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Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

20 Jan, 2021

A Business School lecturer has dipped her toes into the waters of media engagement and found them surprisingly warm.

Farkhondeh (Ferry) Hassandoust (Business Information Systems) specialises in the way we use, manage, and understand information technology. Her research into what encourages and hinders people from using COVID-19 contact tracing applications was published late last year in the acclaimed Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Ferry and her international collaborators found that privacy is one of the major concerns hampering maximum uptake of contact tracing technology – particularly among people who fear their own data will be misused by public health agencies.

Real world research, real world impact

Given the urgent need to identify and overcome any barriers in the global fight against COVID-19, Ferry’s work is highly valuable.

Little wonder, then, that her pitch to The Conversation, an international platform dedicated to sharing academic research with mainstream audiences, was successful. Working closely first with the faculty’s Communications Manager and then in a one-on-one editing process with a NZ-based editor from The Conversation, Ferry “translated” her scholarly output into an article that was accessible and meaningful to the public at large.

Almost immediately after it was published in mid-December The Conversation article, Not just complacency: why people are reluctant to use COVID-19 contact-tracing apps, was reprinted by various media around the world, including in New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Singapore. To date, it has been read more than 17,000 times.

Sharing the evidence

At around the same time, Ferry supplied an expert comment for the Science Media Centre website about the Bluetooth upgrade to NZ’s COVID contact-tracing app. Her comment was included in a feature in the NZ Herald, which warned Kiwis about the risks of not using the app over the summer.

Now, more than a month later, as news headlines decry NZ’s low rates of QR code scanning, Ferry has been re-quoted in the NZ Herald. This time, her comments were picked up by Radio New Zealand, where she was recently interviewed in a live, four-way discussion on The Panel.

“I had no idea what to expect when the faculty’s Communications Manager suggested my research would be of wide general interest,” says Ferry, who had almost no previous experience working with mainstream media. “It was amazing to see how much interest there was in my work and how valuable it seemed to different media and audiences around the world. I was nervous about doing a live radio interview but after rehearsing with our Comms Manager in advance, I felt prepared when I went on air.”

Read about Farkhondeh Hassandoust

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