Rules and guidelines on the use of e-mail

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The rules and guidelines below relate to e-mail and the appurtenant services at Karolinska Institutet and must be observed by all employees, students and affiliates.

1. Introduction

These rules and guidelines relate to e-mail and the appurtenant services at Karolinska Institutet and must be observed by all employees, students (foundation, advanced and postgraduate education level) and affiliates. In the event of an exception, this is specifically specified. E-mail and the appurtenant services will facilitate communication both internally and externally, for the purpose of supporting KI's mission to contribute to improving the health of mankind through research and education.

2. E-mail and the public sphere

Karolinska Institutet is a public authority where the principle of public access to official records applies, which means that the general public has the right to study public documents. Anyone can request to see a certain document and this request must be dealt with quickly. Under the condition that it is not protected by secrecy, the document must be disclosed immediately or as soon as it is possible. This means that other tasks may need to be put aside so that the employee can attend to the incoming request. A query concerning the disclosure of the document must be directed to the person that is in charge of the document, usually a registrar or the administrator that is dealing with the issue. If there is any doubt, the administrator should consult his/her immediate manager or registrar and/or legal professional at the University Administration.

It does not matter in what form a document arrives at KI. It is always the content of the document that is crucial as to whether it can be classed as public or not. This means that e-mail messages can also be classed as public documents and should be treated as such. In order for a document to be regarded as public, it must be incoming to or established at the public authority as well as stored at the same public authority. A private letter or e-mail message is, however, not a public document.

Log files of incoming and outgoing e-mails are to be regarded as public documents and must be disclosed if they are not protected by secrecy. At KI, it is the Information Technology Office that compiles requested log files at the request of the registrar at the University Administration. A query concerning the disclosure of e-mail log files must therefore always be forwarded to the registrar at the University Administration. A more detailed description of the public nature of public documents and the procedure during the disclosure of documents can be found under Official documents and disclosure on the Staff portal.

2.1 Registration, archiving and eliminating

E-mails that shall be registered are forwarded to the registrar at the department/University Library/University Administration to which they belong. This must be done as soon as the letter or message has arrived. The responsibility for the safekeeping of the e-mail message is then passed on to the registrar and the original recipient does not need to save it. More information on the types of issues and documents that should be registered can be found on the registry and registering official documents page. Information on what documents can be eliminated and when they are to be eliminated can be found in Archive FAQ and in Archive and Registry.

E-mails that do not need to be registered can either be saved and stored in another way, in a personnel record or as documentation for a verification, or be eliminated. In case an e-mail is to be kept for a certain period of time, the administrator can either save the e-mail message in the e-mail system or print it out and store it in a folder until it is time for it to be eliminated.

Since all communication that relates to KI activities must be searchable and e-mail messages can be classified as public documents, a KI address must always be used for KI-related communication. If an external e-mail address is used, all KI-related e-mails will have to be copied or forwarded to a KI address.

2.2 Access to e-mail during absence

Since a request for access to a public document must be dealt with quickly, it is important that someone has access to the e-mail in order to be able to disclose an incoming public document when the e-mail account owner is absent. In the event of planned time off, the e-mail must first be forwarded to the appropriate colleague or manager who is on site at KI. In addition, the automatic out-of-office message must be switched on, indicating that the user is not available (holiday, on leave), when the user is due back and that the message has been forwarded. The message should also contain reference to the registrar for the disclosure of a public document. An alternative to this way of handling things is that the user reads and deals with his/her e-mail at least once a week. If none of these solutions are possible, an out-of-office message can be entered that, in addition to the relevant information mentioned above, also contains reference with a link and e-mail address to another authorised employee.

In the event of illness or any other unplanned time off, the e-mail does not normally need to be forwarded until after seven days have passed. If necessary however, the Information Technology Office can go in and forward the e-mail. This is done at the request of the Head of Department, Head of Administration or by delegation. In the event of a request being submitted to KI concerning the disclosure of a public document that exists in the e-mail system, the registrar, with the help of the Information Technology Office, can gain access to the e-mail. The manager of the division affected by the disclosure of a public document must be informed. An immediate manager or an administrator to whom the issue is delegated can, in case of emergency, also request to have access to the e-mail via the Information Technology Office.

It is the respective manager's responsibility to make sure that there are procedures for e-mail management in the event of absence and that the task of being responsible for the disclosure of documents is delegated when the manager is absent.

Private use

The use of KI's e-mail system and the appurtenant services must primarily be linked to research, education, studies, administration or any other activity within the university. However, it is permitted to use the services for minor personal use, where there is no risk of confusion between one's professional role and private life.

Private e-mails are not to be regarded as public documents and are not subject to the rules pertaining to elimination and archiving. This applies with the understanding that the e-mail message does not contain information relating to the professional role. If an e-mail message contains both information of a private nature and information relating to the professional role, the parts of the e-mail message that concern the professional role must be regarded as a public document  and should consequently be treated as such. Private e-mails should be kept separate from other e-mails, which can be achieved by placing them in a separate folder. The employer, as far as possible, should avoid reading letters that are placed in folders marked as private or similar. An e-mail sent to is normally considered to be private, but can in certain cases be regarded as an incoming public document to KI.

3. Content and design

E-mail messages regarding official business that are sent at Karolinska Institutet should be as correct and easily accessible as possible when it comes to content and design. E-mails that are or can be perceived as the exercise of public authority should mainly have the same language, content and design as any other public authority correspondence. A more informal style is naturally permitted with regard to internal e-mails, which are considered more as conversations between employees, providing, of course, that the content cannot be perceived by the recipient as offensive or insulting or in any other way conflicts with KI's guidelines and directions.

3.1 Layout

Recognised fonts such as Arial, Times or Calibri, sizes 10 or 12, are used for e-mails at KI. Unformatted text is also permitted – when using a webmail account, for example. For paragraph division, a blank line between paragraphs is used. Other than that, as a basic rule, no other layout is used. Background images of the notebook variety or different colours are not permitted. The e-mail user should also avoid using logos or other symbols that can be perceived as disturbing or unnecessary given the context, such as colourful symbols of people, animated figures, film clips or ecolabels. The use of KI's logo should also be avoided since it is difficult to determine how this will appear to the recipient.

Bold text in headings, subheadings, enumerating with bullet points and similar are used if necessary in order to facilitate reading, such as if the message is extra long or when dispatching newsletters via e-mail. In the latter case, KI's set of graphic rules applies. Exceptions can be made for communication for PR and marketing purposes. In this case, decisions are made by the person responsible within the Information and Public Relations Office.

3.2 Correct language

As far as correct language is concerned it is recommended to use the spell checker, which can be found in most word processing programs. In more formal contexts and for the pure exercise of public authority it is also suitable to follow the style guide that has been compiled for public administration in Sweden (see the Ministry Publications Series “Myndigheternas skrivregler” – a style guide addressed to the ministries, the Parliament and all public authorities in Sweden).

In order to express emotion, the writer of the e-mail should primarily endeavour to use language and avoid extra exclamation marks, underlining, highlighting or writing out the entire word or sentence in capital letters. It is permitted to use so-called “smileys” in order to express emotion, providing that it is done in moderation and only in informal contexts.

3.3 Netiquette

The e-mail service at KI must not be used for distributing material that can be perceived as false, offensive, discriminatory, obscene, threatening or in any other way illegal or inappropriate. This includes offensive humour, chain letters, “hate” material and graphics/pictures that are offensive or derogatory.

It is important to remember that the person sending an e-mail message normally lacks control over the forwarding of the message. All e-mails that are sent to, from and within the public authority are, as a basic rule, also to be regarded as public documents. It is therefore important that the e-mail user formulates his/her message so that he/she can take responsibility for the content in all situations.

The subject field should be short, clear and relevant. A new subject should be discussed in a new e-mail message with a new subject field. If the message discusses several subjects, this should be clear in the subject field. Try to select those individuals for whom the content is of true concern and avoid including too many recipients in the message. The sender should also be careful when forwarding e-mails to others than those that are directly concerned with the message as a whole. When sending an e-mail to many recipients at the same time, it is a good idea for all recipient addresses to be pasted into the “Bcc:” (blind carbon copy) field, which makes the message more legible. E-mail lists should be made use of in the event of regular mass mail-outs, see also section 6 on Mass mail-outs and list management.

At KI, e-mails are normally answered, partly because it is good netiquette and partly in order to follow the current set of rules for public authorities, see also section 2 above on E-mail and the public sphere. Messages that are received for information or pure junk mail, such as adverts and chain letters, need not be answered, see also section 5 below on Security and vulnerability. Also remember that there are no guarantees that messages will reach the recipient. In order to be certain that the message has been received, confirmation of some kind should be sought from the recipient. Questions that require answers the same day should not be asked by e-mail.

3.4 Clear who sender is - signature

E-mails with a KI address should primarily be used for official business. It is not permitted to use anyone else's e-mail address or name in the sender field without receiving permission from the account owner first. If e-mails are sent through representatives, the recipient must receive information regarding this so that it is clear who he or she is communicating with.

The fundamental rule concerning the signature is that it should be clear, not too long and appear at the end of the message. The complete signature should only appear once per correspondence. It should be clear from the signature in what role the sender is sending his/her e-mail message. Only titles and functions that are valid within KI activities may be used. Academic titles (e.g. professor, senior lecturer, B. Sc.) can be placed on the same line as the name. Other details are placed in turn under the name. The details should be in both Swedish and English. Abbreviations are permitted. Employees with many different affiliations and roles should use different signatures depending on the situation and the content of the e-mail message.

Compulsory information:

  • first name and surname
  • academic title or other function (e.g. Head of Department or project leader) in the context that the e-mail message relates to, with a maximum of two functions in addition to academic titles
  • institution and/or division in the context that the e-mail message relates to, with a maximum of two division names at a time
  • the name “Karolinska Institutet” written out in full, the Swedish form is used in both Swedish and English

Optional information:

  • telephone number (direct and/or mobile number) with country code
  • e-mail address
  • postal address
  • visiting address
  • address to external website
  • address to own webpage
  • KI's profile text intended for e-mails, placed under the signature

4. Accounts and authorisation to the e-mail system

A common central system is used for e-mails and the appurtenant services at Karolinska Institutet. The user can connect optional e-mail clients to this in order to manage his/her part of the service, e.g. Outlook.

All employees and students (foundation, advanced and postgraduate education level) at KI are assigned an account with its own e-mail address that should be used for KI-related e-mail communication. Affiliates are offered an e-mail address at KI, but can alternatively choose to use another existing e-mail address. This must have such a format that there is a clear connection to the person's name.

4.1 Naming convention

The naming convention is used in KI's e-mail system for employees, postgraduate students and affiliates. The naming convention applies to students on a foundation and advanced level.

Permitted characters are [a-z] [A-Z] [1-9] [.] [-] [@]. Delimitations occur using a point for a space, hyphens are only used when the person writes his/her name with a hyphen.

In the event of name clashes when an e-mail account is being created (one or more people have the same first name and surname), the person receives an account where the address contains a number. The person can choose the following additions/amendments as an alternative to having a number:

  • addition of an initial
  • addition of a middle name
  • amendment of the first name to a nickname, generic nicknames are approved, e.g. Calle instead of Carl

The following applies to the amendment of e-mail addresses:

  • people whose names do not clash with others can also choose one of the above in order to create an alternative e-mail address
  • it is permitted to simplify long e-mail addresses by excluding part of a double-barrelled name
  • incorrect spellings in e-mail addresses should be corrected
  • when a person changes name in the civil registry, the administrative procedures that exist for Primula, Ladok and KIMKAT must be followed and, subsequently, the e-mail address changed.

4.2 Password

It is not permitted to hand out your password or to use other's accounts and resources.

4.3 Termination of accounts

E-mail accounts for employees, postgraduate students and affiliates are to be regarded as the responsibility of the public authority. When a person's relationship to KI comes to an end, access to the e-mail account and appurtenant services will also come to an end in accordance with KIMKAT's business rules.

In the event of death or when a person is reported missing, it is KI as a public authority and the respective employee's Head of Department, Head of Administration or equivalent that are responsible for ensuring that e-mails that are of importance to KI's business are taken care of. The account is immediately closed and an informative automatic reply is set up, as is the procedure. Contact is made between the central IT Support and the manager responsible with regard to access to the incoming and outgoing e-mail messages that are saved on the account. Once the manager responsible has reported that the work involved in taking care of public documents is complete, the e-mail mailbox is stored for a year and the account is inactivated.

The closure of e-mail accounts for students of the variety is also regulated by KIMKAT's business rules. In the event of death or when a person is reported missing, these accounts are closed immediately and no automatic reply is set up. Information about how to access the account is stored at the Student Affairs Office for six months, where the estate can request to take out this information.

4.4 Functional accounts

A functional account should be connected to a function and can be used by several people. The account has an e-mail mailbox and it is possible to both receive and send e-mail messages to and from the account. Functional addresses for the whole of KI are composed according to the principle. Functional addresses that are connected to the institution or equivalent are composed according to the principle where “ins” is an approved abbreviation of the department's name or equivalent. If it is necessary to describe the function using more words, delimitations occur using hyphens.

Applications for functional accounts are handled by the central IT Support. Further information about the application procedure is available on the Staff portal on the pages concerning e-mail.

5. Security and vulnerability

In order to guarantee functionality and reduce vulnerability in the handling of e-mails, a process of active and continuously updated work is conducted in order to prevent improper use of various kinds.

5.1 Sensitive information via the e-mail system

Sensitive information and documents that are judged to be protected by secrecy should not be sent via e-mail. This can concern business contacts with individuals, commissioned research, personnel matters, etc.

In case it is deemed desirable to use e-mail despite this, it must be handled in a way that guarantees the information will not fall into the wrong hands. When it comes to sensitive personal data, it must be encrypted in such a way that guarantees that unauthorised persons cannot access the data. Contact the Information Technology Office and KI's legal professionals in order to ensure that the handling takes place in a satisfactory manner.

5.2 Forwarding

In order to ensure that KI fulfils public authority requirements, it is not permitted to set up rules where a person's incoming e-mails are automatically forwarded outside KI or its cooperative partners within Stockholm County Council. This rule does not apply to students in undergraduate and advanced levels.

Addresses that are not allowed may imply a risk of losing e-mails. Please check that the address you wish to forward e-mails to is allowed.

The domains you may forward e-mails to are:


5.3 Spam and viruses

Spam (junk mail) usually refers to mass mail-outs of intrusive and/or unwanted offers regarding products and services. Viruses are classified as damage-generating and sabotaging e-mails. Both spam and viruses are a problem as they damage systems and the information structure. Therefore, the public authorities must find solutions for the purpose of limiting these harmful effects.

The spam e-mails that are blocked before they reach KI's e-mail server are not regarded as public documents. E-mails that are stored (quarantine) or opened due to security measures are not counted as incoming documents either. The spam e-mails that reach KI's e-mail server despite efforts to block them are regarded as public documents and must be treated as such. Since they do not fulfil any function in the business they can be eliminated, i.e. deleted at once. Before these messages are delivered to the user's e-mail mailbox they are marked as [**SPAM**]. The user must then inspect and delete these e-mail messages him/herself.

Messages that contain viruses are deleted when discovered by the antivirus software and will not reach the user. Certain types of attached files have a greater risk of containing viruses and are therefore blocked by the antivirus software. When an e-mail message with an attached file of a prohibited nature is blocked by KI's e-mail system, the sender receives an information message in return.

6. Mass mail-outs and list management

Mass mail-outs to large groups within KI is restricted in order to avoid improper use and spam attacks. The decision concerning mail-outs to all employees and/or all students can be made by KI's management team, the Head of the Information Technology Office, the Head of Information and Public Relations Office as well as the Head of Security. The Head of the Student Affairs Office has the right to decide on mail-outs to all students.

If applicable, it is possible to apply for internal e-mail lists and e-mail lists permitting external contacts. Applications for e-mail lists are handled by the central IT Support.

7. Rule violation and consequences

For the purpose of protecting both Karolinska Institutet and its employees, failure to follow the set of rules on e-mail usage can lead to a warning being issued, retraction of rights and, in extreme cases, termination of employment. If the system is used for illegal activities it will be reported to the police.

8. Further information

  • More information regarding practical use and handling or services can be found under e-mail on the Staff Portal.
  • Rules that apply to archiving can be found under Archive and Registry on the Staff portal.
  • Myndigheternas skrivregler Ds 2009:38 (in Swedish) is part of the Ministry Publications Series and can be found in Swedish on the Government Offices of Sweden's website