1 Norms and values of research

Researchers are obliged to comply with recognised norms of research ethics.

Research is a quest for new and improved or deeper insight. It is a systematic and socially organised activity governed by various specific and values. The most fundamental obligation of science is the pursuit for truth. At the same time, research can never fully achieve this goal. Most conclusions are contingent and limited. Nevertheless, the norms of science have a value in themselves as guidelines and regulatory principles for the research community's collective pursuit for truth.

In the humanities and social sciences, involvement and interpretation are often integral parts of the research process. Different academic approaches and theoretical positions may also allow for different, but nonetheless reasonable, interpretations of the same material. Consequently, it is important to reflect on and account for how one's own values and attitudes affect the choice of topic, data sources and interpretations. Integrity in documentation, consistency in argumentation, impartiality in assessment and openness regarding uncertainty are common obligations in research ethics, irrespective of the values, positions or perspectives of the researchers.

2 Freedom of research

Both researchers and research institutions are responsible for preserving the freedom and independence of research, especially when the topic is controversial or when strategic or commercial considerations impose pressure and constraints on research.

Scientific norms regarding originality, openness and trustworthiness may conflict with the desire of other parties to prevent or govern research. Research must be safeguarded against internal or external pressure that limits the exploration of well-defined problems that may intersect financial, political, social, cultural or religious interests and traditions. This is part of the reason why academic freedom was made statutory in 2007, ordering institutions to promote and protect academic freedom.[14] However, the independence of research exists as a norm independently of this codification, while at the same time the law now states that teaching and research must comply with recognised scientific and ethical principles. It is the soundness and relevance of the arguments and the quality of the documentation that should provide the foundation for research based conclusions – and for knowledge production in research in general – not any established interests and traditions in or outside the research community.

The duty and obligation of openness and publication means that neither researchers nor research institutions may withhold or selectively report results and conclusions. Any attempts to impose or dictate what results the research should lead to, are illegitimate. This calls for arrangements to ensure both the independence of institutions and the independence of researchers within the institutions. Research presupposes the freedom to seek, produce and disseminate scientific knowledge to the wider public.

The level of independence varies between basic, applied and commissioned research. All research must nonetheless be protected from pressure that endangers good and responsible research. In addition, commissioned research outside the university and university college sector must also have procedures for protecting the integrity of research, as set out in the Ministry of Education and Research's «Standard agreement for research and report assignments» (2012).[15]

3 Responsibility of research

Responsible research requires freedom from control and constraints, while trust in research requires the exercise of responsibility by both researchers and research institutions.

Scientific, ethical and legal norms and values regulate the responsibility of research. Research also has a social responsibility, whether it be instrumental as a foundation for societal decisions, critical as a source of correctives and alternative choices of action, or deliberative as a supplier of research-based knowledge to the public discourse.

Great demands are placed on the justifications of the researchers for their choice of questions, methods and analytical perspectives, and also on the quality of the documentation used to support conclusions, so that preconceived notions and unwitting opinions have minimal influence on the research. The methodological requirements posed by the research community in respect of argumentation, reasoning, documentation and willingness to revise opinions in the light of well-founded criticism may serve as a model for how to deal with disagreement in other segments of society.

Research is valuable, but it can also cause harm. Good and responsible research also includes assessing unintended and undesirable consequences. Researchers must make sure that the research does not violate laws and regulations, or represent a risk to poeple, society and nature – in accordance with the principles of sustainability and precaution in research ethics.[16]

4 Responsibility of institutions

Research institutions must guarantee that research is good and responsible by preventing misconduct and promoting the guidelines for research ethics.

The institutions must facilitate the development and maintenance of good scientific practice. They should communicate the guidelines for research ethics to their employees and students, and also provide training in research ethics and the relevant rules of law that govern research. This would facilitate individual reflection on research ethics and good discussions in the research communities about norms and dilemmas related to research ethics.

The institutions must ensure that they manage the guiding and advisory function of research ethics properly, so that the distribution of roles and responsibilities is clear. In this context, the guidelines for research ethics will be an important tool for preventing undesirable practice and ensuring that research is good and responsible. The institutions should also have clear procedures for handling suspicions and accusations of serious breaches of good scientific practice, for example by establishing misconduct committees with responsibility for oversight and investigation.

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[14] Section 1-5 of the Universities and Colleges Act.

[15] The Ministry of Education and Research, «Standard agreement for research and report assignments», Oslo 2012. See also the report from the National Research Ethics Committees, Oppdragsforskning: åpenhet, kvalitet, etterrettelighet, Oslo 2003 [Commissioned research: transparency, quality, accountability].

[16] NENT, Føre-var prinsippet: Mellom forskning og politikk [The precautionary principle: Between research and politics], NENT publication no. 11, Oslo 1997.