Academics and scientists must be free to express frank views on Executive policy on tackling Covid-19, a member of Stormont's health committee has said.
It follows concerns that some experts here are facing pressure not to air their opinions to the media.
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said any attempt to restrict views would be "entirely inappropriate".
And a senior health expert insisted it was right that official policy was subject to full scrutiny.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that concerns have been raised about commentary from academics around government policy on a number of occasions in recent weeks.
In some cases, the academics' institutions were contacted about what had been said.
The Department of Health denied that it has "sought to curb" academics from speaking to the media. First Minister Arlene Foster said she is not aware of anything to prevent people from commenting.
Dr Connor Bamford, a virologist at Queen's University, Belfast, whose expert analysis has been covered in this newspaper and other media outlets, expressed concern in a social media post on Wednesday evening.
He tweeted: "I understand that public health is a sensitive matter at the minute, yet politely requesting that virologists do not engage with the media on such issues at this critical time and only talk about 'the virus' does not bode well for the future of this pandemic."
BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme reported on Thursday that the Department of Health is understood to have written to the Vice-Chancellor at Queen's University in relation to comments made by one of its academic staff to the media.
The Department of Health said it had contacted the educational institution in April "on a specific issue of concern, involving an academic seemingly issuing public advice on PPE use that ran contrary to NHS guidance".
The Belfast Telegraph asked the department to elaborate further, but did not receive a response.
We need far greater clarity of the evidence on which advice to the Health Minister and the First and Deputy First Minister is currently basedPaula Bradshaw
Ms Bradshaw said it was in the Northern Ireland public's best interests for independent experts to freely and frankly scrutinise Stormont's Covid-19 response.
"Northern Ireland is very fortunate in this situation to have virologists who are truly world-class experts in their field," she said.
"Their expertise also expands to broader public health issues, and I know many members of the public have benefited from their expertise over the past few months.
"It is entirely inappropriate for any pressure to be applied to stop them stating their views and presenting their expertise publicly. On the contrary, what we need is far more open and transparent presentation of the evidence on which decisions are being based, followed by informed public debate as appropriate.
"We need far greater clarity of the evidence on which advice to the Health Minister and the First and Deputy First Minister is currently based."
Former World Health Organisation (WHO) director Professor Karol Sikora said that as society emerges from lockdown, it was vital that public health policy is properly scrutinised.
Earlier this week Prof Sikora was vocal in dismissing a Department of Health report which raised fears over a second Covid-19 wave occurring here.
"It's important to have scrutiny. Governments shouldn't be frightened of it. They should be able to stand up and be questioned," he said.
"And the public deserve to get answers from them. If the university experts are saying, 'I don't believe this - show me the data', and they (the officials) can't. Then that's a problem."
Mrs Foster said she was "certainly not aware of anything to prevent people from commenting in relation to the science".
"Our Chief Scientific Adviser (Professor Ian Young) is an academic at Queen's ... so it's not something that I'm aware of, but if there are some issues it will be raised with us," she added.
The Department of Health said that it is "completely supportive of the role" played by academics here who have "provided informative and instructive comment via the media".
"Academics should be assured that their unfettered contributions to public understanding are welcome and valued," it continued. "At no time has the department or any of its officials sought to curb that discourse. Indeed the work undertaken by academics from both our outstanding universities is recognised as having played a major part in the ongoing advances in tackling the effects of Covid-19.
"There are no grounds for anyone to claim that a chill factor has broken out among academics in June as a result of a letter on a specific issue that was written in April."
Queen's University said it is "proud" of the "valuable" contribution its staff has made in providing the public with their academic insights via the media.