Kay Gastinger, Research Scientist at SINTEF ICT
Kay Gastinger is a SINTEF employee who has refused to take part in a research project for ideological reasons. The former citizen of East Germany had no problems in making his decision, partly because his employer gives him the right to do so.
Employees of the SINTEF Group are entitled to refuse to join projects that conflict with their religious or ethical convictions. Such a refusal will not affect their employment situation. However, if the refusal makes it difficult to employ the person usefully, a refusal may have consequences for them. Although Gastinger’s department was not making a profit at the time, it was unthinkable for him to take part in a project devoted to testing rocket engines.
“My boss quite understood the situation. There was never any discussion about my decision on this matter.”
As a researcher in the field of optical measurement techniques, Gastinger is well aware that his discipline plays a key role in the defence sector, but he does not want his research to contribute to military activity that he cannot justify on ideological grounds. But everyone must set his own limits – which is not always an easy task.
“Trucks are also used in war. Ought I not to do research on systems that would improve their performance? Or on equipment that can be used for protection against biological weapons, but which also can be used to produce them?”
“As far as I am concerned, I draw the line at joining projects that develop technology aimed at taking human life.”
Kay regards it as a positive step that SINTEF is in the process of setting up an ethics committee that will offer advice on both the business ethics and research ethics. People will no longer find themselves alone in making difficult decisions. It will also be possible to appeal against, and in the last instance to stop, projects that do not meet SINTEF’s ethical standards. However, Gastinger believes that the important thing is that the right of the individual to refuse should be maintained.
“The fact that I ended up at SINTEF was largely due to our vision and basic value system,” says Gastinger. He also points to the good work environment as a factor that makes the job an important facet of his life.
“When I applied for a job in the Department of Applied Physics, I soon noticed that this was a workplace with a good, open tone, and that the people there worked very well together. SINTEF also appeared to be an exciting, varied workplace from a purely professional point of view.”
And this turned out to be the case: Kay Gastinger has now been at SINTEF for nine years, and as he himself puts it: there must be a good reason for that.