I will have my doctoral defense next month, in Italy. In my jury there's a foreign member, who comes on purpose from Belgium (I know him in person and I invited him to be member of the jury, through my supervisor). I had two opposite advices. Somebody told me that it is usual, in this situation, to invite the foreign member to give a lecture at my Department, after the defense (in the afternoon). They say that it is a great occasion, and that he would happy of doing it (or, even, he would be upset if not invited). Somebody else told me that it is not polite, that he could feel forced and that, after the discussion, maybe he would like just to go around the city and relax.

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    Are you exclusively asking about politeness towards the jury members, or also about politeness towards anyone else involved, e.g. your team members? Also, customs at your place may play a role, such as the defense being followed by an extensive celebration and the expectation that you provide some food for your team rather than disappear into another talk. Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 20:08
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    Another point to consider is that, if they give a seminar, the department may be able to reimburse part or all of the travel expenses. Policies may be such that reimbursement is not possible for just serving on a defense panel.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 21:30
  • As for advice, the other answers are all excellent. Just to answer the 'or even usual' part here: in my experience "YES".
    – Vincent
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 10:35

5 Answers 5


I think it is appropriate to invite an academic to give a lecture on their work at any point, provided the invitation is politely conveyed. Part of politely conveying an invitation is making the invitee feel comfortable declining it.

I can think of certain situations in which it is arguable that without further personal knowledge of the invitee, the invitation itself exerts an impolite pressure to accept: e.g. if you invite a job candidate to give an "extra lecture." But I don't see why a foreign jury member would feel compelled to give an extra lecture in this situation. Unless you know of some specific plausible reason why he would feel pressured to do so, I think it is absolutely permissible to invite him. Since you are a bit concerned about this, I would mention in the invitation itself that the invitee can freely decline, in a way which suggests that he will not be committing any kind of social error by doing so. Especially if you know this person, um, in person, I see no problem here.

General tip for dealing with human beings: when possible, try not to assume that they will want to do X or that they will not want to do X. Develop enough social skills so that you can ask them which one it is. Of course some exceptions apply...

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    Completely agree. Also, speaking from personal experience, I quite appreciated being asked to give a lecture when going abroad to serve on a doctoral committee.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 19:23
  • IIRC, there was recently at my place a PhD defense as the last talk of a half-day seminar on the topic. Pretty cool!
    – yo'
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 11:40

It is probably best to arrange for the same person who officially invited the external jury member (your advisor, thesis committee president, department chair, dean) to ask them if they would like to give a talk about current work, or any subject they'd care to discuss. Give them a rough idea of the number and background of potential attendees.


Inviting this person to give a conference can also be a way to cover some of the travel costs through the conferences budget. I think all parties involved will understand and appreciate that.


Definitely go through your advisor and/or the head of the thesis committee. They should not only know what's custom at your department but whether reimbursements of part or all of the travel expenses are appropriate or even possible. Keep in mind that a member of the jury is expected to be impartial and you would not want to make the impression of close cooperations going on (think conflict of interest). Which is also why (at least) some members of the jury should not be former co-authors (to my opinion and according to some regulations and guide lines). Again check you relevant documentation of your institution.

Lediglich einer der Gutachter der Dissertation darf zugleich Koautor der Publikationen sein. source

(Only one of the reviewers of the dissertation may also be a co-author of the publications.)


Im Falle einer publikationsbasierten Promotion darf höchstens ein Gutachter Koautor einer oder mehrerer Publikationen [...] sein. source

(In case of a publication based dissertation only one of the reviewers shall be co-author of one or more publications.)

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    It is not. But that's not the point. Important is to steer clear of even the suspicion that the external member of the jury is not impartial - which could arouse under the pretense of a former collaboration. (Which is why it's not a former co-author either.) - If you see how this could be phrased better, feel free to suggest. Thanks.
    – Ghanima
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:28
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    You might write that in your opinion, the external referee should not be a former co-author. Claiming that the external referee is not a former co-author, as you did, is simply incorrect, because in my experience, the external referee is very often a former co-author, or at least someone with whom the doctoral candidate collaborated closely (in fact, that is often the only way doctoral candidates can suggest an external referee at all; they only have a handful of external contacts, and usually those are established by some form of collaboration). Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:32
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    @O.R.Mapper, point taken. I'll still leave the advise to check your regulations and consult your advisor. After a few years into the process it's just not the time to blow it on a formal error.
    – Ghanima
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 23:02
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    Concerning your edit: Fair enough, although it should be noted that these regulations differ wildly between universities, and even between fields at the same university. Case in point: The Promotionsordnung on environmental sciences from TU Dresden says "darf nur ein Gutachter Ko-Autor der Fachartikel sein" ("only one of the reviewers may be a co-author of the papers"), whereas that for economic sciences from the same university ... Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 23:07
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    ... says "soll mindestens ein Gutachter kein Ko-Autor sein" ("at least one of the reviewers must not be a co-author"). In the question at hand, it seems like the referee has been decided upon already, and at least if that happened via the primary supervisor, the supervisor should be somewhat aware of who was a co-author for the doctoral candidate's works. Otherwise, I do agree the OP might want to check better sooner than later. Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 23:07

At the end, the thesis is the work of the PhD student. But til then, the advisor rules.

What I would do as a PhD student (annd the advisor is not taking charge): call the foreign member first, or arrange an informal phone meeting. You could pretend you will be talking about your report. Ask if he/she would be interested in giving a talk on the occasion. If yes, hand it over to your PhD advisor.

  • Better not get involved directly, ask your advisor to do the asking. I'd not be too surprised if it turns out they have done so already (or are planning to), or (as some of the other answer hint at) are forbidden to do so by some regulation.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 23:51

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