The purpose of the act is to ensure that public and private research is conducted in accordance with recognised norms of research ethics (§ 1). Furthermore, the law is the legal basis for the national research ethics committees.
The Act states that there shall be research ethics committees covering all disciplines (§ 9). The national committees are The National Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics (NEM); The National Committee for Research Ethics in Science and Technology (NENT); and The National Committee for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and the Humanities (NESH); as well as the The National Commission for the Investigation of Research Misconduct (GRU).
The Act also provides the legal basis for the Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REK). These committees work in accordance with the Health Research Act, and their main task is ethical assessment of applications for approval of medical and health research projects involving people. Such projects must not be initiated prior to approval.
Research ethics is a summary of the ethos of science in practice. The research should follow norms that govern the relations internally within the research community, and externally between researchers and those involved in research, and society as such.
The research must be responsible and sound and follow so-called recognized norms of research ethics. The guidelines of The Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees are examples of such norms. International standards that Norway has joined must also be taken into account.
Breaches of research ethical norms can be regarded as misconduct. Questions concerning misconduct should initially be investigated by the institution where the accused researcher is employed. To handle such cases, the institutions must establish a committee on research ethics and integrity (NO: "redelighetsutvalg").
When a statement concludes that a researcher has committed misconduct, he or she may appeal to The National Commission for the Investigation of Research Misconduct (GRU).
Misconduct involving fabrication, falsification and plagiarism (FFP) is considered serious. The preparatory work of the Act also lists additional actions which can be considered serious in particular cases. The list includes p. a.:
- to withhold-, mislead about-, or selectively/secretly dispose of undesired results;
- to mislead or conceal one's own or others scientific efforts and / or scientific achievements. Improper allocation of authorship etc.
- to destruct research data / material to prevent investigations of misconduct.
The list specified in the Act is not exhaustive.
The act also states that no action will be regarded as misconduct unless it was committed intentionally or with gross negligence.
The researcher has the main responsibility to assure that the research is conducted with due care. This responsibility applies throughout the lifetime of the project.
Research institutions are responsible for teaching and training in research ethics. The institutions shall also issue internal guidelines for dealing with potential breaches of recognised norms of research ethics. The guidelines must be public.
Besides having a committee on research ethics and integrity, it may be useful for the institutions to establish a support to guide researchers in specific issues concerning research ethics.
The handling of misconduct cases must comply with the rules of the Public Administration Act. The case can be exempted from access until the institution has finalized its handling.
You will find the Health Research Act and Forskningsetikkloven (the Research Ethics Act) on lovdata.no.