News in English – October
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News in English - October

Av Forskerforum

Publisert 13. desember 2023 kl. 15:26

Invasive monitoring, an environment survey being criticised, «green colonialism on Sami land and extended rights of employment leave for PhD candidates. Here is our October news.

Workplace sensor controversy

As previously reported by Forskerforum, the Institute of Marine Research’ department in Flødevigen (pictured) has installed sensors under employees’ desks to monitor the use of office space. The system is operated by a private firm, which also handles the data. The information will be used for planning office space needs in the future. However, some employees find this monitoring invasive: ‘It’s supposed to be anonymous, but you’re sitting in your own office, so there’s no doubt who is being registered,” says chief engineer Jan Henrik Simonsen.

The sensors were discussed with union representatives beforehand and information was given. Yet as there now appear to be privacy concerns after all, the institute has decided to stop gathering data while new protocols are put in place.

With more people working from home post Covid, such technological solutions have become common. But at the Norwegian University of Science of Technology they chose to use questionnaires instead, so people wouldn’t feel they were under surveillance.

Working environment survey criticised

In 2019 associate professors Iben Brinch and Jorun Ulvestad at the newly established University of South-Eastern Norway received a questionnaire. The leadership wanted to know what the working environment was like after the institution’s reorganisation process. However, the researchers felt that instead of functioning as a channel for voicing criticism and concern, the survey did the opposite and actually led to self-censorship. Based on a rhetorical analysis of the questionnaire, they wrote an article on how the relationship of trust between the leadership and staff had been affected.

One of their criticisms is that the so-called ARK survey focuses more on the university’s psychosocial environment than the structural aspects that can be important for the work environment. The article also mentions things the professors think should have been included in the survey, such as questions about freedom of expression and people’s views on the reorganisation. The questionnaire has since been altered.

‘The threshold has been crossed’

It is now two years since the Supreme Court ruled that Fosen wind farms violate the human rights of Sami reindeer herders to practise their own culture, yet despite a government apology the wind park still stands. PhD candidate at the Centre for Sami Studies Eva Maria Fjellheim has won a prize for her research and is speaking at a conference in Oslo on energy and indigenous peoples’ rights. Using the term green colonialism, she says there is a limit to how much intervention reindeer husbandry can bear. It is seen as more of a hindrance than a source of green development, the researcher claims.

Good news for PhD candidates

PhD candidates and postdocs will now be entitled to an extended period of employment for leave and absence due to illness amounting to less than two consecutive weeks. This comes after the Ministry of Education and Research changed the rule stating that any absence had to be less than two consecutive weeks. ‘This means that postdocs and PhD candidates who are sick, at home with a sick child, training with the Home Guard or are lay judges can have any absence deducted from their period of employment from day one,’ says Guro Elisabeth Lind, president of the Norwegian Association of Researchers.