Quick guide to course design

Do you teach research ethics? Here is a brief overview of relevant topics and resources that you can use in your courses.


The guidelines for research ethics are our most important resources. The committees on science and technology (NENT) and social sciences and humanities (NESH) have prepared guidelines for their professional areas. The guidelines are advisory and are intended to contribute to developing ethical judgement and reflection, clarifying ethical dilemmas, promoting responsible research, and preventing misconduct.

The committee on medical and health research (NEM) give decisions in accordance with the Health Research Act and have also given guidelines in specific areas, such as guidelines for Medical and health research in low- and middle-income countries

For a general introduction to research ethics, the General guidelines can be useful. These cannot replace subject-specific guidelines, but should serve as a gateway to the principles and concerns of research ethics, including for institutions and individuals who are not researchers themselves.

The Research Ethics Library

The Research Ethics Library is a teaching resource where you can find articles written by experts in the field, as well as discussion examples, literature references and other resources in the area of research ethics.

For all subject areas involving research on humans, the relationship to research participants requires ethical reflection. This should be reflected in an appropriate course design. Especially important topics that should be covered are:

Regarding challenges related to duty of secrecy, the following topic could also be covered in the course material:

Depending on the type of project researchers wish to carry out, prior approval of the research will be required in many cases. The Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD) and the Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REK) will be especially relevant in this context, depending on the research field. Students should be made aware of this in courses on research ethics.

The group to which research participants belong is often very important, and this is a topic that should be addressed in courses on research ethics.

If one of the relevant groups consists of children, the following topics might also be relevant to include in the course:

To varying degrees, research has a responsibility not only vis-á-vis research participants, but also in relation to society and the environment. This is also an issue that requires reflection on the part of the researcher and student. The issues of greatest importance in a teaching context will depend largely on the field and the project.

A critical aspect of research for most researchers is the writing and publication phase. This also raises fundamental ethical questions about:

A research environment consists of relationships, and among these is the relationship between the supervisor and the student, which should be a relevant topic in most courses on research ethics.

Sometimes an individual researcher must go to great lengths to remedy a situation he or she believes to be unethical. In this case, ethical challenges are related to assuming the role of the whistleblower, a subject which students should know something about.

Here are a few tips to conclude:

For more articles on specific subjects that may be helpful in designing your course, please go to the Research Ethics Library.

For other useful resources, see these suggestions for external resources.

We would like your feedback on this resource. Please send your comments to info@forskningsetikk.no