Research Ethics

Academic freedom is a fundamental principle of research and is an important condition for ensuring independent and reliable research. At the same time, the credibility of research depends on us being ability to trust the researchers. Ethics in research is thus so important.

The credibility of research depends on researchers following the ethical principals for research and that we have a norm system for the research. This is why we have a law regarding the organisation of research ethics work and a national apparatus and framework for good research ethics. It is important for all modern societies to find a balance between investing in research opportunities to develop new knowledge and technology and society’s need to protect itself from potential and unintended harmful effects.

It is also a significant challenge to identify which methods, assessments and values will determine the limitations that will be imposed on the research. Ethical reflection must therefore be included in all stages of a well-functioning research system.

Researchers and research institutions have a legally established responsibility to ensure that all research is carried out in accordance with recognised research ethics norms. Academically independent ethics committees must advise and draw up guidelines for good research ethics.

Individual researchers have an independent responsibility to follow recognised research ethics norms in all stages of the research process. Research institutions must make it possible for researchers to easily follow good practice, and have a system to reveal and deal with any breaches of good research ethical norms. The National Commission for the Investigation of Research Misconduct is the appeals body for the most serious cases where a researcher has breached research ethics norms.

The National Research Ethics Committees

The National Research Ethics Committees (FEK) are the most important professional body for research ethics. They must contribute to ensuring that research in the public and private sector takes place in accordance with recognised ethical norms. FEK is a public administrative body for research ethics questions in all subject areas, and includes the national committees and commissions established under the Research Ethics Act, in addition to the administration, which is also the secretariat for committees and commissions.  The committees and commissions are academically independent, cf. Section 3 of the Research Ethics Act.

National research ethics committees

The three national committees for research ethics questions are advisory bodies and cover all subject areas:

  • National Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics (NEM)
  • National Committee for Research Ethics in Science and Technology (NENT)
  • National Committee for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and the Humanities (NESH)

The committees must give advice on research ethics and establish research ethics guidelines in their areas of expertise. Under the National Committee for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and the Humanities, a National Committee for Research Ethics on Human Remains has been established.

The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research appoints the committees and determines each committee’s areas of responsibility. The committees are academically independent.

Regional committees for medical and health research ethics (REK)

In the medical and healthcare field, there are regional committees (REK) that assess all research projects involving people or human material. The areas of responsibility of the committees are mainly set out in the Health Research Act. The purpose of the Health Research Act is to promote good and ethically sound medical and health research.

The committees are organised by health regions, and there are committees in the Southeastern Health Region, Western Health Region, Mid-Norway Health Region and Northern Health Region.

The universities in these regions have administrative responsibility for the committees. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research appoints the committees and determines their tasks.

NEM is an advisory and coordinating body for the regional committees. NEM is also the appeal body for projects processed in REK.

The Investigation Commission

The Investigation Commission is the appeal body for statements from research institutions in the most serious cases, i.e. where it is concluded that a researcher has acted scientifically fraudulently. The committee can also deal with cases on its own initiative. The Investigation Commission must also guide the institutions on handling possible breaches of research ethics norms. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research appoints the commission.