Published: 17-04-2024 16:05 | Updated: 17-04-2024 16:07

Annika Östman Wernerson: The report on the freezer malfunction uncovers serious problems of organisational clarity and responsibilities

A portrait of President Annika Östman Wernerson
President Annika Östman Wernerson. Photo: Martin Stenmark

Last Friday, 12 April, the internal investigators looking into the freezer malfunction that occurred in the Neo building over the 2023 Christmas break presented their report. The researchers and personnel most affected were invited to a staff meeting where, among others, Dean of KI South Matti Sällberg and Chief Security Officer Magnus Håkansson, who led the investigation, gave an account of their findings.

The overall causes that the report highlights was a chain of coinciding technical events and a lack of organisational clarity as to authorisations and responsibilities. Combined, they had devastating consequences for decades of valuable research work.

The incident was extremely serious and requires us to make root-and-branch changes together across the university. We can already see that KI must take a more coordinated, central approach to activity-critical facilities and infrastructure related to our research. This is not only a matter of allocating responsibilities; it’s also about resources and organisation. Ultimately, we have to make sure that what happened in the Neo freezer hotel never happens again, there or anywhere else at KI. 

An external review group will now be taking over to take the analysis of how KI should organise its biobanks and similar infrastructure further, if and when there is reason to do so. The presentation of the external report will mark the start of KI’s improvement efforts, for which will need to find stable processes.

KI welcomes government investigation

A few days previously, on 8 April, KI was visited by Minister for Migration Maria Malmer Stenergard and Minister for Education Mats Persson, who presented their investigation into the opportunities for overseas citizens to work and study in Sweden. KI welcomes these efforts but stressed that the changes are urgent. Attracting foreign students and engaging in effective international researcher exchanges are crucial to a university wanting to maintain and bolster its position as an internationally leading medical university. The processing time for residence permits for researchers and students is currently inordinately long and makes it harder for non-Swedish researchers to work in Sweden. It is imperative that KI is, and continues to be, a meeting place for the world’s best researchers and students.

Commit to sustainability

In my state-of-play meeting with KI’s environmental and sustainable development council, it emerged recently that there’s noticeably more commitment to sustainability around KI. This pleases me greatly! More members have joined the council, which is making every effort to take advantage of people’s burgeoning interest in all parts of the university in order that it can constantly take new steps in the right direction. One outcome of this is that the CO2 emissions related to duty travel have gone down 2023 compared to 2022. But there is more to do, and this is where we at KI – all of us – can pull together. I myself am looking forward to following up the carbon footprint of my own official journeys, which I take by replace with digital meetings, travel by train or electric car whenever possible. So let us inspire each other by sharing our thoughts and tips to ensure that sustainability permeates all corners of KI. Even small changes have an impact, and the more of us that make them, the more noticeable it will become. A great opportunity to share knowledge and experience in this area is at our own Sustainability Day on 22 May!

Latest updates from the President

Annika Östman Wernersonwrites regularly about issues that are important to the university under the heading "Latest updates from the President". The articles are published on KI's website and found at News and updates from the University Management. She also contributes regularly to the internal newsletter KI News. Previously published texts can be read in the news archive.