This has been clarified in the Research Council’s regulations on impartiality. Some key points in the regulations have now been revised.
“It used to be almost automatic that persons listed as contributors to a joint publication were rendered disqualified in relation to each other, whether or not any close professional collaboration had taken place. This is why we have sometimes had a difficult time finding the right experts to assess applications for research funding,” explains Mariken Vinje, Director of the Legal Affairs Department at the Research Council.
Complies with the Public Administration Act
The change in the Research Council’s regulations on impartiality is in full accordance with the provisions on impartiality in the Public Administration Act. In addition, the Research Council revisions are based on a statement from the Legislation Department of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security that “particularly weighty arguments” must be in play for collaboration in a work situation or friendship to result in disqualification.
“If you have applied for funding from the Research Council, you can rest assured that we take impartiality seriously,” says Mariken Vinje, Director of the Legal Affairs Department at the Research Council. (Photo: Thomas Keilman)
Research requires extra awareness
Nonetheless, some distinctive features of research cooperation call for particular vigilance. Research may be directly linked to individual ideas and independent knowledge production, and thus becomes a more personal activity than is common in other working relationships. Moreover, a researcher may reap the benefits of a collaborative partner’s success in the same field. According to the Research Council’s new guidelines, collaborative relationships in research must therefore in some cases be evaluated more stringently than collegial relationships in other work situations.
Assurance for the applicants
The issue of impartiality in general has been in the spotlight in several recent cases in the political sphere. Stricter practices have been called for. Mariken Vinje makes it clear that everyone seeking funding from the Research Council can be certain that the Council takes impartiality extremely seriously and that all matters are dealt with in an unbiased manner.
“The Research Council is well-equipped to assess impartiality. We conducted an extensive review of the regulations on impartiality in 2004, and the organisation is very skilled at dealing with this area,” she says.
The internal Impartiality and Appeals Panel at the Research Council assists with impartiality questions and complaints in connection with applications for R&D funding. The committee ensures that all decisions taken are in conformance with the relevant legislation and the Research Council’s own regulations on impartiality.