Universities say new rules will hurt international research

Higher education institutions in Norway have formally expressed concerns about the government’s proposed knowledge export control measures which they believe will threaten academic freedom, isolate the country’s research programme and have a negative impact on the internationalisation of higher education and research.

In a response to the ministry of foreign affairs’ call in late March for comments to its proposal for new regulatory controls around the exportation of knowledge, the Norwegian Council of Universities (UHR) said that, while the council appreciates the need for a change in the export control regulation, the draft proposal gives too much weight to national security at the expense of academic freedom and, in fact, conflicts with existing university law.

The UHR represents 32 universities, university colleges and private universities. Its response was among another 34 that came from universities, research institutes and other stakeholders to the proposal.

“The proposal conflicts with the university law [Law on universities and university colleges] (Para 1.1 & 1.5). In addition to academic freedom, the proposal challenges other core knowledge-political goals: international cooperation and open research,” the UHR statement says.

The UHR said that, for a research-intensive country such as Norway, international cooperation was of crucial importance.

Cooperation as an explicit goal

“Such cooperation has been an explicit goal for increasing innovation capacity and the competitive position [of Norway]; improved quality of Norwegian research, access to projects, networks, infrastructure and markets.”

The UHR warned against introducing stronger regulations in Norway compared with other countries, particularly those in the European Union.

“If we have stronger rules in Norway compared to others this will weaken Norwegian research milieus within broad and important research areas,” it said.

It also warned about a “Western” bias which is evident in the government’s implicit belief that research is generally more advanced in the West, including Norway, compared with the rest of the world.

“The regulation proposals, furthermore, implicitly presuppose that Norway and ‘Western countries’ are ahead of other countries in knowledge and technology development. This is no longer correct in all areas. In some research fields, non-democratic countries are as advanced in research and competence … This is a premise that is not covered in the proposal.”

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