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Being an expert

Being an expert

Taking part in society's various debate fora requires that the researcher take on yet another roll, that of the dedicated expert. Informing on research is important because it gives people an insight into an activity they pay for, and gives society a basis for different types of decisions. It is thus of great importance that the researcher make clear which area he/she is an expert in as well as which limitations exist, differentiate between communicating his/her knowledge and formulating recommendations, be honest regarding the existence of scientific pluralism, and avoid making statements on areas in which there lie personal or professional connections or interests.

Demands placed on public work can be defined using various areas' regulations: Förvaltningslagen (the Administrative Procedure Act) regulates service obligations to citizens, the Higher Education Act states that colleges and universities are obliged to cooperate with the community and inform on their activities, whereas the Higher Education Ordinance) addresses society's right to educational information.

Some common pitfalls

Some pitfalls for the researcher who speaks as an expert and/or in a popular scientific context are:

Even if the researcher's own contribution is not to be exaggerated, many work-ethics (professional) codes contain appeals to actively work for one's own profession's standing in the scientific community and the public consciousness. Naturally, good judgment should be used. Besides professional loyalty, every researcher also has a loyalty toward science in general, as well as to the public. See Council of Europe's "Resolution on Scientific Communication".

Some guidelines that address the scientist's public roll from various perspectives are collected to the right. Informal EU "Guidelines for scientists on communicating with the media" are noteworthy. In general, the focus has shifted from improving the public's understanding of science to a multi-directional dialogue involving various stakeholders and the general public, see OECD's "Improving the dialogue with society on scientific issues".

Press ethic & freedom of speech

Participation in mass media also falls under the press ethic. The booklet "Spelregler för press, radio och TV" (rules of the game for press, radio and TV), published by mass media's own organisations, explains these ethical rules. Among publication rules is the requirement that news must be correct, one must exercise care in mentioning people's race, gender, nationality, occupation, political leaning or religious view if it has no bearing in the context and is disrespectful. Also see the "Code of Ethics" by the Society of Professional Journalists. Freedom of opinion and speech of course also apply to researchers, according to regeringsformens 2 kap. (the Constitution Act, Chapter 2) as well as yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen (the Constitution Act for Freedom of Speech) and tryckfrihetsförordningen (the Freedom of the Press Act).

Last updated: 2020-04-12

Rules & guidelines

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