Research Ethics

The Ministry of Education and Research has published a consultation paper with submitted proposed amendments to the Research Ethics Act. This will among other things put a formal responsibility on higher education research institutions to ensure that researchers act according to national ethical standards.

In 2014, the Ministry commenced a reexamination of the Research Ethics Act to assess the need for a revision of the Act. The aim was to obtain input from the parties that are most affected so that issues and options were explored as best as possible.

Work on research ethics has two sides. The first, and most important, is to promote good research ethics. This takes place through the daily practices at research institutions by including and raising awareness about ethics throughout higher education and in all research work. The other side is about preventing and handling misconduct in research.

The system

A system has been established with a variety of resources to support the research institutions' work on both of these aspects of research ethics, in the form of national research ethics committees, regional committees for medical and health research ethics and the National Commission for the Investigation of Research Misconduct (elaboration and referrals follow). Both general and subject-specific national research ethics guidelines have been prepared and are revised regularly, and the committees follow and are engaged in the international work on ethics.

Likewise, several research institutions have prepared their own guidelines and other materials (elaboration and referrals follow). The work is also supported by international declarations and conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN precautionary principle for sustainable development, the Declaration of Helsinki on Ethical Principles for Medical Research or the Vancouver Protocol with practical and ethical guidelines and requirements used by most medical journals in publishing scientific papers

Current law

The current Norwegian research ethics system is structured such that, primarily, the individual researcher has an independent responsibility for familiarising himself/herself with, and following, recognised ethical standards.

In addition to the researchers' duty of care, research institutions are obliged to contribute toward ensuring that all research at their institution takes place in accordance with recognised ethical standards.

Current practice

In the spring of 2014, the Ministry of Education and Research conducted a mapping of the ethics system used by State universities and university colleges, and also met with 15 different institutions.

The mapping round also showed significant differences in how the institutions handle issues of research ethics. The responses also show that there is substantial variation between institutions as regards whether they have laid down rules that determine the procedure for issues of research ethics and how they will handle such issues. A few institutions have established or are in the process of establishing their own ethics committees in line with this.

A few institutions have set up their own investigation committees. The mandate and guidelines for such committees may vary somewhat in form and scope, but their core area is the same.

The consultation paper 

The document is a part of a consultation paper published by the Ministry of Education and Research in July 2015, with proposed amendments to Act No. 56 of 30 June 2006 on ethics and integrity in research (the Research Ethics Act).

Read the consultation paper

More information about research in Norway:

- The Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees: http://www.etikkom.no/EN

- The Research Council of Norway: http://www.rcn.no