Nau mai haere mai – welcome to this week’s pānui.

The dual mission of universities to be a “repository of knowledge and expertise" and a "critic and conscience of society” is enshrined in law and not to be taken lightly. So when the work or ideas of scholars are challenged or found wanting, the limits of academic freedom are tested.

Recent cases involving the criticism and subsequent retraction of a paper about vaccination risk during pregnancy, and the controversy over an open letter questioning the scientific status of mātauranga Māori, have shown just how difficult those limits are to define and police.

But, as the University of Auckland’s Matheson Russell writes, institutions need to be more ready to confront these difficult issues. “In today’s political and media environment, the challenge of mis- and disinformation is only going to intensify. Institutional culture, practices and policies need to account for this.”

You’ll find more to read in this newsletter or on our home page, including a call for a legislative tidy-up of climate change regulation and a challenge to appreciate the ecological contribution of introduced species.

Many thanks for your support and interest. Until next time, mā te wā.

Finlay Macdonald

New Zealand Senior Editor & NZ Editor: Politics, Business + Arts


Are New Zealand’s universities doing enough to define the limits of academic freedom?

Matheson Russell, University of Auckland

Recent controversies involving academic freedom and responsibility raise important questions about how publicly accountable Aotearoa’s universities should be.

Lynn Grieveson – Newsroom via Getty Images

New Zealand’s climate change regulation is messy and complex – here’s how to improve it

Nathan Cooper, University of Waikato

New Zealand’s international pledges, domestic laws and carbon budgets run on different timelines. They could be better aligned to make sure everyone understands how Aotearoa plans to cut emissions.


Why it’s time to reconsider the ecological contribution of introduced species – even in New Zealand

Sebastian Leuzinger, Auckland University of Technology

Introduced species that become invasive are clearly destructive, but many exotic species are not detrimental to the existing ecosystem – some become complementary or take on lost ecological roles.


COVID disinformation and extremism are on the rise in New Zealand. What are the risks of it turning violent?

Alexander Gillespie, University of Waikato

Nearly a year ago, New Zealand’s intelligence services warned of the ‘realistic possibility’ of future COVID-related violent extremism. How concerned should people be now?

Shutterstock/Richard Whitcombe

COP26 failed to address ocean acidification, but the law of the seas means states must protect the world’s oceans

Karen Scott, University of Canterbury

Carbon dioxide can be classed as pollution under the UN law of the sea and countries have an obligation to prevent it from entering the ocean.

David McNew/Getty Images

Stemming methane leaks from oil fields, pipelines and landfills could help us slow global warming quickly

Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Reducing methane emissions could slow global warming quickly and buy time for the world to wean itself off fossil fuels. But it must not distract from the challenge to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

From our international editions

Why investigating potential war crimes in Afghanistan just became much harder – and could take years

Paul Taucher, Murdoch University; Dean Aszkielowicz, Murdoch University

With travel to Afghanistan is nearly impossible right now and difficult questions over the types of evidence that would be admissible in court, investigators have their work cut out for them.

Coal plants are closing faster than expected. Governments can keep the exit orderly

James Ha, Grattan Institute; Alison Reeve, Grattan Institute

Grattan Institute analysis shows it’s possible to achieve a vastly lower-emissions electricity system in less than two decades – if governments can muster the courage.

Morrison’s opening of the door to international students leaves many in the sector blindsided and scrambling to catch up

Christopher Ziguras, RMIT University

The federal government has for months been unclear about when international students could return to Australia. And there are still many uncertainties about the latest announcement.

SUV tragedy in Wisconsin shows how vehicles can be used as a weapon of mass killing – intentionally or not

Mia Bloom, Georgia State University

At least five people were killed and many more were injured after an SUV crashed into a Christmas parade. A terrorism expert explains how vehicles have been weaponized.

Supreme Court could redefine when a fetus becomes a person, upholding abortion limits while preserving the privacy right under Roe v. Wade

Morgan Marietta, University of Massachusetts Lowell

The upcoming debate at the Supreme Court is less about the existence of the right to abortion and more about how that right is limited by the emerging personhood of a fetus.

Bird flu outbreaks in Europe: what you need to know

Arjan Stegeman, Utrecht University

Each year in spring and summer, waterbirds mingle on their breeding grounds in Siberia and mix their flu viruses, creating new variants they then bring to Europe, Asia and Africa.

For several of Indonesia’s small islands, climate change might mean they have no future

Noir Primadona Purba, Universitas Padjadjaran; Muhamad Maulana Rahmadi, Universitas Padjadjaran

Rising sea levels mean bigger waves will “redesign” coastlines.

Adele 30: the psychology of why sad songs make us feel good

Simon McCarthy-Jones, Trinity College Dublin

It may seem odd that we get pleasure from sad songs.

Management is so passé — it’s co-creation that workers are demanding

David Weitzner, York University, Canada

Employees are demanding a more human-centric workplace, with space for trust and vulnerability. Management is over. The era of co-creation is underway.

The story of an independent Tanzanian publisher who held out against the tide

Maria Suriano, University of the Witwatersrand

Despite a succession of different challenges, Bgoya’s approach has been consistent.