Faculty Scholarship in the Public Sphere
Sharing scholarship via the public sphere, including media interviews, social media, and public communication channels, is a common practice for faculty. As faculty and academic professionals, we bear special responsibilities to contribute to informed deliberations on academic issues. Academic freedom, which is essential to the advancement of knowledge, is rooted in and regulated by the norms of the disciplinary communities within which the faculty are credentialed. Refer to the University Handbook for Appointed Personnel, Chapter 7.01.02 Statement on Professional Conduct, to read more about the University’s views on Academic Freedom, and Faculty Senate Statements on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression. As private citizens, faculty, students, and staff may invoke their freedom of speech, subject to UHAP 2.10 Political Activity and Lobbying Policy, ABOR-PM 6-905 Political Activity, and ARS §15-1633.
The following resources can be useful as faculty navigate the public-facing components of their research, scholarship, and creative work. At the University of Arizona, we take an inclusive view of scholarship in promotion and tenure that includes the recognition that knowledge is acquired and advanced through discovery, integration, application, and teaching. For more information, see UHAP Chapter 3.3.02b and Chapter 4A.3.02b.
Promoting Scholarship in the Public Sphere
If faculty members would like to share scholarly accomplishments with University Marketing and Communications, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. The University Communications team will often share faculty members’ peer-reviewed published research via news releases to external media and University websites including, news.arizona.edu and uaatwork.arizona.edu. In some cases, faculty news will also be shared across social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) and UArizona newsletters (President Robbins Highlights email, UANow, Lo Que Pasa) and at UArizona Health Sciences’ (Health Sciences Connect and Tomorrow is Here). Marketing and University Marketing and Communications can also provide media training.
Managing Difficult Media Situations
In some instances, individual faculty members, their scholarship, and/or their teaching may receive public criticism or aggressive attention, or become the center of more difficult media situations. In these cases, immediately contact your department head and email@example.com (a general email address that goes to six members of the Communications team) for guidance. When situations call for a more private conversation, faculty members can reach out directly to Pam Scott (firstname.lastname@example.org), Associate Vice President for External Communications.
If a faculty members decides they want to craft a response to difficult media situations, such as mischaracterizations of their work, or to clarify their work via an op-ed or another public-facing piece, they are again encouraged to work with a team, including the unit department head, college communications specialist, and/or University Marketing and Communications, to gather advice and develop responses.
Any implied or actual threats of harm to faculty members should be reported to the unit department head, dean, Faculty Affairs, and the University of Arizona Police Department. Implied or actual threats from individuals and/or organizations, regardless of their affiliation with the University, include emails, social media direct messages or posts, phone calls, messages, texts, or in-person encounters. Additional resources include the Office of Institutional Equity, the Bias Education Support Team, and the Threat Assessment Management Team.
- When contacted for a media interview, ask for more information including the reporter’s name, media outlet, subject of the interview, and content of the questions. If you are unfamiliar with the media outlet or the reporter, reach out to University Communications and that team will research whether the opportunity is worth pursuing.
- Work with a team, including unit department head, college communications specialist, and/or University Marketing & Communications resources, to gather advice, and develop talking points or responses when following up with media interviews or requests.
- Practice interview responses ahead of time and/or draft responses to media inquiries that can be submitted as written comments. If applicable, focus on potentially tricky or sensitive queries.
- Keep track of media coverage on your CV as it demonstrates the reach and impact of scholarly work. Setting up a Google alert can help with tracking media coverage.
- Journalists are often on a tight deadlines. Ask when they need a response to help decide whether and how it will work within your schedule. Faculty can request to see a draft of an article before it is published in order to review direct quotes and for accuracy. Note: When working with University Communications on a news release, you will have the opportunity to review a full draft of the story prior to publication, but journalists with external media are under no obligation to share drafts of their work ahead of publication.
- Faculty should also be attentive to protecting their private information and minimizing the potential that private information could be publicly shared (e.g., doxxing). Protection of private information is increased when minimizing personal information shared on social media, requesting that vendors not share personal information, using a virtual private network, and staying up to date with virus protection software.
- Do not feel pressured to respond immediately or at all. Faculty members can choose not to engage.
- Take a pause before engaging in a challenging media situation.
- When responding to media inquiries in written form, it can be helpful to have someone else review the comments and put them into an Excel spreadsheet that can be reviewed at a later time rather than trying to keep up in real time, particularly if there are many reactive or negative comments.
- Resist invitations or urges to engage in verbal confrontation; use data, evidence, and facts to engage in scholarly debate.
The University offers a number of resources to help faculty effectively share their scholarship in the public sphere.
- The University Libraries Media Recording Studio offers a space for recording podcasts and audio or video files using professional microphones and podcasting equipment in a soundproof space. A green screen is available for virtual backgrounds.
- Visit the Agnese Nelms Haury Program site for a variety of communication strategies and resources including:
- University Marketing and Communications offers resources on campus brand engagement, communications, marketing, and experiential strategy.
- University News features recent stories, videos, galleries and more, and includes a link to submit a new story idea.
- Also check with individual colleges for media audio and video recording resources.
- The OpEd Project offers training on writing op-eds and connects participants with high-level media mentors and vetting of op-eds across multiple platforms.
- The Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice and the College of Science partnered with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University to help faculty and students at UArizona and members of the community communicate more effectively with the public, funders, policymakers, the media, colleagues and prospective collaborators in other disciplines.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science Communication Toolkit
- Promoting Sociological Research Communication Toolkit
- University of California, Irvine | Resources to Support Academics Targeted by Online Harassment
- University of Minnesota | Resources for Responding to Online Harassment
The following articles offer strategies and tips for engaging with the media.
- University of Arizona Health Sciences: Making Science More Accessible
- The Chronicle of Higher Education: How to Survive a Media Blitz: an Academic’s Guide
- The Plainspoken Scientist: FAQ Working with the Media
- Inside Higher Ed: Risks and Rewards of Engaging in the Public Sphere
- University of Michigan: Faculty Tips for Working with the Media
- CU Boulder: Scholarship and Safety Media Guide
The following resources offer useful strategies for managing difficult media situations and dealing with online harassment.