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Ethical guidelines for Sami research: the issue that disappeared from the Norwegian Sami Parliament’s agenda?

Vigdis Stordahl, Grete Tørres, Snefrid Møllersen, Inger-Marit Eira-Åhren


Background: In recent decades many indigenous communities, policy makers and researchers worldwide have criticized the academic community for not being aware of the specific challenges these communities have faced and still are facing with regard to research. One result of the decades of discourse in indigenous communities is the development in many Western countries of indigenously sensitive ethical research guidelines. In 1997 the Sami Parliament (SP) in Norway reached a unanimous decision that ethical guidelines for Sami research had to be drawn up. Such guidelines are however still to be created.

Objectives: The objectives of this article are to enquire into what happened to the Norwegian SP’s decision of 1997 and to reflect on why the issue seems to have disappeared from the SP’s agenda. Finally, we consider whether research ethics is to be a subject for the research community only.

Methods:A review of parliamentary white papers on research and SP documents relating to research ethics.

Findings: The response to the SP’s decision in 1997 took place in two different channels, both of them national, namely the research ethics channel and the political channel. Thus, there were actually two parallel processes taking place. In spite of nearly two decades of reports, the concept of the participation of indigenous communities in research is still not an integral part of Norwegian ethical guidelines.

Conclusions: The issue of indigenously sensitive research ethics seems to have disappeared from the SP’s agenda and the research ethics review system with regard to Sami research is with minor adjustments the same as when the SP asked for a revision.

research ethics, indigenous, Sami, Norway