The university has doubled down on its policy preventing academics from using their title when discussing fields outside their expertise.
This announcement comes after a PhD student’s homophobic article circulated international media, where they transgressed into a field they were not regarded an expert of. However, due to the fine line associated with defining a ‘field of expertise’, some academics feel silenced by this ambiguous policy.
University of Auckland professor Shaun Hendy joined Mike Hosking on breakfast radio to discuss the ongoing implications of these restrictions. “It’s often really hard to put your finger on exactly what your expertise is,” claims Hendy. “And often, you’re asked questions outside your expertise.”
“There are often situations where things come up in New Zealand and there are no experts available, and you’ve got to step up and do your best.”
This also comes at a time where the global coronavirus outbreak has been fronting national headlines. University of Auckland have multiple prominent academics speak out on the subject of this pandemic, reflecting their position and research in the university in their opinions.
“I think [an expert] is someone who has to be able to read the research literature,” identifies Hendy. “And then you’ve got to be able to understand how what you’re saying might play out in society.”
Hendy worries mostly that the policy will have a “chilling effect” on most of the university’s younger staff. “It doesn’t make you confident with talking to the media, or talking publicly.” He calls for the university’s media policy to be reviewed, and cites the University of Canterbury as having achieved success in a well thought-out and implemented policy.
It also has the potential to affect the standard of scientific discussion in the media. “It is important for scientists to… talk about [issues] in the broader context rather than narrowly in their own field and expertise.”
This is not the first time Hendy has spoken out about the longstanding issue, having authored a book titled ‘Silencing Scientists’ in the past. Hendy joked that he was fortunate to have written a book on the issue, else his credentials as a physicist would fail to qualify his appearance as an expert on breakfast radio.