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Thursday 16 December 2021 8:35am

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2021 has been a bumpy year for everyone, but researchers have once again stepped up to engage with media, demonstrating the critical importance of Otago's academic expertise.

Packed media training workshops for academic staff were held across Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington campuses, with many attendees who had never worked with media before commenting they had realised how important it was to share their wealth of knowledge with the public.

Media Engagement Manager Liane Topham-Kindley says it's been encouraging to see the growing breadth of Otago's media expertise, especially given how challenging and uncertain this year has been.

“Not only have our researchers with COVID-19 expertise gone above and beyond with media and government engagement, we've had quite a few academics branch out into media work for the first time with outstanding results.”

“A lot of academics attending these workshops want to increase their confidence in dealing with media queries, and it's been encouraging to see them walk away with those skills and the realisation they have what it takes to do this important mahi.”

From vital pandemic-related commentary through to climate change expertise and even quirky human interest stories, researchers across divisions and campuses have made informed contributions to media stories as well as penning a wide array of quality opinion articles.

Māori and Pacific staff in particular have thrived in the media this year by shining a light on issues affecting their respective communities, thereby increasing public education and appreciation of those issues.

She thanked staff who had attended training workshops, which covered interview techniques and opportunities to work with media, and featured guest academic speaker Professor Michael Baker.

“A lot of academics attending these workshops want to increase their confidence in dealing with media queries, and it's been encouraging to see them walk away with those skills and the realisation they have what it takes to do this important mahi,” Ms Topham-Kindley says.

Ms Topham-Kindley says she expects to continue offering the workshops next year.

Existing Otago partnerships with Newsroom and The Spinoff continue to deliver strong platforms for researchers and on occasion PhD students to contribute informed written opinion, and Ms Topham-Kindley welcomes a renewed membership to The Conversation in 2022.

Otago Insights, the media contact list of researchers available for interviews on news topics, has gone from strength to strength this year as more researchers have put their hands up to be included.

“We know from media feedback that Otago Insights is a valued resource – we've had many a grateful time-poor journalist express their appreciation at this list of trusted interviewees being delivered straight to their inbox several times a week,” Ms Topham-Kindley says.

She encourages academic staff to contact the communications team if they are looking to engage with the media through a media release, opinion piece or Otago Insights, have an upcoming interview and need some advice, or would like to attend a training workshop in 2022.

Otago voices in the media 2021: a curated selection


When questions surrounded Japan's decision to press ahead with the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Associate Professor Roy Starrs was on hand to provide insight

When public outrage greeted the announcement of an offshore film production 'They are Us', Dr Rosemary Overell gave multiple radio interviews on the controversy

As the cost of housing and food continued to rise, PhD candidate Katherine Cresswell Riol argued on Newsroom it's time to amend the Bill of Rights Act to include fundamental rights

When the New Lynn terror attack occurred on September 3, 2021, journalists hit the phones seeking expertise on counter-terrorism law developments from Professor Andrew Geddis and Professor Richard Jackson


As climate change coverage ramped up, Professor Sally Brooker, who is also co-leader of the Germany-New Zealand Green Hydrogen Alliance, stepped into the spotlight as a trusted voice on green hydrogen

While hot chip-hungry Kiwis eagerly clicked on the results of Consumer NZ's research on where the best chips are found, Dr Graham Eyres was there to explain the science behind the perfect scoop

When journalists grappled with the task of explaining COVID-19 modelling to the public, Dr Matthew Parry lent a helping hand

As women's sport uniform rules came under scrutiny across the globe, Associate Professor Sally Shaw shared her expertise

Health Sciences

When RSV spread like wildfire through childcare centres across the country, Associate Professor Tony Walls gave hope by detailing two international clinical vaccine trials underway

While the public and media debated arguments for and against vaccine mandates, Associate Professor Angela Ballantyne outlined the ethical elements to the discussion

When confusion reigned over what face masks people should invest in, Dr Lucy Telfar-Barnard provided some public education

As rural COVID-19 vaccination rates lagged behind cities, Professor Garry Nixon kept up public awareness of the issue


As Kiwis wondered if they'd ever be able to holiday overseas or enjoy tourism experiences again, Dr Julia Albrecht cast light on the future of tourism

As COVID-19 impacted on the global economy, Dr Murat Üngör provided critical economic analysis throughout the year

Dr Sebastian Gehricke delved into the nitty gritty of climate finance, becoming a trusted expert by media

On the day the COVID-19 Protection Framework system was implemented, Dr Craig Lee offered his expertise on challenges facing businesses

Māori and Pasifika expertise

Associate Professor Sue Crengle, member of Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, has become a leading Māori voice on COVID-19

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu has provided vital Pasifika expertise on COVID-19

When the prime minister made an apology for the 1970s Dawn Raids, Dr Michelle Schaaf explained why it was so significant

As race became a political tool amongst the leading political parties, Dr Paerau Warbrick lent his voice to the analysis

Newsroom: Op-ed series

Otago Global Health Institute's 14-piece COVID-19 Masterclass Series

Three-part series on COP26 by Professor Janet Stephenson, Professor Merata Kawharu, Dr Karly Burch, Associate Professor Miranda Mirosa, Associate Professor Sara Walton

Three-part series on the history and future of farming by Professor Hugh Campbell

The Spinoff

Dignity and Mana in Aotearoa law by Dr Mihiata Pirini and Dr Anna High

The connections with wai that can keep us safer in the water, featuring Dr Chanel Phillips

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