Parliamentary Research & Library Service Ethics

In 2015 IFLAPARL published the ‘Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services’, complementing the long-standing ‘Guidelines for Legislative Libraries’. At the 2016 IFLAPARL pre-conference it was noted that neither set of guidelines offered explicit and systematic guidance on the ethical questions that arise in daily work in the sector. During the 2017 IFLAPARL pre-conference the issue was presented and a survey revealed practical examples of ethical issues which participants had either confronted or to which they felt vulnerable. The survey responses were converted into cases for workshop discussion. There was a common sense from the workshop that this was an issue that needed addressing and it was best addressed collectively. Very few services, if any, had all the tools to deal with all the potential issues.

The IFLAPARL Standing Committee set up a working group, the initial idea being to provide guidelines. This approach was quickly modified as it was recognised that services operate in diverse contexts, with diverse purposes and intentions. The approach to considering ethics must reflect this diversity - IFLAPARL cannot set down a single definition of ethical standards that can be applied by all services in all contexts. The working group instead decided to develop a checklist of issues on which services could self-assess and decide for themselves as to whether action was feasible and necessary. The first version of this approach was the subject of a workshop and survey at the 2018 Pre-Conference in Kuala Lumpur, and the checklists have been revised based on that and subsequent feedback and discussions.

The working group’s final draft of the checklists, combined in a single document, has been reviewed by the Section's Standing Committee.  It is planned to launch the checklists at our 2019 pre-conference in Athens, with the objective of approving a final version. The final draft version of the checklists (as at May 2019) is available here.  It is intended that this will be a living document and therefore comments and queries are welcomed by the chair of the working group, Iain Watt, either by email (using the address in the checklist document) or at the pre-conference.

Library and Research Services for Parliaments, Professional ethics, research, Guidance

Last update: 9 October 2019