The concept of "research ethics" refers to a diverse set of values, standards, and institutional arrangements that contribute to constituting and regulating scientific activities. The field of research ethics contains many elements. The fundamental ethos of research is the search for truth. At the same time, research ethics underscores that research has a wider social responsibility. Research ethics also concerns relations among researchers and relations between researchers and other people. In addition, research can have consequences for animals and the environment. These guidelines attempt to cover all these elements for all those who are involved in research activities. This also means that the individual provisions in these guidelines are of various kinds. Some express standards, which are also covered in the law, while others describe ideal objectives that research should strive to achieve.

The guidelines employ the concept "research". This is a reference to the responsibility of individual researchers and research institutions alike to create conditions for, and to engage in, good research practice. The guidelines also apply to student work that involves research. They apply not only to persons and institutions that conduct research, but also to other actors that influence research.