National Research Ethics Committees (Etikkom)

Founding year

1990

History

The three National Research Ethics Committees (NEM, NENT and NESH), covering different fields/disciplines, were established in 1990, based on the Proposition to the Parliament (Storting No. 28 (1988–1989) Om forskning). In 2007, the Research Ethics Act provided a legal mandate for the three committees together with the establishment of a National Commission for the Investigation of Research Misconduct. With effect from 1 January 2013, the Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees (FEK) were established, as an independent administrative agency under the Ministry of Education and Research. The three committees and the Commission are part of the administrative agency, and they all have a central role promoting research ethics/research integrity in the national research system.

 

According to ”Act on Ethics and Integrity in Research” entered into force in July 2007 research institutions (universities etc.) have the primary responsibility for preventing and handling allegations concerning research misconduct. However, the mentioned law introduced a new body to investigate research misconduct: The National Commission for the Investigation of Research Misconduct (Granskingsutvalget). The Act is going to be revised (Spring 2017).

ENRIO member since

2008

Structure

Independent body under the auspices of The ministry of Education and Research.

Main Tasks

One of the key tasks of the National research ethics committees and the National Commission is to provide guidance and advice to researchers. When it comes to Research Integrity the main tasks are

i) preventive actions regarding research misconduct,
ii) investigating serious misconduct cases,
iii) assistance/guidance to researchers and institutions, and
iv) an oversight function.

Investigation

Cases concerning breaches of good research practice should usually be dealt with at the local level. However, serious cases may be dealt with by the National Commission which may investigate  allegations of serious research misconduct and issue a public statement on whether any research misconduct has occurred or not. The Commission covers all research fields, and deals with research carried out by Norwegian research institutions private or public. It can also investigate cases abroad, if the research has been carried out by researchers employed by a Norwegian institution, or if a substantial part of the funding stems from Norway. The Commission is composed of seven members and four substitutes all nominated for a period of four years with a possibility of an extra term of four years. The members cover different fields of research. The Commission is independent but members are appointed by the Ministry of Education and Research following a proposition of the Norwegian Research Council. At least one of the members should be from abroad. The chair of the Commission must have a judicial background. The Commission deals with serious cases of research misconduct which are brought to its attention by a person, usually a researcher. There are several policies protecting a whistleblower. Secondly, an institution may ask the Commission to investigate a case. Thirdly, the Commission can also launch an investigation on its own initiative e.g. after being informed about the outcome of a local handling of a case.  The Commission decides whether cases need further investigations or are judged baseless. Anyway, it is the Commission solely to decide whether it wants to investigate a case or e.g. refer it to the responsible institution. The Commission often draws on external, national or foreign, expertise when dealing with particular cases. The responsibility for sanctions rests with the research institutions. Appeals against statements of the National Commission  must be forwarded to the Ministry of Education and Research. The Ministry appoints an ad hoc Commission which must deal with the appeal. Administrative appeals are dealt with by the Ministry. The Commission gives advice to individuals and/or research institutions and act as a knowledge base, i.e. gather information concerning research misconduct in Norway and beyond. All institutions are supposed to inform the national Commission about handled cases.  The Commission is cooperating with similar organizations abroad. On the national level, the Commission cooperates with the National Committees for Research Ethics especially on prevention of research misconduct. National guidelines on Research Ethics (including research Integrity) have existed since beginning of the 1990’s. The guidelines have been revised regularly, latest in 2016. These guidelines are also very important when investigating possible research misconduct as researchers are obliged to know and to follow the guidelines.

The staff assisting the National Commission, so far one to two person(s); is part of the secretariat of the research ethics committees. The National Commission is publishing an annual report describing cases anonymously. The Research Ethics Committees (including the Commission) has a website (www.etikkom.no) with comprehensive information about Research Integrity.

Training

The National Research Ethics Committees (including the Commission are not responsible for training as such. That rests with the institutions. However, there are several national initiatives related to training:

  1. A Research Ethics library containing articles and cases (including on RI). This is an online resource for research Ethics/RI education.
  2. A yearly conference for teachers and people responsible for RI at the different institutions.
  3. The Committees are working on “a curriculum on RI/RM” for members and staff connected to local Research Ethics.
  4. The secretariat for the Committees are participating in different teaching activities, including presentations etc. at different institutions.

Promoting Research Integrity

The national guidelines for Research Ethics (including RI) are very important when it comes to promoting Research Ethics.

As part port of promoting Research Integrity The National Research Ethics Committees have published (Open Access) an anthology on RI in 2017.    

Contact

Torkild Vinther

The National Commission for the Investigation of Research Misconduct (Granskingsutvalget)
Kongens gate 14
0153 Oslo - Norway

+47 23 31 83 00