Who can contact the committee?
The National Committee for Research Ethics on Human Remains (the committee) is a national advisory body tasked with promoting ethically sound and responsible research on human remains. The committee is a professional body with the Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees (FEK). Our mandate is provided by the National Committee for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and the Humanities (NESH), but the committee is scientifically independent. The committee communicates with institutions and individual researchers on questions of research ethics relating to research on and research-related handling of human remains. The committee processes inquiries and provides ethical guidance on research projects, teaching, dissemination, exhibitions and repatriation, and on the handling of human remains. For more information, please consult the committee’s mandate (Norwegian site) and website.
Human remains are simultaneously both nature and culture – subjects and objects; the remains represent the person they once were part of but are at the same time source materials providing knowledge about earlier societies and cultures. Research on human remains is an interdisciplinary field involving, among others, archaeology, anthropology, bioarchaeology, medical history, paleoepidemiology and genetics. The research field has many possibilities and great potential, but at the same time contains many complex and varied questions of research ethics. For instance, research ethics are challenged by research on remains of individuals belonging to historically oppressed groups, research on rare materials, research on materials also being studied by other researchers and research on materials lacking a verified context of discovery and provenance. Prior to initiating a project involving the study of human remains, it is important to reflect upon the research ethical considerations which may be posed by the project. To aid in this reflection, the committee has developed Guidelines for research ethics on human remains (The National Committee for Research Ethics on Human Remains, 2014). The committee recommends using these guidelines as the basis for an ethics self-assessment (pt. 12 in the inquiry form below).
The committee revised the guidelines in 2022. They are available in Norwegian here. English translation is pending.
On evaluating research project submissions, the committee bases its work on applicable legislation and the Guidelines for research ethics on human remains (The National Committee for Research Ethics on Human Remains, 2014), Guidelines for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and the Humanities (NESH, 2021), . These are national resources for research ethics within the relevant disciplines, and the committee encourages applicants to get thoroughly familiarized with these.
Several laws and regulations regulate the handling of human remains. The applicant should be familiar with these and must abide by applicable laws and regulations. The committee’s guidelines on the discovery of human remains (Skjelettutvalget, 2018) (Norwegian only) provide an overview of the legislation in this field.
For more information on how the committee performs its evaluations, see previous statements by the committee.
On case processing
The committee consists of members from across the country normally meeting four times a year to process incoming requests for research ethics evaluation. In order to ensure evaluation by a committee meeting, the request must be submitted three weeks prior to the meeting in question. In exceptional cases, shorter deadlines and evaluation of submissions by email may be granted. This depends on the project and the submission. The committee meeting schedule may be found on the committee’s website. Please contact the committee through Secretary Lene Os Johannessen (email@example.com) as early as possible for guidance and clarification of the process forward. We also encourage everyone applying for external funding of a research project to contact us for guidance.
The committee cannot process a submission prior to points 1-14 being answered by the applicant. The answers should not exceed 1500 characters (excluding spaces) per point. Pts. 12 and 13 require an ethics self-assessment and a project description to be uploaded as attachments.
Submission form for requests
Download the form, fill in and send with attachments to Lene Os Johannessen, firstname.lastname@example.org.