Massey researcher awarded for stimulating public engagement in the electoral process


Associate Professor Grant Duncan

Associate Professor Grant Duncan.


Massey University’s Associate Professor Grant Duncan has just been awarded the inaugural Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) prize for Engagement and Public Communication.

The award is given for excellence and innovation in public engagement and communications by academics who “meaningfully engage with communities outside of the higher education sector or who make a significant contribution to public debate”.

Dr Duncan, who teaches history of political thought and contemporary New Zealand politics in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, received the award for designing and leading innovative online surveys in collaboration with Stuff.co.nz to test the mood and opinions of the public before the 2017 and 2020 elections in the interests of informed democratic debate.

“The substance of the award was Stuff/Massey pre-election surveys and the related op-ed columns. These surveys and commentary stimulated participation in the electoral process and generated impact through nation-wide discussion of concerns relevant to the election campaigns,” he says.

The Stuff/Massey University Election Survey was an online readership-engagement survey designed to provide insights into the issues of importance to New Zealanders, to uncover underlying concerns around leadership, trust and the political system, and to stimulate public engagement with the political process.

“The surveys had to be implemented on media-time, not on academic-time. The work didn’t really fit into research or teaching, although they have contributed to both, so the basis for the award best fits the ‘citizenship’ aspect of my work.”

Dr Duncan was previously awarded a 2020 Massey University Research Medal for Exceptional Research Citizenship and the 2017 Stuff/Massey survey won the Special Project or Short-term Campaign category at the 2018 Public Relations Institute of NZ (PRINZ) Awards.

“The main reason I entered the DASSH awards was to highlight the importance of political studies and Massey’s critic and conscience role as active contributors to democratic processes,” Dr Duncan says.

“The award is an important recognition from senior colleagues in the humanities and social sciences faculties in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s critical that academic engagement with the public in political debates is valued and supported.

“In these times of distrust of government and widespread misinformation, academics need to play our part to raise the standard of pre-electoral debates while also respecting diversity of political opinion, and the award shows that this approach is positively supported by leading academics in Australasia.

“On a personal note, it can be a bit scary being out there in the media, and it helps to know that Massey supports these public roles.”

Dr Duncan’s two recent books are The Problem Political of Trust and How to Rule? The Arts of Government from Antiquity to the Present, both published by Routledge). His theoretical work has examined how state institutions and policies are concerned with subjective states such as pain and happiness. He regularly comments in the media on current events in politics and public policy in New Zealand, especially around elections.

The Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) is the authoritative agency on research, teaching and learning for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in Australian and New Zealand universities.

You can find out more about the Awards here.