Doctoral defences and coronavirus situation

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Bulletin 3.12.2021

This bulletin is updated as the situation evolves. Please follow the site regularly. Update December 3, 2021: 

Due to stricter guidelines by the Regional State Administrative Agency entering into force on 4 December 2021, the number of people permitted to attend public examinations of doctoral theses on site will be limited to 20 individuals, in addition to the doctoral candidate, opponent, custos and members of the grading committee, as well as possible av-tech. Doctoral candidates can reserve 5 seats to their guests. The restrictions are valid until 31 December 2021.

Public examinations to be held in January should be planned to be held either over a remote connection or with a limited number of individuals attending on site.

Masks are to be worn in the University's premises when not alone. Masks are available in defence halls.

Portiers will deliver water bottles to the lecture halls.

1 November 2021 onwards participants no longer have to leave their contact information for the purpose of tracing possible covid exposures.

The coronavirus situation in Finland and around the world affects also the arrangements of public defences. From this site, you will always find up-to-date information on the effects the covid situation has on defence arrangements. For more detailed instructions on defence arrangements, please see arranging the public defence.

What kind of defences can be held?

The health and safety of all participants are a first priority in defence arrangements. All defences can be planned and held as normal defences. However, the event has to be organised remotely, if the situation changes and so demands.

  • A two-way remote connection is used to allow also the doctoral candidate, opponent and/or the custos and possible other members of the grading committee to participate the event remotely, if needed. The audience can also participate online, should they so wish.*
  • If you like, you can reserve max. 5 seats to the people of your choice (e.g. supervisors, family members). If you wish to do this, mark these seats with a "reserved" notice before the start of the event. The remaining seats will be filled in order of arrival. If the restrictions are not followed, the portiers can intervene in the situation if needed.
  • Participants displaying even slight symptoms of a respiratory illness should never participate the event on location.
  • Hand sanitizer and a recommendation to use it both before and after the defence are always available outside the lecture halls used for doctoral defences.
  • Outside each lecture hall, there are also instructions for the participants to leave their contact information for the purpose of tracing possible covid exposures. The university takes care of the collection and proper storing of the contact details. If possible, the custos should remind the audience members about leaving their contact details. The contact details are stored for 2 weeks after the event.

The travel of opponents is governed by the travel restrictions in force at the time of the defence (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL). As long as the pandemic situation continues, the university recommends that opponents residing abroad participate defences through remote access even at times when the travel restrictions technically would allow arriving in Finland.

* If the restrictions on indoor gatherings in force at the time of the defence allow an on-location audience of min. 20 people, opening the event for wider audiences online is optional. Should you not wish for wider audiences to be able to follow your defence online, you can forego including the audience link to the E-thesis doctoral dissertation form, to be filled in at least 3 weeks before the defence. However, we do not recommend doing this – defences opened for audiences online reach a wider audience and are also the safest way for the audience to participate in your event.

Why a remote access defence?

The pandemic situation and the related restrictions change constantly. Preparing to hold a remote access event brings added safety to the arrangements. Planning a defence with a two-way remote access is preparing for the unexpected: anyone can participate a remote access defence even if unexpectedly quarantined or stuck abroad. A remote access defence need not be cancelled or postponed even if the restrictions suddenly change.

Setting the defence date

During the exceptional situation, only a limited number of defences can be held on any given date. Set the date in good time with the opponent and the other members of the grading committee. We recommend that you also preliminarily agree on an alternative date or two.

If the planned date has already been fully booked, it’s possible that your event will have to be moved to a later date. Fridays and Saturdays are especially popular, so when deciding on the date, please consider all weekdays flexibly.

Once the date has been decided

  • Once you have been granted permission to defend and the date of your defence has been decided, always start by contacting your home faculty’s doctoral student services. The doctoral student services confirm the date of the defence and guide you forward in the process
  • Never book a venue or make other arrangements for the event before you have been in touch with the doctoral student services and received the instructions for the next steps. Defence arrangements take an unusual amount of coordination during the exceptional situation (audience restrictions, safety distances, cleaning, IT-support) and making independent arrangements without permission complicates matters for everyone involved.
  • At the moment, the university’s booking services only accepts defence booking requests that have been agreed on with the faculty’s doctoral students services. Defence bookings are not made for doctoral candidates who have not yet been granted permission to proceed to public defence.
  • When publicizing the event, the starting time is traditionally given on the hour but the actual event is started a quarter past (the so-called "academic quarter"). This tradition should also be adhered to in remote access defences to make sure that the audience, accustomed to the fact that defences start quarter past, does not disrupt the start of the event. So, for example, if your defence is set to take place at 1PM, do start the actual proceedings only at 1.15 PM.

Technical arrangements at remote access defences

The university takes care of the technical arrangements and IT-support for remote access defences. Arranging remote access defences on your own is strictly forbidden.

  • Once the date has been set, your home faculty’s doctoral student services will advise you on how to book a remote access defence.
  • Remote connections are managed through the Zoom service.
  • You will receive the remote links to your defence from the university’s booking services as a part of the booking confirmation. There are two links: one for you and the grading committee members, and one for the audience. (Exception: some defences have only a single link – if you have received only one link from the booking services, use this link for both purposes.)
  • Always use the Zoom-links sent to you by the booking services – creating your own links to replace these is strictly forbidden.
  • Don’t forget to share the grading committee link and instructions with those members of the grading committee who participate the event remotely.
  • Don’t forget to include the audience link to the E-thesis doctoral dissertation form, to be filled in at least 3 weeks before the defence. Through the form, the link will be picked up to the university’s events calendar.
  • An IT support person is appointed for every doctoral defence. IT support is always present at the defence and can also help you test the connections beforehand.
  • NB! If you are a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Medicine and will hold your defence at HUS premises, the technical support will be arranged by HUS's own IT services. The systems used might differ from defences held at university premises.
Take into account also these:
  • All the (central) participants of the defence planning to participate remotely should have at their disposal a stable internet connection, a webcam and, preferably, headphones with a microphone to ensure good sound quality.
  • The remote connections are carried out with the PC-computers of each lecture hall. Using e.g. your own laptop is not allowed. If you need out-of-the-ordinary software at your defence, please be in touch with the university’s IT centre (helpdesk@helsinki.fi) once the lecture hall has been confirmed – the needed software can usually be remotely installed on the PC of the lecture hall.

Distribution, public display and publicizing during the exceptional situation

The required printed copies of the thesis must be distributed normally despite the exceptional situation. We recommend primarily sending the books by post, because all buildings might not be open during the exceptional situation. The addresses needed to distribute the books are available in the instructions for publishing the doctoral thesis.

During the exceptional situation, printed copies of upcoming theses are not publicly displayed at the University Main Building. The public display copy must also nevertheless be distributed normally. If you print your thesis in Unigrafia, Unigrafia will send the display copy to the Main Building portiers who forward the copies to the faculties. If you print your books elsewhere and deliver the display copy yourself, please send it directly to your home faculty's doctoral student services together with the faculty's copy of the book.

During the exceptional situation, printed copies of upcoming theses will not be publicly displayed at the University Main Building. Please note that the required printed copies, public display copy included, must nevertheless be distributed as usual. While the restrictions continue, the printed copies can be distributed by post.

During the disruption to the public display of theses, it's especially important to remember to fill the dissertation form available on the E-thesis website no less than three weeks before the public examination. Through the form, information on the event will be picked up to the University's event calendar. Please fill in the form only after you've received the audience link from the booking services – you will need to include the link to the form.

Water & coffee services

The portiers will deliver water bottles to the lecture halls for the use of the doctoral candidate, opponent and custos until the end of October 2021. 1 November 2021 onwards, you are to order the water bottles from the nearest Unicafe restaurant.

Defence coffee services at university premises are allowed. Safe distances and hygiene recommendations must be followed at all times also during the coffee services. If you want to arrange a coffee service, you can order the service from the Unicafe of the relevant building – or, if the building does not have a Unicafe of its own, from the nearest Unicafe location.

When placing the order, please give Unicafe an estimate on the number of participants as well as an estimate on when the event will end (Unicafe is, of course, aware of the fact that giving an exact end time to a public examination is not possible). For contact information to the Unicafe restaurants, please see Unicafe's website.

Please note that the University does not cover the costs of public examination coffee services, so if you decide to have one, you must cover the costs yourself.

Dress code & protocol

Doctoral defences under normal circumstances are festive events. To keep up with this tradition also in a partly remote access event, we recommend following the traditional dress code, when possible. Agree on the dress code together with your custos and opponent before the event.

All in all, the aim is that remote access defences follow as much of the same protocol as regular defences as possible. However, please note that it might be best to sit down during the sections of the events traditionally held standing (e.g. lectio praecursoria). If you wish to stand during these sections, please check before the event that your face is visible in the camera and your voice can be heard through the microphone even when standing up.

Should you like, the defence Zoom connection can be held open for a short while after custos has closed the event to allow the online audience to congratulate you. If needed, agree on this before the start of the event with the IT support present to moderate the event.

Read more about the protocol and traditions of doctoral defences on the university's Welcome to the public examination -website.

Post-doctoral parties

The post-doctoral party (karonkka) is not an official event of the university and each doctoral candidate is responsible for decisions concerning their own event. However, the university strongly recommends that if you arrange a post-doctoral party, you keep in mind the national restrictions in place and attend to safe distances and hygiene recommendations.

If your opponent cannot participate the defence in person, or the pandemic situation otherwise is such that holding a post-doctoral party is not recommendable, you can consider arranging the party at a later date instead of the evening of the defence day. However, please note that faculties do not cover opponents' travel costs if it's for the post-doctoral party only. If your opponent cannot participate your post-doctoral party, it's nevertheless polite to thank them in the speeches. It's also recommended that the opponent is offered the chance to give a small speech either through remote access or as a pre-taped video greeting.

How long are the exceptional instructions in force?

The exceptional instructions presented on this site are in force until further notice. However, we’re continuously monitoring the situation and the possible changes made by the Finnish government to the regulations and restrictions related to the pandemic. If these regulations / restrictions change and the university, based on these changes, makes changes to its roadmap for returning to regular functions, the instructions on this site, agreed on together with the different parties participating in defence arrangements, will also be updated to match the current situation.

Contact information to the faculty doctoral student services:

More information

 

Bulletin 3.12.2021

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