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Common sense and ethics can show the way

Can I accept an invitation to lunch in connection with a meeting with a supplier? Can I accept a present from a student? Can I as a researcher, use KTH premises for my own purposes? I often mention the public service ethos and am happy to do so. It is important and helps us navigate our way correctly when we face a dilemma, whether large or small, no matter what role you have at KTH.

Sometimes it can seem self-evident what you can and should do. What is right and what is wrong respectively. However, many of us are bound to have experienced a borderline case, whether it crosses the line is not blindingly obvious, and in such cases it can be difficult to decide if it could count as a bribe. In which case, the safest approach is always to say no.

As an employee at KTH, a university and public body, we have a different system of values to abide by. For example, according to the Higher Education Act, we should uphold the principles of scientific integrity and best research practices. According to the Instrument of Government, our work should be characterised by respect for the equal value of everyone and as mentioned, the public service ethos with its six principles; democracy, legality, objectivity, freedom of expression, respect for equality, freedom and dignity, plus efficiency and service.

Ethics can be forgotten in the stresses of everyday life and a hasty action can at first sight, seem like a simple way out.  But this can have serious consequences for an organisation, especially if this builds into a system. Which is why ethical issues must be constantly, regularly and openly discussed, and dilemmas and questions aired in the light of new situations a public sector employee is faced with in a changing world. Lively conversations about these issues in the break room, in the lab and in classrooms are the best protection.

Otherwise, confidence in an organisation such as KTH risks being nibbled away at the edges and our banner will start to wobble uneasily. In an organisation that is based on meritoriousness, equal treatment and responsibility, there is no room for non-merit based appointments and cutting corners. Like other public bodies, we have a number of guidelines that point the way concerning everything from side jobs to conflicts of interest and corruption. (check this)

Loss of faith in KTH, or any university for that matter, can in the long run mean that confidence in both public bodies, academia and democracy itself will be undermined.

These issues are neither easy nor black and white. Common sense and awareness go a long way. As noted, if you are unsure about what is right or wrong in a work situation, purely ethically, sound out one or two colleagues.

That’s what I usually do.