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Research communication gets ethical guidelines

New research results should be communicated in the media, but this must be done in an ethical manner. The faculty management team at Health has adopted a range of principles for responsible research communication. The goal is to create more trust between researchers, media and the communication department.

First came the guidelines for good scientific practice. Now, these guidelines have got a little sister at Health: Principles of responsible research communication. The principles are a kind of script for the communication department. They deal with how and when the faculty publishes new research results in the media.

"Researchers must communicate their research results to the general public. This is stated in the University Act. But many hesitate, because they do not trust the media to treat their research in the proper way. Conversely, journalists cannot always tell whether there is sufficient evidence behind a research result, or whether the university just wishes to use the media coverage to call attention to themselves in the battle for more research funding," says Dean Ole Steen Nielsen.

He hopes that the new guidelines will help to remedy the mutual distrust between researchers, media and communication department.

Three fundamental pillars

The principles, which have recently been adopted by the faculty management team, consist of fundamental three pillars; credibility, transparency, and dialogue and feedback.

See the principles for responsible research communication.

One of the central elements of the principles is that the communication department should only contribute to disseminating new research, if the research result is accepted by a peer-review journal. Exceptions may apply, however, but the communication officer has the task of guiding researchers if they wish to secure coverage of e.g. unpublished partial results or conference abstracts.

Furthermore, the communication officer must also prepare a descriptive label in relation to the communication of research to the general public. The label must contain facts about e.g. the type of study, external funding and a direct link to an abstract or the scientific article, so that media and other interested parties have the opportunity to compare the faculty's communication to the general public with the original, scientific article, thus enabling them to check that the faculty is not exaggerating its research results.

Based on the Code of Conduct

The principles are based on the national principles for responsible conduct of research (The Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity), in particular the section on publication and communication.

The principles, which are only intended as guidelines, have been discussed at the departments, in the academic council and with the graduate school, prior to being adopted by the faculty management team. In addition, there is support from the heads of communication in The Central Denmark Region. Thus, all communication units in the region will work on the basis of common principles, which ensures a uniform practice and quality in the communication of new research results.


Head of Communications Ulla Krag Jespersen
Aarhus University, Health
Mobile: (+45) 3169 1014
Email: ulla@au.dk


Dean Ole Steen Nielsen
Aarhus University, Health
Mobile: (+45) 2476 5093
Email: osn@au.dk