The task of consumer research
SIFO is the only institute in Norway solely concerned with consumer research, and as such is responsible for developing national expertise in this field. Its activities focus upon important issues concerning the consumer and consumer politics. Importance is attached to applied research, and dissemination of information to various consumer groups is another important function. SIFO's customers are first and foremost the consumer-oriented institutions and the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. In addition, our customers include various national agencies, research and scientific bodies, different industrial organisations, Nordic consumer authorities and politicians. Activities are systematically oriented towards improved contacts with these bodies through extensive research co-operation, seminars and courses. Important user-groups are represented on the Board of Directors.
Nordic and international co-operation
SIFO participates in several Nordic projects, first and foremost under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers, among others through the committee of leading government officials concerned with consumer affairs (EK-Konsument Ämbetsmannskomité). The Institute is a member of the Consumers International (CI) which is an international consumer movement. Furthermore, SIFO participates in the work of international standardisation.
Most of SIFO's information strategies are designed to make research results available to interested parties. The Institute makes a determined effort to maintain close contact with user groups. Information concerning research and test results is distributed to the press, public authorities, organisations, research groups and schools.
Fields of research
The Consumers' economical situation
In the field of consumers' economy the debt situation still continues to dominate. Among other projects SIFO is working with several are concerned with economic aspects of debt arrangements and problems of debt and repayments as a general problem in society. During recent years SIFO's activities in this area have been associated with similar questions being studied by the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs.
Consumption and the environment
The area of consumption and the environment is currently a major field of interest at SIFO. The Research Council is the most important source of finance along with the Ministry for Children and Family Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment who are also important associates. The latter is closely engaged with the project "Green Household Budget", which is a green alternative to SIFO's Standard Budget for Consumption Expenditure.
Food, consumption and the market
Through a multidisciplinary approach SIFO has established itself in recent years as a centre of expertise on research into the distribution of food. Research on the distribution process includes evaluation of those consequences arising from change in the structure and form of the distribution channels. With increased interest in the significance of consumption, questions relating to food and consumption have received increasing attention. Central projects at SIFO include consumer conception of food and health risks, assumption for consumer confidence in products and producers, and a comparative study of food customs in the Nordic countries.
Within the private and public service sectors many combinations have arisen involving both public and private bodies concerning the financing, control and practice of services. Research into public services has become an area of priority at SIFO and where the consequences to the consumer of privatisation and deregulation are central issues. The attitude of the public towards public administration as well as that of the administration towards the public is also an area where important questions are raised. For the last years the main emphasis has been on projects related to the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs' Development Programme for Kindergartens. The institute has carried out several projects and also participates in the Development Programme.
Consumption of digital content and services
We study the role and use of digital media in the modern society. Our main focus is on consumption of digital content and services. SIFOs research work is connected both to the consumption of digital media itself, and to the consumption of artefacts which process, transmit or present digital information. The social and cultural aspects of consumption define the point of departure for our research. In our studies, we also apply technological and economic perspectives. The consumers' competence of digital media in general, as well as the right to connect with digital consumption in particular, is important topics for the research group.