I'd add to that some pretty serious thin market problems: we just don't have the think tank environment in New Zealand that is found elsewhere to help encourage academics to take on a more public role.The faint voice of academics seemed odd, especially in light of the Education Act 1989, which requires universities to "accept a role as critic and conscience of society". Bridgman found some reasons why: universities, made over by the market reforms of the 80s and 90s, did little to encourage the critic and conscience role; academics believed making regular public contributions would harm their careers; taking a public role was time-consuming, meaning less time for publishing research in academic journals, which are vital to career advancement.There were also concerns about being misquoted; fears that comments would be seen as a "dumbing-down" of academic knowledge; plus not having the skills to communicate with a wider audience. A common theme, says Bridgman, was the influence of the PBRF system and its bias against research on the New Zealand context, which is harder to get published in the higher rating international journals. In other words academics were, by and large, frightened, self interested and confined by oppressive research demands to their rarefied sphere of influence.Then there is the long Kiwi tradition of regarding the word "intellectual" as a term of abuse. In his essay The Public Intellectual is a Dog, Auckland University English Department lecturer Stephen Turner sums up the problem: "Just talking about public intellectuals make you, or rather me in this case, a wanker rather than a well rounded bloke." The British have also been bagging intellectuals for a couple of centuries, as Auckland University associate professor Laurence Simmons points out in his introduction to Speaking Truth to Power. It's a stereotype which says experience rather than abstract ideas, the supposed currency of intellectuals, offers the better guide to social and political practice.
In any case, of the 24 academics listed as providing expert public analysis on New Zealand's business climate, I'm the only one listed from the University of Canterbury. I'm a bit worried that the other hundred-odd academics in the College of Business and Economics know more about Canterbury's system of incentives, rewards, and (in the current environment of redundancies) punishments than I do.
I would have added Canterbury's Glen Boyle to the list of academics who speak on business. I'm also surprised that they missed Matt Nolan at TVHE in their list of occupational economists; he's done rather more than I have on topics around the financial crisis.