Guidelines for the evaluation of Norwegian doctoral degrees
Approved by the Norwegian Council of Universities on 9 December 1996. Approved by the University board on 8 April 1997 for use by the University of Oslo (and updated for this purpose on 6 June 2006).
1. Regulations and programme plan
The evaluation of scientific dissertations for Norwegian doctoral degrees at the universities and university colleges is governed by:
the institution’s regulations governing the Ph.D. degree and the programme plans for the Ph.D. degree adopted by the individual faculties at UiO;
the institution’s regulations governing the dr.philos. degree and comparable degrees that do not require an organised research training component.
The regulations and programme plan with supplementary provisions for the degree in question shall be made available to all those who participate in the evaluation of doctoral dissertations at the institution. These guidelines are derived from and formulated within the framework of the regulations and programme plans, but they focus in particular on the evaluation process and provide a supplementary reference with regard to the standards and procedures assumed to be common to all Norwegian doctoral degrees.
2. Preliminary procedures
2.1 Appointment of an adjudication committee
The faculty shall appoint an expert committee comprised of at least three members on the basis of a recommendation with explanatory statement from the academic environment where the work will be conducted. Approval from the board or Rector may also be required in accordance with regulations specific to certain degrees. The recommendation should explain how the relevant expertise is represented by the individual members and how the committee as a whole encompasses the dissertation’s academic field. At least one member must not be affiliated with the institution. If possible, one member should be from a foreign educational institution. Also if possible, both genders should be represented on the committee. If this is not possible, the reason must be specifically explained.
The doctoral candidate shall be informed of the committee’s composition. The doctoral candidate may submit comments to ensure that the faculty has the best possible information at its disposal, including information provided by the candidate, regarding factors that could disqualify committee members or other circumstances of critical importance. Normally not more than one month (not including holidays) should pass from the time when the doctoral candidate submits his/her dissertation for evaluation until he/she is informed of the committee’s composition.
To ensure an expeditious process, the faculty shall appoint one member to serve as committee chair. The chair should be a representative of the institution. When special considerations call for such, the faculty may instead appoint an administrative chair from among its scientific employees who will not participate in the academic evaluation of the dissertation.
The committee chair is responsible for organising the work of the committee, which includes ensuring that the evaluation process commences quickly and that the committee’s work is completed by the deadline. The chair shall also facilitate the coordination of the committee’s recommendation on the dissertation and assign duties to the committee members related to the disputation.
For doctoral degrees with an organised research training component, the dissertation shall be submitted to the committee with a statement of where the work was conducted and who served as the supervisor(s), as well as documentation of the research training component that the candidate has participated in and obtained approval for. The candidate’s participation in such a component shall already have been approved and need not be approved again by the committee, but information about the component must be submitted to assist the committee in formulating the prescribed topic for the trial lecture.
In cases when a revised version of a dissertation is submitted for re-evaluation, at least one member of the original adjudication committee shall be appointed to sit on the new committee.
In cases when a candidate submits a new dissertation for evaluation after having received a rejection on a previous dissertation, a completely new committee may be appointed.
2.2. Correction of formal errors, etc. in the dissertation following submission for evaluation
A dissertation submitted for evaluation cannot be withdrawn. However, the candidate is permitted to make minor corrections of a formal nature. Such corrections shall be listed in a separate document and follow as an attachment to the originals of the dissertation which are submitted to the faculty no later than one month prior to the disputation. Changes are not permitted after the dissertation has been submitted for evaluation.
3. Evaluation of the dissertation by the adjudication committee
In connection with the appointment of the adjudication committee, the faculty shall set a deadline for completion of the committee’s evaluation of the dissertation, which shall be made in the form of a recommendation with explanatory statement. This deadline should normally not be longer than 3 months from the time when the dissertation was forwarded to the committee members.
3.1 Description of the dissertation
The committee’s recommendation shall consist of a short description of the dissertation’s format (monograph or collection of articles), type (e.g. theoretical, empirical) and size. The recommendation shall also contain a statement on the dissertation’s scientific significance and its most central elements related to theory, hypotheses, materials, methods and findings.
3.2 Evaluation of the dissertation
A Norwegian doctoral degree is a certification that the holder possesses a certain level of expertise as a researcher. This level of expertise is presumed to be the same for degrees with a specified schedule and requirement for an organised research training component as it is for degrees without these requirements (i.e. dr.philos. and comparable degrees). The principle of equivalency refers to the scientific level and quality of the dissertation, not to its scope. In an organised research training component, expertise can also be documented by means of testing and participation in various types of activities within the training programme. The lack of the requirement for a research training component in the dr.philos./comparable degrees should be compensated for by a dissertation that is somewhat more extensive than would be required for the degrees that require an organised research training component (e.g. the candidate’s efforts with regard to data collection). Regardless of degree, the doctoral candidate must satisfy the same minimum requirements for expertise as a researcher – expressed through requirements related to the formulation of research questions, precision and logical stringency, originality, mastery of relevant methods of analysis and consideration of their potentialities and limitations, as well as familiarity with, understanding of and a well-considered perspective on other research in the field.
When evaluating the dissertation, focus shall be placed on whether the dissertation is an independent, cohesive scientific work of high academic merit as regards the formulation of research questions, methodology, theoretical and empirical foundation, documentation, treatment of the literature and form of presentation. Of particular importance is an evaluation of whether the material and methods used are suitable for addressing the questions posed in the dissertation and whether the arguments and conclusions presented are tenable. The dissertation shall generate new academic knowledge and be of sufficiently high quality that it could be published as part of the academic literature in the field.
If the dissertation consists of several individual works, the question of whether the contents of the dissertation comprise a coherent whole must be documented and assessed. In such cases, the doctoral candidate must produce a separate section of the dissertation that not only summarises, but also compares the research questions and conclusions presented in the individual works and places these in a holistic perspective, thereby documenting the coherence of the dissertation. This section of the dissertation is therefore extremely important both for the doctoral candidate and for the committee in its evaluation of the candidate.
If the dissertation includes co-authored works, the doctoral candidate must obtain statements from any co-authors granting their consent for the works to be included in the dissertation. For specific guidelines, see “Veiledende retningslinjer for doktoravhandlinger som består av flere mindre arbeider (Artikkelbaserte avhandlinger)” (Guidelines for doctoral dissertations consisting of several smaller works – Article-based dissertations, Norwegian language only) adopted by the Research Committee on 30 August 2004. The committee shall assess whether the doctoral candidate’s specific efforts on the works in question can be identified and whether the doctoral candidate is wholly responsible for a sufficiently large portion of the dissertation. If the documentation provided by the doctoral candidate is not adequate, the committee may seek out additional information.
In special cases, the committee may request that the candidate submit the data and other supporting material used as the basis for the dissertation as well as any other supplementary or clarifying information.
With the consent of the faculty, the candidate may revise the dissertation on the basis of the adjudication committee’s preliminary comments. More information may be obtained from the relevant faculty’s programme plan.
If the entire dissertation is submitted as a co-authored work, it is reasonable to expect that the research project and/or the dissertation would be more extensive than if it had been an individual work. To the extent possible, each of the doctoral candidates shall be evaluated and tested according to the same requirements as if the work had been carried out by one person.
An evaluation and weighing of the dissertation’s strengths and weaknesses shall be made and a conclusion shall be reached regarding the extent to which the committee finds the dissertation to be of sufficient quality to be defended in a public disputation or whether the committee recommends that the dissertation not be approved for disputation. Any dissenting opinions shall be explained in the committee’s conclusion.
3.4 The committee’s recommendation
The committee shall present a recommendation with explanatory statement to the faculty. The committee should prepare a joint statement and attach any individual statements. Dissenting opinions must always be explained. Further, in cases in which the committee is in complete agreement about the conclusion, it may nonetheless be appropriate to attach individual statements.
In cases in which the committee decides to approve the dissertation for disputation, the grounds for the decision should be formulated relatively briefly. The committee should strive to write a general and brief recommendation. In cases in which the committee recommends a rejection of the dissertation, it will be appropriate to provide a more thorough explanation.
If the committee concludes that the dissertation should not be approved for disputation, but determines that with certain revisions the dissertation could be raised to a satisfactory level, the committee may make such a recommendation. The committee should only recommend submission of the same dissertation in revised form for a new evaluation if the committee believes that a revision could give satisfactory results within a timeframe equal to 6 months of work. In such cases, the committee should provide some guidelines regarding those areas in which the dissertation should be strengthened (i.e. use of methodology, relationship between the material and conclusion, use of concepts, clarity of research question). The recommendation must not be written in a manner that would suggest certain approval in a new evaluation. If the committee finds that deep-seated changes regarding theory, hypothesis, material and/or methodology are necessary in order for the dissertation to be approved for disputation, the committee should not recommend submission of the same dissertation in revised form for evaluation.
4. Treatment of the adjudication committee’s recommendation on the dissertation
The committee’s written recommendation and conclusion as to whether the dissertation is approved for disputation shall be sent to the faculty and be forwarded as soon as possible to the doctoral candidate. If the doctoral candidate has comments, these should be sent in written form within 14 days to the faculty, which will forward them to the committee members. Any response to these comments by the committee shall be sent to the faculty. At the faculty a formal decision shall be made as to whether the dissertation is of sufficient quality to be defended in a public disputation and the doctoral candidate can undergo the doctoral degree examination, or whether the dissertation is not approved for disputation, including whether it shall be recommended that a revision of the same dissertation be submitted for a new evaluation.
5. The committee’s evaluation of the trial lecture(s) and disputation
5.1 Trial lecture(s)
The purpose of the trial lecture(s) is to document the ability of the doctoral candidate to disseminate research-based knowledge. The lecture(s) should be designed so that they can be followed by an audience with a level of knowledge expected of advanced students in the field (at least one year of studies in the field).
For certain degrees, the doctoral candidate must send the title of the self-selected topic to the faculty no later than 1 month before the disputation.
The theme of the prescribed topic should normally not be derived from the central research questions addressed in the dissertation. The doctoral candidate shall be informed of the prescribed topic of the trial lecture 10 working days before the disputation. A trial lecture on a self-selected topic should not be a summary of the dissertation and findings therein, but rather a scientific presentation that stands on its own merit.
The evaluation of the trial lecture(s) shall focus on both the academic content and the candidate’s ability to communicate the material. The trial lecture(s) are one part of the doctoral degree examination and must be approved before the disputation. For degrees with two trial lectures, these shall be approved jointly. If the trial lecture(s) are not approved, the doctoral candidate may present new trial lecture(s) within 6 months of the first trial lecture attempt. A new disputation may be held no sooner than 6 months following the first disputation attempt.
With the consent of the faculty, the disputation may be held even if the trial lecture(s) have not been approved. In this case, the trial lecture(s) must be presented again and be approved before the doctoral degree can be conferred. In accordance with § 18.1 in the Regulations for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) at the University of Oslo, Adopted by the Board of the University of Oslo on 22 June 2010, it is no longer possible to let the public defence take place before the trial lecture is passed.
The disputation shall be chaired by the dean or a representative of the dean. The faculty or the adjudication committee shall name the opponents. Opponents should be selected in a manner which ensures that critical views of the dissertation are not suppressed. The first opponent shall initiate the discussion and the second opponent shall conclude the disputation. Other persons present at the disputation who wish to participate in the discussion ex auditorio must make this known to the chair at the time established and announced at the opening. For further information on disputation procedures, refer to the doctoral degree regulations with supplementary provisions as well as to traditional standards for disputation procedures for the specific degree.
If the entire dissertation is submitted as a co-authored work, the committee shall decide how the disputation should be carried out. If the doctoral candidates are permitted to defend the dissertation in a joint disputation, the opponents shall ensure that each candidate is adequately tested on an individual basis.
The disputation shall be a scientific discussion between the opponents and doctoral candidate regarding the formulation of research questions, methodology, empirical and theoretical foundation, documentation and form of presentation. Special emphasis should be placed on verifying the tenability of important conclusions that the doctoral candidate has reached in her/her work. The research questions that the opponents choose to pursue need not be limited to those mentioned in the committee’s recommendation. The opponents should strive – as much as possible – to guide the discussion so that those who have not read the dissertation or do not have in-depth knowledge of the field are also able to follow the discussion.
The chair of the disputation is responsible for allocating the time in an expedient manner as regards the various segments of the disputation and within the timeframe stipulated for the disputation in its entirety. The chair shall declare the disputation to be concluded. In this connection, the chair shall not make an evaluation of the disputation, but explain that the committee’s evaluation of the disputation shall be given in the committee’s report.
5.3 Evaluation of the disputation
If a dissertation is found to be of sufficient quality to be defended in a public disputation, this will normally result in approval of the dissertation and defence for a doctoral degree. However, if new factors come to light during the disputation which show without a doubt that the main conclusions reached in the dissertation are untenable, the adjudication committee must not approve the disputation. The same holds true if the disputation reveals dubious circumstances of material significance for the evaluation of the dissertation, such as a breach of ethical research standards or blatant disregard for good academic practice.
5.4 The committee’s recommendation
Following the disputation, the adjudication committee shall submit its recommendation as to whether the trial lecture(s) and disputation are jointly approved.
It is the responsibility of the committee to make a recommendation regarding approval or rejection of the disputation. If new factors come to light during the disputation which create uncertainty in the committee and which cannot be clarified during the disputation, the committee should clarify and evaluate the possible consequences of these before presenting its final evaluation in the recommendation.
6. Concluding procedures
The committee’s recommendation on the outcome of the trial lecture(s) and disputation shall be sent to the faculty and then to the board of the institution for conferral of the degree. In principal both these bodies are free to make their own decisions, but a decision to deviate from a unanimous committee recommendation shall be made only if extraordinary and weighty reasons for this are found. Such reasons could be, for example, that the committee clearly has misinterpreted the institution’s standards of quality or that new information has surfaced after the recommendation has been made which significantly impacts the question of approval (i.e. exposure of cheating).
If the faculty approves the disputation, the board of the institution shall confer the doctoral degree on the candidate.
7. Right to appeal
The right to appeal is governed by the institution’s regulations for the relevant degree.