Public defence during the COVID-19 pandemic

[Updated 2021-04-05]

Major updates of this webpage

2021-01-11 More information on Zoom meetings/webinars and security

2020-11-19 Information that public defences are not affected by the restrictions of number of people  

2020-11-16 Update of the information regarding “spikning” at the Solna library

2020-11-09 Review of all text and clarifications regarding digital public defences

2020-04-30 List of tips updated with link till web page for safe Zoom meetings + clarifications regarding signatures after the public defence

2020-03-30 This webpage was created (information was transferred from Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on KI’s doctoral education)

2020-03-27 More tips for digital public defence added

2020-03-23 New information regarding the public defence (chair and doctoral student can also participate remotely) as well as some clarifications / editorial corrections

Until further notice all public defences shall be accessible via web casts.

KI must provide a room on site for the public defence, where those who cannot follow the defence through their own computer can come and follow the defence. 

Doctoral student, opponent, examination board, supervisor and defence chair can participate either by being on site or digitally.

Note that public defences do not fall within the government’s definition of gatherings and events and hence are not affected by the prohibition of more than eight participants. 

Below follows a walk-through of all steps of the public defence process and how these are handled during the pandemic. Note that the same instructions apply to licentiate seminars as for public defence of doctoral theses.

Application for public defence

  • Applications should be filed via e-mail. No part of the application should be submitted in person.
  • Scanned signatures are accepted

Information about applying for public defence of your thesis

Preliminary review by the Examination board

Preliminary review by the Examination Board is done as usual

Information about preliminary review by the Examination board

"Nailing" - public notification of the thesis

The usual routine for “nailing” should be followed, but during the pandemic with the following important exceptions:  

  • No signature on the thesis. The doctoral student should not make an appointment with a faculty representative for signing the thesis
  • The three statutory copies of the thesis are delivered to the library (KIB) through one of the following ways:
    • The book slot at Berzelius väg 7A, Campus Solna 
    • The book slot outside KIB's entrance, Alfred Nobels allé 8, Campus Flemingsberg. 
    • Postal mail to: Karolinska Institutet, Universitetsbiblioteket, FE 200, 171 77 Stockholm 
      Please note: The three copies must be placed in an envelope or package. Write "SPIKNING" and the name of the doctoral student at the front of the envelope/package.

      ​​​​​​​​​When the library staff have received the books, they publish the thesis electronically. The doctoral student will receive a notification of this through e-mail (if no e-mail arrives, contact
  • String and nail will not be handed out during the pandemic. If the doctoral student wants to nail the thesis on the board outside the library it is possible, but it must be done without a signature on the thesis and using their own nail and string.

Notification of digital participation

If one or more members of the Examination Board, the opponent, the defence chairperson and/or the doctoral student will be participating digitally, please inform the Dissertation Committee at , enclosing form 12:1 stating the person or persons concerned and who is to chair the defence. (Since this is a notification and not an application, it will not be returned signed.) 

Notification of digital participation should not be done until the earliest three weeks before the defence, for example when nailing the thesis.


When announcing the public defence, information regarding both the location on site and the link to the web cast shall be included.

Do not spread the link to the web cast through social media such as Twitter! This increases the risk of so-called Zoom bombing, which means to sabotage a Zoom-meeting by sharing a screen with disturbing or violent content. Luckily this is unusual but in the cases we are aware of, it has been a consequence from posting information in social media.

The public defence 

The public defence is an examination and it is of greatest importance that those participating can do so without major obstacles. The technology must work throughout the seminar for both those present at the location and for those participating online.  

On site

KI must provide a room on site, even if the doctoral student, examination board and opponent all participate digitally. The reason is that KI must offer a possibility for any member of the public to follow the defence even if they do not have access to a computer. In this way KI fulfill the Higher Education Ordinance requirement that a public defence must be open and public. In the alleged room, those participating on site are present together with the technology needed to include everybody else.

The defence act must be performed in a way that minimizes the risk of spreading the virus, for example when choosing the room. Note that no activities at Universities fall within the government’s definition of public gatherings and events. This means that the prohibition against more than eight participants is not applicable for public defences. But to minimize the number of people on site, the public should primarily be directed to follow the defence from their own computer. 

Someone must be appointed to be responsible on site. It can be the Chair of the defence, the supervisor or someone else. The responsibility entitles to ensure that the room is unlocked and available, and that the technology is there and is functioning. 

Web cast

There are different technologies for digital meetings, but it is recommended to use Zoom. There is a choice between setting up the defence as a Zoom meeting or as a Zoom webinar, see below.  

Public defence as a Zoom webinar

  • License: An individual licence must be bought, using the purchasing tool Wisum in good time before the defence. It costs 600 SEK and is valid for 1 year. The licence owner is the person hosting the webinar. The licence cannot be used at more than one defence at a time.
  • Host/Chair: If someone else than the Defence Chair is the owner of the licence, that person must in the beginning of the webinar appoint the Chair to be co-host. If there is a co-host present, the licence owner do not need to stay during the entire public defence. 
  • Audience: If the defence is conducted as a webinar it must be secured that anyone from the public can ask questions. It is possible to “give the microphone” to anyone in the audience, and the Defence Chair must be familiar with how this is done. 
  • Panelists: The participants of the defence (doctoral student, opponent and examination board members) should be appointed as Panelists. Panelists use a different link than the audience. Tip: Send an extra e-mail with the link to all panelists the same morning
  • Security: Webinars cannot be sabotaged by Zoom bombers and is therefore a more secure alternative than Zoom meetings. 

Public defence as a Zoom-meeting

  • Advantages: 
    • No individual license needed
    • More flexibility regarding who can be host
    • Easier to have a dialogue with the audience
  • Security: A Zoom meeting is easier to interrupt and potentially sabotage than a webinar, but if the following instructions are followed the risk is minimal:
    • The “waiting room” option must be used (default in KI Zoom) since this is the only way to remove a saboteur. You cannot deny anyone entry since public defences must be open to the public, but you can remove an obvious saboteur back to the waiting room. You cannot activate the waiting room after the meeting has started.  
    • Activate the option that all microphones are muted on entry by default.
    • Limit the number of people that can share their screen. 
    • Appoint a co-host who can assist with the Zoom administration, for example admitting people from the waiting room, muting and unmuting microphones, etc.
    • Do not spread the Zoom link through social media such as Twitter!

Before the defence starts, the equipment must be checked to ensure that it works for everyone. Make sure that all necessary functions are activated and functioning.

More information about zoom:

The defence proceedings

The same public defence proceedings should be followed as usual (see Rules for doctoral education section 7.2.9). 

Digital participation by examination board members, opponent, chair of the defence and/or doctoral student must be notified, see above.

It is recommended if possible that the principal supervisor is present in the same location as the doctoral students. In this way the student is not alone during the process and can thus receive moral support from the supervisor.

The defence Chairperson is responsible, even if he/she participates digitally, for the defence proceedings. It includes to make sure that everyone can hear and can be heard.  The Chairperson should start by informing everyone which practical routines apply, for example how to raise hand, if the video shall be turned off when not speaking, if everyone is responsible for their own microphone or if someone else is in charge, etc. 

Those participating via a link must exchange telephone numbers with the defence chairperson and with the person on site (if someone else than the chairperson) in order to ensure that anyone having technical problems can promptly contact the Chair. If the technology is faulty, the Chairperson must suspend the defence until the issue has been rectified. 

Failing to participate with short notice

If a member of the Examination board or the Opponent with a very short notice is unable to participate, the following apply:

  • The Chair of the defence must take responsibility to solve the situation. If the Chair is unable to participate, someone else must be appointed as Chair.
  • If the Opponent cannot participate, one of the members of the examination board takes on the role as Opponent.
  • If one of the Examination board members is unable to participate, the Opponent can act as examination board member as well as being opponent. Please note, at least one of the Examination board members must be a person not affiliated to KI
  • N.B.: Any change must be notified to the Dissertation committee before the defence can start. (contact: / 08-52486022;  please note that this phone number should only be used in these situations)
  • The public defence is adjourned until the situation is solved.

After the defence 

In the form 11 ”Decision of the examination board– public defence” it should be stated clearly who has participated digitally.   

The form is to be sent to whoever was not physically present who is then to sign and return it (one sheet per distance participant). Normally a decision should be an original document, but under present circumstances it is recommended that the examination board member scan the signed form and send it by e-mail.

The incoming sheets are then appended to that used on-site. Copy-and-pasting of signatures is not allowed. The defence chairperson is to ensure that all signatures are collected and handed to the departmental administrator, as it is used as the basis of the student’s LADOK report. 

The chairperson is to report back to the Dissertation Committee on how the defence process went. 

For doctoral students who have not yet submitted their public defence application

It is likely that the instructions above will be valid for months ahead, so plan accordingly.

The Dissertation Committee

Questions about the public defence