Information and consent

When you are collecting personal data for a research project, you usually have a duty of information to the people you are collecting information about.

On this page you will gain information about requirements for the information you provide.

Information to the sample

As a main rule, you are obligated to inform the person(s) whose personal data you you are going to collect. This is a fundamental right that is entrenched in Norwegian law. The obligation to inform applies irrespective of the requirement to gain consent.

The information should be given individually, for instance via letter/e-mail.

If indivdual information is not possible, you should consider to give collective information. For instance, in a newspaper/membership magazine, notice in institution, webpage, notice in the area where observation will be done.

Consent from the sample

For a consent to be valid it must be

  • voluntary,
  • explicit and
  • informed.

This means that the person who is asked to participate must understand what participation involves, what they are consenting to, and which consequences participation in the research may have.

How do I give information and gain consent?

The law does not set requirements as to whether information and consent are to be given in writing (including electronically) or orally. However, you must be able to demonstrate/document that you have given information and gained consent from project participants i.e. from the people whose personal data you will be processing (data subjects).

As a rule, we recommend written information and written consent. It is common to write a letter of information where you provide information about the project and invite people to participate.

If the context dictates that you must give oral information and gain oral consent (e.g. for research in oral cultures or with people who are illiterate), we recommend that you make a sound recording of the information and consent.

Template for information letter and consent

If you use our template you are on a good course for fulfilling the requirements for information to the participants.

Example with easier language

For children or persons that might have reduced cognitive abilities you should simplify the language in the information letter. Here is an example of how this can be done. The example is made by a student at the University of South-Eastern Norway, and may be used as a template (word-file).

Are there exemptions to the obligation to give information?

As a rule, it will only be possible to make exemptions from the obligation to give information if you collect personal data from a source other than the sample themselves

For instance, in studies using registries, observation studies, internet research, or when collecting data about third persons (persons who are not participating in the research).

The following points may be relevant when considering exemption from giving information:

  • the size of the sample (several thousand persons)
  • access to directly identifying personal data
  • the scope and character of the data material (number of variables/degree of sensitive information)
  • ethical considerations

As a main rule it must be considered impossible or disproportionally difficult to give information in order to be exempted, and thus exemptions are rarely made.

If you want an exemption from the obligation to give information and/or from gaining consent, you have to give good reasons for this in the Notification form.