Can I set view only permissions for the product catalog?

Yes, you can create a user role that is only allowed to view products in the catalog and not edit them. To achieve that, check “Manage Products” in System > Permissions > Roles > Role Resources and leave “Allow to Create and Edit Products” and “Allow to Delete Products” unchecked:

Magento Advanced permissions extension by Amasty

See more details on Advanced Permissions page

User Guide

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