Hønneland has been a researcher at FNI since 1996. His work has in particular focused on Norwegian-Russian fishery cooperation in the Barents Sea, on which he obtained a PhD degree in political science in 2000. Hønneland's areas of competence also include, more generally, international fishery management, international cooperation in the Arctic, Russian politics and Norwegian-Russian cooperation in various sectors.

In the years 2000-2006, Hønneland led the institute's Russian and Polar Programme, he was Research Director 2006-2014, and he has been Deputy Director since 2014. He has held full professor competence since 2004, and during his years at FNI, he has, among other things, authored or edited more than 30 books, alone or in cooperation with others.

Before coming to FNI, Hønneland worked five years as a Russian interpreter for the Norwegian Coast Guard and the Norwegian Governor of Svalbard, as well as two years as a reseracher with the NORUT Social Science Research institute in Tromsø. He has also been an Adjunct Professor in political science at the University of Tromsø since 2005.

Hønneland takes over the position as Director from Arild Moe, who has been Acting Director since Leiv Lunde left FNI in October 2014 to become the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Director of Strategy.

The Fridtjof Nansen Institute is a research foundation focusing mainly on international environmental, resource management and energy cooperation. In addition, the FNI is entrusted with maintaining the Polhøgda estate at Lysaker, Norway, the home and workplace of Fridtjof Nansen.