them.33 When trying to refute persistent myths, it is important to refrain from getting on board with the narrative on which they are based. Instead, offer alternatives that are scientifically well proven, explain why central foundations on which the myths rest are wrong, and explain the actual reality using understandable references to research.34

Media training

Academics need training to understand that the public sphere is «wild» – that it is not an academic seminar. This sets completely different demands in respect of general overview, speed, brevity and form. Academics need to be able to distinguish irrelevant comments and expressions of disapproval from valid criticisms that can be used constructively. They also need to learn not to take the former to heart, but to be willing to interact with others. Like most people, academics are only human. People have different thresholds for how much public opposition they can tolerate – including harsh, but legitimate and important criticism. Because they have a special dissemination mission, academics must be trained to withstand at least those forms of opposition that are necessary for genuine exchange of dissenting opinions and the search for truth. To this end, they must be given the tools they need to deal with public spheres that can differ quite markedly from academic forums. They can of course seek advice from more media-savvy colleagues – and more media-savvy colleagues can offer help, advice and support before, during and after media appearances. However, it remains an institutional responsibility to ensure training and space for dissemination.

Media dissemination often requires simplification. Simplifying academic insights can be very demanding. It often requires a very good overview not only of the field, but also of how the content being conveyed is related to other fields, and how it can be linked to concepts and examples that are familiar to people other than peers in the same field. Most people are not stupid, but they need to be guided into and through the content starting from step one, even if the researcher is currently on, and most interested in, step 17. It is often best to present the conclusions and findings before (or instead of) the process that led to the conclusions. Good editors or research journalists, or communication staff at the academic institutions, can help researchers with simplification and creating engaging presentations.

To simplify well, you need to know your target audience – who reads or listens in the channels you are disseminating into? What is the standard genre or tone there? What has been said about similar topics before? What perceptions of reality and questions are central?

It is impossible to communicate and simplify without good language skills and proficiency. People who do not have good language skills should be helped to develop them. In addition to training in academic and technical language, training and practice in the use of clear language is also required. Employees whose first language is not Norwegian, and those students who wish to do so, should be ensured good Norwegian language training, both in writing and orally.

Dissemination in the media also requires an understanding of how different media work and the motivations behind them. As pointed out in sections 6.2.4 and 6.2.5, the civic missions of academia and journalism have several commonalities, but there are also some differences, which may dampen scholars’ readiness to undertake dissemination activities. Good dissemination requires a shared understanding of each other’s goals and methods. In the same way that academics must understand the basics of the objectives and methods in other fields in order to participate in interdisciplinary collaboration, they must also have a basic understanding of the civic mission, methods and tools of the media in order to be able to collaborate well with them. Knowledge of the ethical rules for the media is also important, including understanding of and preventing the kinds of situations described in section 6.2.5.

For example, academics need to understand the difference between different dissemination genres. In written dissemination, an example of the significance of this is the difference between feature articles for publication in a newspaper and interviews: As long as the author stays within the character limit and writes reasonably intelligibly, they will have reasonably good control over the presentation of the content in a feature article or guest opinion article. The heading and introduction may be modified by the editorial team, but the content and angle are given. By contrast, interviewees have less control over the content and angle of the piece. Even when a quoted person gets to check and approve the quotes assigned to them, the angle the media finds interesting may be quite different from what the interviewee envisaged, with a main focus on elements that they themselves find to be less significant. It is important to be aware of this not only in connection with one’s own dissemination, but also when reading about the views and opinions of colleagues. Sensational statements in a feature article should generally be interpreted charitably: Is there a kernel of something important there that you are overlooking because you are getting distracted by the way in which it has been presented? If a colleague is portrayed in a shocking or provocative manner in an interview, it can be a good idea to find out whether something has been taken out of context or blown up out of proportion before launching a full-scale attack on the person in public.

You also have to learn to deal with «stupid questions». Most journalists are not stupid, but nor are they peers. They need an introduction to the subject matter. As is the case with students, «stupid questions» must be responded to with advice and guidance. Explain what questions it would be appropriate to ask instead, to ensure focus on what is important and contribute to understanding and new insights.

Many academics actively communicate their knowledge and participate in discussions in the broader public spheres in unedited media, both in normal times and in times of crisis and war. There are several good examples of how academic dissemination has quickly filled information gaps and needs for new knowledge during both the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Dissemination in unedited media opens up a whole range of possibilities – and challenges. Understanding of different genres is also essential for successful dissemination in these kinds of media. Different platforms have different tones, formats and trends. Dissemination without regard to this can easily go awry. Dissemination in these channels must also be learned and practised. This requires basic understanding of the way in which the online public spheres and platforms work. In this context, it is essential to understand how different algorithms can help accelerate the effects of our prejudice-based, group-reinforced misconceptions. It is also important to learn how standard linguistic usage and interpretation are challenged in bubbles and echo chambers characterised by tribal speak, memes and other distinctive forms of communication.

As highlighted in section 6.2.5, a great deal of misinformation is spread in online public spheres. It is difficult to detect and to correct. Populism, contempt for elites and various targeted campaigns can generate threats and intimidation. The institutions must have routines to detect illegal conduct and report it to the police. People who voice an opinion publicly may find themselves subjected to personal attacks, «comment wars» and twitter storms that, whilst fully legal, are overwhelming and thus extremely burdensome. And the harsher the public spheres become – or at least appear to be – the worse it is.

This places particular demands on disseminators’ need for training and mental preparation, and good routines for supporting the individuals who are in the line of fire from colleagues, management and administrative staff. The management responsibilities in these kinds of situations are discussed in section 7.4.2. In addition to good management and leadership, we know from the experience of other groups in society that take part in real warfare and are in real physical danger that collegial support is essential for the individual employee or student who finds themselves in the line of fire. It is important to create a culture where students and colleagues also mobilise in these kinds of situations, to alleviate the individual’s feeling that they are on their own. In order for debriefing systems to work, the parties involved need to be well versed in the procedures for support and follow-up before, during and after the «battles» before a crisis arises. They also require that a sense of security and solidarity among colleagues (both immediate and further afield) has been well established in advance.35 The support that individuals can receive from their superiors and colleagues during and after hostile public situations presupposes something that is generally in short supply in many parts of academia: a good collegial culture, a sense of community and the experience that the search for truth that the individual is working towards is a common goal.

In respect of students

Students also need knowledge about «the what, the why and the wherefore» of academic freedom and freedom of expression. They need to practise and gain confidence in exercising their academic freedom and the freedom they have to impart and receive different types of knowledge. They must learn why and how they can contribute to the exchange of opinions about all aspects of academia, including the teaching they receive. They must also receive training in how freedom of expression can be used in ways that further the seeking of truth, the promotion of democracy and the individual’s freedom to form opinions.

Students also need good knowledge about freedom of expression as a prerequisite for the pursuit of truth in order to be able to participate in matters that concern them at educational institutions. Students are an integral part of the academic community. They must be encouraged to express themselves freely and to contribute to this community. And they must be able to do this without being seen as a threat to academic freedom and unfairly accused of engaging in «cancel culture». Student protests against controversial speakers or lecturers are an important part of the students’ freedom of expression. However, if the aim of the protests is not only to express opposing opinions, but also to exclude certain views or prevent the genuine exchange of opinions, they may actually serve to undermine academic freedom of expression

Rather than fostering a culture where students and academic staff are opponents, the institutions should consider what can be done to cultivate a culture of free speech in which students and lecturers can have ongoing constructive dialogue about the content of the education.

Freedom of expression and academic freedom of expression are particularly important in some programmes, such as communication, journalism and media studies. The Commission recommends that the institutions review the content of these programmes with a focus on ensuring that the students gain insight into what academic freedom of expression is and why it is important, as well as into the dilemmas and challenges that academics may encounter (cf. chapter 6).

Managers and others in leadership roles

As described in section 7.4.2, good management is essential to ensure a good culture of free speech at universities and university colleges. It is therefore essential that managers and leaders at all levels receive the training necessary to understand the responsibility they are assuming and the opportunities at their disposal. One way in which higher education institutions can exercise their responsibility is by having systematic management development and training as an ongoing activity. Management development programmes should include training in the necessary knowledge components, such as an introduction to the relevant legislation and regulations, labour market schemes, occupational health and safety, etc. – plus a separate component on academic freedom of expression.

Managers must have a thorough understanding of what academic freedom of expression is, why it is essential for academic work, and what it takes to ensure it can be safeguarded and protected. To achieve this, managers at all levels must also have good knowledge about the workings of the various parts of the broader public sphere, and what opportunities and challenges this may entail for the institution and its employees. This is closely linked to media training (see below).

Figure 7.1 Example from NINA – the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

Figure 7.1 Example from NINA – the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

The management must constantly consider how it can stimulate more and better academic freedom of expression. Dilemma training and examples can be useful in this context, ideally based on real-life cases and experiences. Chapter 6 of this report provides examples of the kinds of dilemmas that might arise, that can be used for discussion and training.

Active use of academic freedom of expression can create challenges for managers. Academic debates can often become quite heated, and can be experienced differently by both the participants and the surrounding academic community. Statements that one party perceives as factual, relevant and professional can be perceived by others as highly critical and sometimes even tantamount to bullying. This can have a negative effect on the working environment and limit the arena for academic expression.

In these kinds of situations, there are expectations of the institution’s management, primarily at the lowest (and most important) management level, i.e. the head of department. Many situations are resolved at this level, through active leadership that allows for expansive, open dialogue, and where the parties are encouraged to highlight their disagreement in a constructive way with the search for the truth as the common purpose.

However, in situations where conflicts escalate and become drawn out, ambiguous and weak leadership is often a problem. Disagreements within the academic community spread, more people get involved, and the working environment deteriorates. Heads of department frequently report that they feel completely alone in situations such as this and are at a loss as to how best to deal with it; i.e. how they can foster a good working environment without stifling necessary debates.

The Commission holds that well-organised, continuous management development programmes for all managers is a good means of preventing drawn out conflict situations concerning academic freedom of expression, thereby fostering security within the team and greater latitude for this freedom to be exercised. In this context, collegial guidance is emphasised as an important conflict management tool. Development groups consisting of several managers (heads of department) from different academic communities, but who are on the same administrative level, can be a great resource when conflicts start to escalate. Being able to discuss the matter in confidence with a colleague who has «been there, done that» can be perceived as relieving, supportive, and crucial to avoid escalation, unnecessary time wasting and further conflict.

We would encourage the academic institutions to systematise their management development, either within their own institution or in partnership with others. As academic communities, the management team must also continuously develop and learn, in order to maintain an acceptable standard. As a means of preventing conflict, managers should raise awareness among their teams of good practice and etiquette in the academic arena of expression, but also about the mechanisms for handling conflicts that are available to the management.

7.4.4 Assessment of academic careers, appointments and reward systems

As noted in section 6.4.3, little weight is attached to dissemination activity in academic recruitment and appointment processes. The institutions should work actively, purposefully and systematically to improve dissemination to the general public and prevent silence and poor conditions for dissemination. This means that the institutions should also emphasise dissemination in their recruitment work and employee development, and create reward systems for dissemination.

Reward systems for dissemination

The institutions should create transparent reward systems for dissemination, which must be assessed and updated regularly. There should be clear criteria for how efforts to disseminate beyond one’s own academic community can contribute to pay rises and promotion or being awarded privileges in line with the criteria describing the importance that is attached in terms of performance, skills and experience in education, research and innovation.

In order to promote and ensure support for the reward systems, attention should be drawn to dissemination aimed at the general public, in line with the way that news of scholarly publications is celebrated and shared at the workplace. If the team has a noticeboard for sharing news about publications, it can also have one for dissemination activities. If stories about research and teaching are regularly featured in newsletters, on the intranet or website, stories about dissemination activities should be feted correspondingly.

Attach importance to dissemination skills

The institutions should include dissemination in the existing systems for weighting of qualifications in connection with recruitment, appointments and promotions. The criteria for how dissemination is weighted should be explained, with information on how dissemination results, expertise and experience can be documented, to avoid any unnecessary doubt about what impact «likes and dislikes» on the content of the dissemination may have had.

The Commission would encourage the institutions to include expectations regarding dissemination in the employment contracts. We also recommend making it transparent and clear as to how dissemination can be assigned greater weight in connection with recruitment, appointments and promotions and when awarding privileges. The NOR-CAM guide for recognition and rewards in academic careers can be a good starting point for the institutions in their assessment of academic careers.36 Among other things, it also highlights the need to reflect on individual dissemination activities outside academia. The Commission asks the institutions to assess how they can develop the ability of their employees to assess their own dissemination results and dissemination skills.

In order to ensure their work on dissemination activities is active, purposeful and systematic, the institutions should systematise and specify this in work related to strategies, recruitment and promotion, employee development and reward systems.

Textbox 7.4 The value of being wrong

I hope the Commission will underscore the value of being wrong. Often correct statements are lauded, while incorrect contributions that were rejected along the way are written off as a «failure». I hope the Commission will emphasise the value of expressing erroneous opinions on the way to finding the «truth» or best solution. Erroneous expressions of opinion may help nudge others on to the right track or help others see things more clearly. Mill highlights this himself in On Liberty, for example when he writes that erroneous statements lead to «clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error» (chapter 2). Mill thus believed that erroneous expressions of opinion imply «almost as great a benefit» as correct ones.

Ellen Hovlid, Associate Professor at Volda University College. Consultative statement to the Commission dated 15 December 2021

«[T]he peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posteriority as well as the existing generation – those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error.»

Source J.S. Mill, On Liberty (1859), II.

7.4.5 Dissemination aimed at the general public as a component of doctoral degrees

Doctoral work is central to the training of researchers. A doctoral degree requires the production of high-quality research of a publishable standard. Some PhDs also include a teaching component, for example such that a three-year doctoral programme can be taken over four years if one of the years is (also) used for teaching. Most PhDs can currently be completed without any requirements relating to the dissemination component of the academic mission.

As discussed in section 6.4.3, it is unclear whether dissemination is ever emphasised – both during the PhD period and later on during a career in academia. When bibliometric data (with or without financial support) provide strong incentives to disseminate to a narrow, specialised audience, lower priority is given to broad public dissemination tasks. Lack of time has an even stronger demotivating impact in fixed-term positions where time is clearly limited.

In addition to the research and academic publication that forms the basis of the thesis work itself, doctoral programmes have a compulsory academic training component of a certain number of credits, where the modules taken must also be relevant for qualification as a researcher within the discipline. The content and scope of the training component vary from discipline to discipline. A number of institutions and disciplines have dissemination aimed at the general public as part of the credit-earning researcher training programme. Some also provide ECTS credits for popular science articles in addition to presentation of texts or research work at scientific conferences, etc. The Commission encourages all institutions to ensure that training in, and ideally also recognition for, dissemination aimed at the general public is part of all doctoral programmes.

In addition, PhD candidates report a lack of training in, assistance with and arenas for dissemination. «We need to know how to make good websites that people actually want to read, and we need simpler systems for streaming lectures and producing audio and video podcasts. We need our colleagues to notice and praise our dissemination efforts, at the same time as we have to endure endless ‘constructive criticism’ and feedback on the quality of our dissemination», as it was put in one of the consultative statements to the Commission. The communications departments at the institutions can play a key role in addressing the first part of this need.

The second part requires changes in academic culture, but also systematic and explicit expectations regarding dissemination aimed at the general public of knowledge from one’s own research and field of study. Good dissemination requires formal training, but also plenty of practice. Practice in disseminating is crucial not only for those PhD students who intend to pursue a career in academia, but also for those who take their doctoral competencies out into other segments of society.

Ideally, the dissemination component of PhD programmes should also be reflected in formal reward systems such as salary, promotion, etc. Systems to measure dissemination activities should be discussed and agreed on in a way that makes them predictable and relevant to everyone. Systems for these kinds of expectations can be established at the university, faculty or departmental level. The Commission recommends that they be established at the university level.

One place to start may be to introduce a requirement that all doctoral theses must include some form of dissemination aimed at the general public in order to be approved. This will give PhD students practice in dissemination, providing them with an understanding of what dissemination is and why it is important. Last but not least, it will give something back to the society that funds the organised research training, which may in turn promote understanding of the importance of and confidence in research.

The Commission recommends that institutions introduce a requirement that all dissertations and theses must include some form of dissemination aimed at the general public. The requirement can be met in many ways – for example in edited media, such as feature articles, guest opinion articles, interviews or debate articles, in podcasts, as texts published on an institutional website, or as a well-formulated twitter thread. This kind of requirement should be implemented at the individual institutions and can be included in the contract that the individual institution enters into with the PhD candidates.

7.4.6 Norwegian in academia

The Commission discusses why academic freedom of expression is important in section 3.2. Valid knowledge is a prerequisite for understanding, arguing and exerting an influence in a democratic society. It is important for society and academia to communicate basic knowledge to the population, and to make people realise that this knowledge is the result of research conducted over a long period of time and investments in the knowledge society. The dissemination of this knowledge must also take place in the language that is the common language in Norway. Free, knowledge-based discussion and criticism are prerequisites for scientific advances – and for these to be able to be exploited for the common good.

The review in section 5.5 shows that Norwegian is being increasingly less used in higher education in Norway. Debate on the use of Norwegian vs. English in Norwegian academia is discussed in section 6.4.6.

The Universities and University Colleges Act Commission37 explained why Norwegian academic and technical language is important:

Having functional Norwegian terminology and technical expressions is very important in most areas of society, including for the ability to discuss research in the public debate in Norway. The Commission agrees that knowledge acquired in an educational institution will also be spread and used in other sectors. In order for graduates to be able to communicate well with pupils, users, clients, patients, etc., they need a good, comprehensive vocabulary that anyone who uses Norwegian in their everyday speech can understand. If the people who do research and teach at universities and university colleges largely switch to, say, English words and phrases in medical and nursing education, this may affect how health professionals communicate with patients, which may in turn lead to greater distance and alienation between health professionals and their patients. This also applies in other disciplines. Without a well-developed and functional Norwegian academic and technical language, parts of the public debate are also in danger of deteriorating. It is therefore important that all institutions that offer higher education enable and actively participate in the development of Norwegian technical terminology that in turn can be used in other parts of society.

International collaboration is important for the quality of the knowledge produced in academia. English is and must be used at institutions and among academic staff, and academic publication must and should often be in English. In this context, the Commission would point out that the use of English and the safeguarding of Norwegian academic and technical language are not mutually exclusive. The challenges that internationalisation presents for Norwegian academic and technical language can and must be addressed using targeted measures. This means that the institutions must bear these factors in mind in connection with their internationalisation work.

In its consultative statement to the Commission, the Language Council of Norway identifies three factors that are important for ensuring that research is communicated to and rooted in a Norwegian-speaking society. The first is development of Norwegian academic and technical language in line with developments in research in the various fields. The second is making provisions to ensure that employees have the time and resources to disseminate their research in Norwegian. The third factor is related to non-Norwegian-speaking employees: Steps must be taken to enable them to communicate their research in Norwegian, preferably by them learning Norwegian, but also through the provision of translation, language editing and proof-reading services. The Commission agrees that this is important.

Academic and technical language

In the letters of allocation and letters of grant commitment to the universities and university colleges for 2022, the Ministry of Education and Research has taken important steps to strengthen Norwegian as an academic and technical language. Requirements have been included regarding Norwegian classes for foreign researchers and teachers, the responsibility for maintaining and further developing Norwegian academic and technical language has been clarified, and there is a reminder that all the institutions must have a language strategy rooted in their overarching strategies. The Commission assumes that these will be followed up by the institutions. The institutional language strategies must incorporate the Language Council of Norway’s recommendations.

The new Terminology Portal (discussed in section 6.4.6) will play a key role in making Norwegian terminology (both Bokmål and Nynorsk) available in one place. The goal is for the portal to become the first place students, professionals and others go when they need Norwegian academic terminology and expressions. This may strengthen Norwegian academic and technical language in several ways:

  • It will be easier to develop textbooks in Norwegian with good, coordinated terminology.

  • It will be easier for students to talk and write about their subject in Norwegian.

  • It will be easier for employees with an international background to acquire the skills they need to teach in Norwegian.

  • Experts in a particular field will have greater control over how the subject is presented in Norwegian in that journalists and others outside the discipline will not have to try to translate technical terminology into Norwegian themselves.

The Terminology Portal is currently a long way from covering all disciplines. The Commission would therefore draw attention to the need for the higher education sector, as an important bearer of the statutory responsibility for Norwegian academic language, to work on terminology in a systematic, long-term manner. The Language Council of Norway is a natural partner in this work.

The Commission holds that the institutions must make arrangements that enable employees to contribute to lexical reference works like encyclopaedias. Trust in knowledge production at Norwegian research and educational institutions will increase as the average Norwegian internet user becomes accustomed to seeing understandable texts on areas of expertise written and signed by Norwegian academics. This will in turn strengthen the basis for Norwegian academics being able to actively participate in the public debate, thereby also promoting the freedom of expression of academics. The Commission also proposes that contributions to encyclopaedias and other reference works should be included in the proposed dissemination indicator (see section 7.3.2).

Norwegian abstract in doctoral theses

The Commission holds that it is important to introduce a requirement for public universities and university colleges that all doctoral theses and master’s and bachelor’s dissertations written in a foreign language must have an abstract in Norwegian. This will help ensure the development of Norwegian technical terminology and thus strengthen the work on Norwegian academic and technical language as a basis for dissemination of research findings. This requirement should also apply to private institutions.

The Commission therefore requests that the Ministry establish a regulatory requirement for a Norwegian abstract in all doctoral theses. The requirement needs to be prescribed by regulation in order for it also to apply to private universities and university colleges, as well as to ensure a more permanent arrangement. For international PhD candidates and students who are not sufficiently proficient in Norwegian, the institutions should provide translation assistance or offer additional language editing and proofreading. We would also encourage the institutions to work to ensure that these abstracts are made publicly available, so that they are easier for the media and other interested parties to access.

Training in Norwegian language, culture and society

Norwegian language training for international employees is and must remain an institutional responsibility. Most international academic employees at Norwegian universities and university colleges have a clause in their employment contracts stipulating that they must learn Norwegian within a specified period of time. Media reports suggest that the speed and ease with which international academic employees acquire Norwegian language skills is highly individual and varies widely. There is also wide variation in the degree to which it is prioritised by the employer. There is much to indicate that the provisions from the employer in this respect are often not good enough, both in terms of the courses offered and with regard to the time allocated to learn Norwegian. The Commission urges the institutions to take greater responsibility for providing Norwegian language training. This training must be part of a planned, coordinated strategy for international recruitment (see also the discussion in section 7.4.2). The training should include both Norwegian language teaching and an introduction to relevant cultural aspects of Norwegian society.

Textbooks

In its submission, the Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association (NFF) stressed that the higher education sector must take steps to ensure that academic staff can contribute to the production of textbooks. The Commission supports this, as textbooks are a very important source of accessible, understandable knowledge.

Textbooks can be regarded as a special form of dissemination and cannot really be compared with the types of activities that are envisaged for inclusion in the proposed dissemination indicator. The Commission has therefore not included textbooks into the proposed dissemination indicator (see section 7.3.2).

It is nevertheless important for many reasons – and in this context for the development of Norwegian academic and technical language – that textbooks are written. Students also need exposure to Norwegian academic and technical language, partly in order to be fully inducted into the subject they are studying, but not least to be able to transfer knowledge and terminology to working life. The majority of the students will go on to work in a Norwegian-language working environment. The government’s support scheme for textbooks to ensure there is syllabus literature available in Norwegian and Sami must be continued at a level that is adequate to fulfil the purpose of the scheme.38

7.5 Academics’ responsibilities: Advice to promote good dissemination

Irrespective of legislative amendments, incentives and institutional arrangements to promote dissemination, academic freedom of expression will never be better than academics make it.

The individual employee and student must exercise and administer the freedom and responsibility necessary to ensure adequate latitude in the public sphere for debate and the exchange of ideas to be able to take place, and to populate this space in a way that facilitates the seeking of truth. Only in this way can we together contribute to good exchange of knowledge, dissemination and enlightenment. We must create the culture of free speech we want – for ourselves, for our colleagues and for society. Every single day.

In order to stimulate a better culture of free speech, the Commission has created a code of «ground rules» for free speech. They are intended to serve as a checklist for everyone who wants to promote a good culture of free speech. See box 7.6.

Textbox 7.5 Ground rules for free speech

These ground rules for free speech can constitute a useful framework for academic freedom of expression. They are intended to serve as a checklist for everyone who wants to promote a good culture of free speech.

  • 1. Use your freedom of expression and freedom of information, also outside academic circles.

  • 2. Be brave, objective, honest and accurate with facts.

  • 3. Seek the truth, support disseminators, and welcome opposing views.

  • 4. Be an open-minded reader and listener, and a reasonable and generous colleague.

  • 5. Interpret opponents’ arguments in the best possible way – for them.

  • 6. Attack the ball, not the player. Use arguments, not personal attacks.

  • 7. Be friendly, even if you disagree.

  • 8. Mistakes can be important. Acknowledge them – your own and others’.

  • 9. Know when to turn back. There is no shame in changing your mind – indeed, it is an academic virtue.

  • 10. Conduct yourself with consideration – you are an ambassador for academia.

7.6 Advice to the authorities

7.6.1 National

The public sector as a research client

In connection with commissioned research, there is often very little time for dissemination of results. This is something both parties must be aware of. In particular, the Commission would encourage all public research clients to ensure that there is the time and opportunity for dissemination of the results of commissioned research. As a minimum, there must be full transparency about the results, research data, etc., but they should also consider allocating time and funding for dissemination activities. This will help strengthen confidence in the results, including both the results of the specific assignment and research in general, and in the knowledge on which public sector decisions are based.

The Project Bank

The Research Council of Norway’s «Project Bank» presents statistics and information on projects funded by the Research Council of Norway (NFR), EU projects with Norwegian participants, and projects that have been approved under the SkatteFUNN R&D tax incentive scheme.39 The Project Bank provides access to information about publicly funded projects and can be useful for public employees and/or journalists in their work. Abstracts in Norwegian will both contribute to the development of Norwegian academic and technical language in several areas, and ensure that it is more easily adopted and used. It will also contribute to the implementation of the strategy for Norway’s research and innovation cooperation with the EU,40 one objective of which is that state support systems should strengthen the dissemination and use of research results. The Commission therefore asks the Ministry of Education and Research to instruct the Research Council of Norway (NFR) to ensure that abstracts in Norwegian are also published for all the projects in the Project Bank.

Political awareness regarding academic freedom of expression

In all their communication, including both political statements and administrative follow-up, the authorities should highlight academic freedom of expression as a crucial part of the universities’ mission. The Minister’s governance signals are important – in all arenas.

As the Commission described in section 7.3.1, the development agreements between the owner and the individual university are a good place to set differentiated expectations for the various institutions.

In view of their capacities as both responsible authorities and sources of funding of universities and university colleges, politicians and authorities have power over the sector and huge influence in the public sphere. It is important that they are aware of this power when expressing opinions on issues related to academia.

Politicians are of course also free to criticise academia in general and individual research findings and fields in particular. Ideally, this kind of criticism should be objective and well-founded, and preferably underpinned by valid arguments, ensuring it too contributes to the search for truth. Personal attacks or unfounded insinuations about the hidden agendas of experts with whom one disagrees, such as reference to «dark counter-forces» undermining the Norwegian fishing industry, have no place in the search for truth. These types of political statements can also erode the confidence that academia relies on in order to be able to contribute to a knowledge-based democracy.

Open access research

The government’s long-term plan for research and higher education 2018–202841 states that there is a need to make national and international research more easily accessible to the public administration, the business sector and the general public. Openness, transparency and knowledge sharing are prerequisites for all research, and greater openness in research is important for a number of reasons. It can contribute to more and better use of knowledge by providing access to the results of research for the research community as a whole, professional users in working life and industry, and the general public. In this way, greater openness in research may also contribute to smarter service development in the public sector and new business opportunities. A separate, but equally important, point is that greater openness and better insight into research can help strengthen confidence in researchers and research findings.

In its policy for open research,42 the Research Council of Norway (NFR) outlines a comprehensive approach to work in this area, with specific measures to promote greater openness and transparency in research and innovation processes. The policy is based on the overarching principle that research and research processes should be «as open as possible, as closed as necessary». This means that research and research processes shall be made openly available unless this is precluded by legitimate considerations such as security issues, protection of privacy, legal circumstances or competition considerations. Many institutions have their own internal strategies or plans in this area. The University of Bergen’s policy on open science43 applies to all research, teaching and dissemination that takes place at the university. The strategy also includes the sharing of open, high-quality learning resources. Open learning resources are part of the university’s academic production and are important for dissemination of knowledge.

The government’s goal is that by 2024 all Norwegian academic articles that have been funded by public funds will be openly available. Norway shall be a leader in the drive to ensure that all publicly funded scholarly articles are made openly available from the date of publication.44

The Universities and University Colleges Act Commission (the Aune Commission)45 concluded that the requirements laid down in Plan S46 for open access publication are fully compatible with academic freedom and the individual researcher’s right to choose their channel of publication. They pointed out that making research available is an important research ethical norm. Universities and university colleges will be better able to fulfil their purpose, which is to be sources of research-based knowledge that is used in society, if this knowledge is openly available. Open access publication will increase the significance of research in society.

Against this backdrop, the Commission finds it important that the ongoing work on open research, and open access to research in particular, is continued.

7.6.2 Internationally

Academics all over the world face challenges similar to those here in Norway, despite variations in framework conditions and the regulation of institutional and individual rights. High quality in research, education and dissemination that can influence public debate is in the best interests of society. In authoritarian countries, the situation of students and academics is not always so very different from that of others who organise themselves into groups or speak in public. It is generally a human rights problem that leads to them being subjected to threats, persecution or imprisonment. The acceleration of knowledge exchange that social media enables, aided by artificial intelligence and algorithms, combined with the need for science-based policy development and public debate, suggests that the initiatives of European countries and authorities to protect and promote academic freedom and freedom of expression are on the right track.

However, the necessary international collaboration and openness in academia also present some challenges for researchers and institutions in Norway. There is a growing need to raise awareness relating to security and export control issues, as well as academic freedom. The export control rules are critically important for Norwegian society, as are academic freedom and freedom of expression. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs possesses knowledge about the former, but not the latter. This means that the application of the export control rules in the knowledge sector should include special consultation and decision-making processes in which the knowledge sector is actively involved. Decisions should be made by the government, not at the ministry level.

The Commission has concluded that the following recommendations will contribute to strengthening the international efforts to improve the conditions for employees’ academic freedom of expression for knowledge exchange and debate both within research and educational institutions and externally with society at large.

The Commission has the following advice for the authorities:

  • a. The government should continuously assess the status of the cooperation with the partner countries in the Panorama strategy. Norway’s cooperation with challenging countries should have a separate midway evaluation with a focus on developments in academic freedom and freedom of expression and the risk of Norwegian institutions contributing to legitimising restrictions thereof.

  • b. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ enforcement of the export control regulations in connection with knowledge partnerships should include special consultation and decision-making processes in which the knowledge sector is actively involved and where decisions are made by the government and not at the ministry level.

  • c. When developing policy for academic freedom of expression in educational, research and innovation partnerships with challenging countries, Norway should coordinate with the EU and the OECD to ensure that these policies are practised as uniformly as possible.

  • d. The Commission asks the government to support the ongoing work in the EU to strengthen academic freedom in general and academic freedom of expression in particular. This applies, among other things, to work on indicators related to academic freedom of expression in the European Research Area (ERA) and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), i.e. the Bologna Process, and initiatives to appropriately evaluate academic freedom in the midway evaluation of Horizon Europe.

  • e. The Commission asks the government to introduce a stronger expectation that project funding distributed through the agreements with the EU and the beneficiary countries under the EEA and Norway Grants schemes will contribute to improving the conditions for employees’ academic freedom of expression for exchange of knowledge and debate, both within research and educational institutions and externally in society at large, and to consider research priorities and measures that can support this. The Commission finds that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should consider how the profile of the guidelines and measures in the education and research section can help improve the framework conditions for academics to share their knowledge in society and be supported in this at their institutions. This will be in line with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ strategy for freedom of expression.47

  • f. The Commission finds that academic freedom of expression and academic freedom have not been priorities in the Nordic co-operation through the NordPlus education programme or the Nordforsk research programme. Norway has the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2022, which may be a good opportunity to initiate cooperation on this issue among the Nordic countries. The Commission asks the Norwegian authorities to raise the issue of academic freedom, including understanding of democracy, active citizenship, freedom of expression and confidence in knowledge, as an important topic in the Nordic Council of Ministers’ work on education and research.

  • g. The Commission asks the Norwegian authorities to support the UN’s efforts to establish a global code of conduct to combat misinformation online and promote integrity in public information.

  • h. The Commission asks the government to establish Students at Risk as a permanent scheme and to support the Scholars at Risk scheme, and asks the universities and university colleges to be active in these networks.

7.7 Summary

In sections 7.2–7.6, the Commission has proposed a number of measures and recommendations. However, we would once again emphasise our concluding point from chapter 1. Although legislation, political measures, institutional strategies and astute leadership are all very important, they will be ineffectual unless academics themselves address the challenges facing academic freedom of expression. The climate of free speech can never be better than each individual strives to make it.

Like knowledge, a good culture of free speech must be built from the bottom up, every single day.

The Commission’s proposals can be summarised as follows:

  • 1. In section 7.2.2, the Commission proposes amending section 1-5 of the Universities and University Colleges Act with the following objectives

    • a. to clarify the institutional responsibility for the staff and students’ academic freedom

    • b. to specify that the institutional responsibility entails ensuring training in and the prerequisites for staff and students to be able to exercise academic freedom, including academic freedom of expression

    • c. to clarify that the academic freedom from external instructions and control also applies to the dissemination part of the academic tasks

    • d. to promote the individual right, and responsibility, to conduct academic dissemination

  • 2. The Commission does not propose amendments to the Norwegian Constitution or other regulations. The reasons for this are given in section 7.2.3.

  • 3. The Commission proposes that the development agreements for the public universities and university colleges should contain objectives and goals related to dissemination. These kinds of goals could be qualitative or quantitative and may vary among the institutions. See section 7.3.1.

  • 4. The Commission proposes the introduction of a dissemination indicator in the funding system for universities and university colleges. If changes are made to the general funding system, such as the removal of research indicators, the question of an indicator for dissemination must be considered in light of this. See section 7.3.2.

  • 5. The Commission proposes that the reporting system for dissemination activities be greatly simplified. See section 7.3.3.

  • 6. The Commission presents a draft declaration on academic freedom of expression. It is intended to function as a springboard for discussion and raising awareness about academic freedom of expression at the institutions. The text is offered as a proposal; it is not intended to be regarded as a requirement or order. It can – and should be – criticised, modified and adapted locally. See section 7.4.1.

  • 7. The Commission proposes ten ground rules for free speech. They are intended to serve as a checklist for the individual academic who wants to promote a good culture of free speech. See section 7.5.

  • 8. The institutions should clearly emphasise in their strategies that academic freedom of expression, academic dissemination aimed at the general public, and active participation in public discourse are natural elements of the mission of universities. See section 7.4.2. Elements of the institutions’ dissemination strategies may include:

    • a. establishing leadership forums where the relationship between academic freedom, freedom of expression and academic freedom of expression is discussed and where associated issues and situations can be discussed

    • b. expressing expectations for individuals with regard to dissemination activities (for example, in the appointment process)

    • c. establishing scheme(s) to support personnel who are «in the line of fire» due to their dissemination activities

    • d. weighing up the institution’s reputation building against academic freedom of expression

    • e. discussing academic freedom of expression in international partnerships, especially in order to strengthen the institutions’ ability to handle collaboration and situations with demanding countries

    • f. discussing academic freedom of expression when collaborating with businesses and other stakeholders in society

    • g. considering the work on protection of privacy and research ethics in the light of academic freedom of expression

    • h. discussing how to ensure diversity and prevent conformity

  • 9. The Commission emphasises that astute leadership is essential to ensure a good culture of academic freedom of expression (cf. section 7.4.2).

    Astute leadership includes:

    • a. having a good understanding of the relationship between academic freedom, freedom of expression and academic freedom of expression

    • b. highlighting and stimulating dissemination activities by creating arenas for dissemination and contributing to the development of a good culture of free speech

    • c. being supportive of colleagues who are experiencing difficult situations as a result of having exercised their freedom of expression

    • d. creating predictable framework conditions for freedom of expression, including when a manager can intervene

    • participating in discussions about academic freedom of expression with other managers

  • 10. With the Commission’s proposal for a new third paragraph of section 1-5 of the Universities and University Colleges Act, the universities and university colleges will also be explicitly responsible for having systems and routines for training in academic freedom and academic freedom of expression. See section 7.4.3.

    The training activities will also be an element in the building of an organisational culture to improve academic freedom of expression. The Commission holds that everyone who exerts an influence on the exercise of academic freedom of expression by the academic staff and students must have fundamental knowledge of the grounds for academic freedom of expression. Furthermore, the Commission finds that universities and university colleges must do more to ensure that employees who want or need it media training are offered this. The proposal that a requirement regarding training in academic freedom of expression be added in section 1-5, new third paragraph, of the Universities and University Colleges Act also encompasses students.

  • 11. Since good management and leadership are essential for creating a good academic culture of free speech, managers and other leaders must also receive training. Universities and university colleges have a responsibility to ensure systematic management development, which must also include academic freedom of expression.

  • 12. The Commission finds that greater weight can be attached to dissemination activities in connection with appointment and promotion. Expectations concerning dissemination can also be worded more clearly in employment contracts. The Commission’s proposal to introduce a dissemination indicator in the funding system for universities and university colleges should be followed up at the institutional level by establishing transparent reward and/or incentive systems for dissemination. This should be done regardless of whether or not a national dissemination indicator is introduced. See section 7.4.4.

  • 13. Doctoral programmes are central to the advancement of academia and providing society with new knowledge. The Commission therefore recommends that universities and university colleges introduce a requirement that all doctoral theses must include some form of dissemination aimed at the general public. This kind of requirement can be implemented through inclusion in the contract that the individual institution enters into with the PhD candidates. See section 7.4.5.

  • 14. The Commission proposes that the Ministry of Education and Research establish a regulatory requirement that all doctoral theses must include an abstract in Norwegian, to ensure that the requirement also applies to private universities and university colleges.

  • 15. The Commission expects the institutions to take their statutory responsibilities for the maintenance and development of Norwegian academic and technical language seriously. The institutions must contribute to the development of terminology in the various fields. Employees must be given time to work on contributions to encyclopaedias and textbooks, etc. Training in Norwegian language and society for non-Norwegian-speaking employees must be strengthened. The government’s support scheme for textbooks to ensure there is syllabus literature available in Norwegian and Sami must be continued at an adequate level. See section 7.4.6.

  • 16. Recommendations to the authorities – national measures (see section 7.6.1):

    • a. When acting as a contracting client, the state and public authorities must ensure openness and transparency regarding research findings and must allow dissemination of results.

    • b. The Commission asks the Ministry of Education and Research to instruct the Research Council of Norway (NFR) to ensure that abstracts in Norwegian are also published for all the projects in the Research Council of Norway’s Project Bank.

    • d. In their communication, including both political statements and in connection with administrative follow-up, the authorities should stress the importance of academic freedom of expression and that this is a crucial part of the mission of academia. The authorities must not impose restrictions on expressions or unnecessarily undermine confidence in research-based knowledge.

    • e. The Commission finds it important that the ongoing work on open research, and open access to research in particular, is continued.

  • 17. Recommendations to the authorities – international measures (see section 7.6.2):

    • a. The government should continuously assess the status of the cooperation with the partner countries in the Panorama strategy.

    • b. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ enforcement of the export control regulations in connection with knowledge partnerships should include special consultation and decision-making processes in which the knowledge sector is actively involved and where decisions are made by the government. See section 7.4.2.

    • c. When developing policy for academic freedom of expression in educational, research and innovation partnerships with challenging countries, Norway should coordinate with the EU and the OECD to ensure that these policies are practised as uniformly as possible.

    • d. The Commission asks the government to support the ongoing work in the EU to strengthen academic freedom in general and academic freedom of expression in particular.

    • e. The Commission finds that project funding through the agreements with the EU and the beneficiary countries that regulate the EEA and Norway Grants schemes ought to make a greater contribution towards improving the conditions for employees’ academic freedom of expression.

    • f. The Commission asks the Norwegian authorities to raise the issue of academic freedom, including understanding of democracy, active citizenship, freedom of expression and trust in knowledge, as an important topic in the Nordic Council of Ministers’ work on education and research.

    • g. The Commission asks the Norwegian authorities to support the UN’s efforts to establish a global code of conduct to combat misinformation online and promote integrity in public information.

    • h. The Commission asks the government to establish Students at Risk as a permanent scheme and to support the Scholars at Risk scheme, and asks the universities and university colleges to be active in these networks.

Footnotes

1.

Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2020: 3, section 15.3.4

2.

Proposition no. 111 to the Storting (2020–2021) (legislative bill), section 2.2.1.

3.

Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2006: 19, section 3.2.3

4.

The Freedom of Expression Commission (ykom.no) is due to submit its report on 15 August 2022

5.

Retningslinjer for statlig grunnbevilgning til forskningsinstitutter og forskningskonsern [Guidelines for public basic funding for research institutes and research groups] https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/retningslinjer-for-statlig-grunnbevilgning-til-forskningsinstitutter-og-forskningskonsern/id2895296/

6.

Strømme, Vidar (2020). Ytringsfrihet i akademia [Freedom of expression in academia]. Institute for Social Research (ISF) Report 2020:14 https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2719456

7.

It is not a given that constitutional rights automatically contribute to better protection in practice, or that the Constitution is used more, even in cases where it is relevant; see A. Kierulf, Hvilken rolle spiller Grunnloven § 100 i Høyesteretts ytringsfrihetspraksis? [What role does Article 100 of the Constitution play in the Supreme Court’s practice in respect of freedom of expression?] Lov og Rett (2012) p. 131.

8.

The conditions for interference with the rights pursuant to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights are that it must be prescribed by law, necessary to safeguard a legitimate purpose, and that it does not interfere disproportionately with freedom of expression. The conditions for interference with the rights in Article 100 of the Norwegian Constitution are that it must have a legal basis, and must be justified in relation to the grounds for freedom of expression, which are the pursuit of truth, the promotion of democracy and the individual’s freedom to form opinions.

9.

See Strømme, Vidar (2020): Ytringsfrihet i akademia [Freedom of expression in academia], p. 38 f. See also the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombud: Undersøkelse av eget tiltak – offentlig ansattes ytringsfrihet [Investigation of own measures – freedom of expression of public employees] (2015/940) https://www.sivilombudet.no/uttalelser/undersokelse-av-eget-tiltak-offentlig-ansattes-ytringsfrihet/

10.

See the fact sheet produced by the Fafo research foundation Ytringsfrihet i arbeidslivet [Freedom of speech in working life] 2021 https://www.fafo.no/images/pub/2021/Ytringsfrihet_i_arbeidslivet.pdf

11.

The Freedom of Expression Commission: Input meeting on section 185 of the Penal Code on hate speech. https://www.ykom.no/2020/12/22/innspillsmote-straffelovens-%c2%a7-185-om-hatefulle-ytringer/

12.

Supreme Court judgment HR-2020-184-A,, paragraph 24

13.

See, for example, Supreme Court judgment HR-2018-674-A, paragraph 17

14.

Ibid. paragraph 27.

15.

Several of the empirical surveys that set out to identify expressions that people find unpleasant and harmful use the term in this way; see, for example, the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud’s report: Hatytringer og hatkriminalitet [Hate speech and hate crimes], 2015, p. 12: «Hate speech is degrading, threatening, harassing or stigmatising speech which affects an individual’s or a group’s dignity, reputation and status in society by means of linguistic and visual effects that promote negative feelings, attitudes and perceptions based on characteristics such as ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and age.» See also the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS)’s 2019 survey Hat og trusler mot folkevalgte [Hate and threats against elected representatives], and C-Rex’s Norske lokalpolitikeres erfaringer med trusler, hatytringer og plagsomme henvendelser [Norwegian local politicians’ experiences with threats, hate speech and bothersome inquiries] from 2020. The Norwegian Media Authority’s report on harassment and hate speech from 2021 and also the Norwegian Police University College’s report Trakassering og trusler mot politikere [Harassment and threats against politicians] from 2022 p. 48. The Norwegian Media Authority’s 2022 report Man må ha tykk hud eller unngå å være på nettet [You need to have thick skin or avoid being online], which examines young people’s experiences with hate speech, also counts «criticism of clothing or performance in games» as manifestations of «hate» (see p. 20).

16.

See, for example, the definition of «hate» in the Norwegian dictionary Det norske akademis ordbok (naob.no) https://naob.no/ordbok/hat

17.

The provision was amended in 2009 to also include statements made «in the presence of others».

18.

See, for example, Norwegian Supreme Court Report (Rt.) 2012 p. 689, Norwegian Supreme Court Report (Rt.) 2018 p.674 and Supreme Court judgment HR-2020-2133.

19.

The difference in interests that are protected may also have an impact in terms of criminal procedure, for example for the question of the right to have a charge reclassified (see Norwegian Supreme Court Report (Rt.) 1989 p.1336.

20.

There is an explanation of workplace harassment, which is covered by labour law, on the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority’s website: https://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/tema/trakassering/

21.

Harassment is not defined in section 4-3 (3) of the Working Environment Act. According to the preparatory works and legal practice, the assessment of whether someone has been subjected to harassment depends on an objective norm; see, for example, Norwegian Supreme Court Report (Rt.) 2004 p. 1844, LG-2020-176005.

22.

See, for example, the University of Bergen’s «Si fra!» [Speak up!] whistleblowing campaign https://www.uib.no/varsling/144904/si-fra-om-mobbing-trakassering-og-seksuell-trakassering-%E2%80%93-fra-ansatte

23.

See the review in the preparatory works to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act: Proposition no. 81 to the Storting (2016–2017) (Bill) p. 320

24.

See, for example, the Norwegian Equality Tribunal – complaint case 20/299 https://lovdata.no/pro/#document/DIN/avgjorelse/din-2020-299?from=NL/lov/2017-06-16-51/%C2%A713

25.

The Norwegian Equality Tribunal – complaint case 21/142 https://www.diskrimineringsnemnda.no/showcase/2021000142

26.

The Norwegian Equality Tribunal – complaint case 20/238 https://www.diskrimineringsnemnda.no/showcase/2020000238

27.

The Norwegian Equality Tribunal – complaint case 20/287 https://www.diskrimineringsnemnda.no/showcase/2020000287

28.

The reporting of academic publications to the Norwegian Scientific Index (NVI) – Cristin https://www.cristin.no/nvi-rapportering/

29.

Examples of these kinds of documents from the universities of Oxford, Princeton and Chicago: https://compliance.admin.ox.ac.uk/freedom-of-speech, https://rrr.princeton.edu/university#comp113, https://provost.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/documents/reports/FOECommitteeReport.pdf

30.

See the discussion in section 6.5.2 and Mangset, M., Midtbøen, A.H. & Thorbjørnsrud, K. (eds.) (2022). Ytringsfrihet i en ny offentlighet. Grensene for debatt og rommet for kunnskap [Freedom of expression in a new public sphere. The boundaries of debate and the arena for knowledge]. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. https://doi.org/10.18261/9788215051017-2022 , chapter8.

31.

J.G. Reichelt, Håndbok i militærpsykiatri [Handbook of military psychology] (2016) p. 69

32.

Ibid. p. 80 f.

33.

See Nyhan, B. and J. Reifler (2010). When Corrections fall: The persistence of political mis-perceptions, Political Behavior 32 (2), pp. 303–330 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2

34.

See, for example, Lewandowsky, S, et al., Debunking Handbook 2020 https://www.climatechangecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/DebunkingHandbook2020.pdf

35.

J.G. Reichelt, Håndbok i militærpsykiatri [Handbook of military psychology] (2016) p. 80 f.

36.

See the description of NOR-CAM in section 5.3.

37.

Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2020: 3, chapter 14

38.

The Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir), formerly Diku, administers the textbook scheme for higher education. https://diku.no/programmer/laerebokordningen-for-hoeyere-utdanning

39.

The Research Council of Norway (NFR): Prosjektbanken [the project bank] https://prosjektbanken.forskningsradet.no/

40.

The Norwegian government’s strategy for Norway’s participation in Horizon Europe and the European Research Area (2021), section 4.6 https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/68895f46b6f34f1a9294ca3be7d25265/212540-kd-strategi-horisonteuropa-web.pdf

41.

White paper Report no. 4 to the Storting (2018–2019) Langtidsplan for forskning og høyere utdanning 2019–2028 [Long-term plan for research and higher education 2019–2028].

42.

The Research Council of Norway (NFR): Åpen forskning [Open research] 2020 https://www.forskningsradet.no/siteassets/forskningspolitisk-radgivning/apen-forskning/nfr-policy-apen-forskning-norsk-ny.pdf

43.

University of Bergen: Politikk for åpen vitenskap ved Universitetet i Bergen [Policy for Open Science at the University of Bergen] (2020) https://www.uib.no/foransatte/139288/politikk-%C3%A5pen-vitenskap-ved-universitetet-i-bergen

44.

Ministry of Education and Research: Nasjonale mål og retningslinjer for åpen tilgang til vitenskapelige artikler [National goals and guidelines for open access to academic articles] (2017) https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/nasjonale-mal-og-retningslinjer-for-apen-tilgang-til-vitenskapelige-artikler/id2567591/

45.

Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2020: 3, chapter 15

46.

The Research Council of Norway (NFR): Plan S – åpen tilgang til publikasjoner [Plan S – open access to publications] https://www.forskningsradet.no/forskningspolitisk-radgivning/apen-forskning/apen-tilgang-til-publikasjoner/

47.

The Norwegian government’s international strategy for promoting freedom of expression in foreign and development policy (2021)

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