Trust in Science in a Digital World: New Mechanisms Needed

ALLEA published the discussion paper “Trust in Science and Changing Landscapes of Communication” today. The paper examines how the increasing use of social media and other digital transformations affect and challenge trust relations between science, media and society.


In response to these challenges, the paper discusses the development of new tools for fact-checking and quality control of scientific information online. The authors urge political leaders to back and value scientific methods and standards of research integrity, and support digital innovations to overcome threats to public reasoning and scientific discourse.

While the widespread use of social media as a source of information might lead to a ‘context collapse’ of information, reinforce people’s confirmation biases and ultimately push the polarisation of societal groups through so-called ‘echo-chambers’ and ‘filter-bubbles’, the paper warns about a growing corporatisation of communication, a lack of funding for quality science journalism, (geo-) political computational propaganda and disinformation campaigns, as well as an increasingly polarised political climate.

All these trends have substantial consequences for the communication of science and might threaten the core pillars of trust in science as well as media: integrity, transparency, autonomy and accountability. The paper proposes to develop new mechanisms for researchers, journalists and other communicators of research to safeguard and reinforce these pillars and counter a loss of trust and trustworthiness.

Researchers “need to convincingly prove that a free and just society means a society in which all people are equal, but not all expressions are equally true. It is a society in which everyone should have unrestricted access to data and information, but also the opportunity and civic duty to acquire the skills needed to evaluate knowledge claims. This is why it is crucial to reflect on how we can effectively organise and defend a democratic digital society in which trust in expertise is anchored in longstanding and well-established standards – but wrapped in new mechanisms.”

The paper considers that researchers “need to become even more transparent, more ‘observable’, and more public than before”, engage in online debates regarding their field of expertise and “guide non-experts by systematically deconstructing and refuting deceitful stories and outright fabrications”. “Automated tools for fact-checking, flagging, online linking and referencing have to be developed and carefully tested in order to help citizens identify quality information”, the authors argue.

However, as the paper concludes, there are limits to what a good-hearted and motivated scientific community can do to overcome the identified obstacles by merely improving its (digital) communication. Without a supportive political backing that values scientific methods and standards of research integrity, and effectively protects science and society from the threats identified in this paper, “all well-meaning efforts might come to naught and look like bringing origami flowers to a machine-gun fight.”

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Note to Editors

The discussion paper reflects the conclusions of a workshop held by the ALLEA Working Group “Truth, Trust & Expertise” at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and Arts in Amsterdam in August 2018. The expert group, chaired by Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve and Professor Ed Noort, is a transnational platform for perspectives on the nature and relationship between truth, trust and expertise in the field of science and research.

The discussion paper “Trust in Science and Changing Landscapes of Communication” and all preceding issues can be found here.

For press inquiries, interviews with experts or requests of hard copies please contact Susana Irles (

For content related inquiries please contact Daniel Kaiser (


Related Event

ALLEA and Re-Imagine Europa have organised the international forum “Democracy in a Digital Society – Trust, Evidence and Public Discourse in a Changing Media Environment”, taking place on 24 January, at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. On this occasion, Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve and Professor Christiane Woopen will discuss the findings of the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise with a wider audience alongside contributions by EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, Manuel Castells and other prominent speakers from policy, academia and civil society.

For further information on the event and a livestream please click here.

ALLEA publishes second Discussion Paper on Loss of Trust in Science and Expertise

The ALLEA discussion paper “Trust Within Science: Dynamics and Norms of Knowledge Production” is now available. It was drafted by experts from the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise.

The publication reflects on some specific approaches that academic research can adopt towards the common goal of producing reliable, reproducible and trustworthy scientific evidence. It also takes a normative stance by reaffirming the need for more articulated and context-sensitive standards of research integrity, greater and better inter-, multi- and transdisciplinary collaboration, re-adjustments in the evolving system of scientific publishing, and the importance of ethical guidance as a shaping asset for trustworthy research.

The paper thereby seeks to understand and value the different methodological approaches that inform knowledge production. How can different scientific disciplines trust and learn from each other? Are there common research standards that are clearly shared by all disciplines and constitute the ‘backbone’ of scientific practice? How can these standards be effectively communicated to a wider audience? These are the questions addressed in this  issue.

The publication follows the ALLEA discussion paper Loss of Trust? Loss of Trustworthiness? Truth and Expertise Today, which focused on how trust in expertise is placed or refused more generally.


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Conference Proceedings: Science in Times of Challenged Trust and Expertise

The conference proceedings present the topics discussed in the symposium “Science in Times of Challenged Trust and Expertise”, held in the context of ALLEA’s General Assembly at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia on 16 May 2018

The symposium addressed the challenges posed to science in its role as a trusted source of evidence and expertise. Jointly published by ALLEA and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the publication is divided into three sections. Each section starts with a keynote speech, followed by comments from two discussants, and concluded by a plenary discussion. Contributors include fellows of academies, members of the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise, as well as young researchers, covering expertise from a variety of geographical and disciplinary backgrounds.

SAPEA report: Evidence on microplastics does not yet point to widespread risk

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) has published an Evidence Review Report today with the aim of informing the forthcoming Scientific Opinion from the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors on the issue of microplastics.

According to the report, the best available evidence suggests that microplastics and nanoplastics do not pose a widespread risk to humans or the environment, except in small pockets. But that evidence is limited, and the situation could change if pollution continues at the current rate.

The SAPEA report’s authors draw on a comprehensive examination of the best available evidence from the natural sciences and computer modelling, as well as social, political and behavioural sciences. They highlight that microplastics – tiny particles under 5mm in length – are already present across air, soil and sediment, freshwaters, seas and oceans, plants and animals, and in several components of the human diet. These particles come from a variety of sources, including plastic products, textiles, fisheries, agriculture, industry and general waste.

While high concentrations of these particles have been shown to cause physical harm to the environment and living creatures in controlled experiments, the authors point out that concentration levels measured in the real world are well below this threshold – though there are also limitations in the measurement methods currently available.

You can access the full SAPEA report here.



SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) is an integral part of the European Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM), which provides independent, interdisciplinary, and evidence-based scientific advice on policy issues to the European Commission. SAPEA brings together outstanding knowledge and expertise from over 100 academies, young academies, and learned societies in over 40 countries across Europe. Funded through the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, the SAPEA consortium comprises Academia Europaea (AE), All European Academies (ALLEA), the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC), the European Council of Academies of Applied Sciences, Technologies and Engineering (Euro-CASE), and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM).

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100th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

This past 27th of November marked the 100th Anniversary of the National Academy of Science (NAS) of Ukraine. A jubilee to celebrate the occasion was held on 6-7 December in Kiev. ALLEA was represented by its Vice President, Professor Graham Caie (Royal Society of Edinburgh).

The jubilee session for the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, which took place at the Taras Shevchenko National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Kiev, had the presence of renown scholars and academicians from Europe and beyond. ©NAS of UKraine

The celebratory activities included an exhibition of the scientific and technical achievements of the various institutions within the NAS of Ukraine, as well as visits to a few landmarks of Kiev, such as the National Conservation Area “Sophia of Kyiv” and the National Kyiv-Pechersk Historical Cultural Preserve.


Professor Graham Caie delivers a speech in honour of the 100th Anniversary of the National Academy Sciences of Ukraine. ©NAS of Ukraine

A jubilee session and a festive concert at the Taras Shevchenko National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine were held on 7 December, with the presence of Boris E. Paton, President of the NAS of Ukraine and Chairman of the National Committee for Systems Analysis, and Anatoly G Zagorodny, Vice President of the NAS of Ukraine. ALLEA was represented by its Vice President, Professor Graham Caie, who also delivered a congratulatory speech on this occasion.



About the NAS of Ukraine

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of Ukraine was founded on 27 November 1918 in Kiev. It was the oldest republican academy in the former Soviet Union. It started with the three research departments: History and Philology, Physics and Mathematics, and Social Studies; at that time, the Academy incorporated 3 institutes, 15 commissions, and national library.

Today, the NAS of Ukraine is the highest scientific research oriented and self-governing organisation of Ukraine, being attributed over 90% of all discoveries made and registered in the country. The NAS of Ukraine is doing studies in all fields of scholarly research. It has 3 sections, 14 departments, nearly 170 institutes and research centres, and employing about 16,000 researchers.

The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine has been a full ALLEA Member Academy since 1996.

Systemic reforms and further consultation needed to make Plan S a success

  • ALLEA welcomes the ambition of the coalition of European research funders to move the scientific publishing system towards open access; however, broader consultation with all parties is required during the implementation phase.
  • Concurrent reforms of the systems for research evaluation and career progression are needed to minimise unintended consequences of Plan S for early career researchers and specialised disciplines.

ALLEA published an initial response to Plan S, an initiative for open access publishing supported by a consortium of research funders*. The ALLEA statement welcomes the ambition of the proposal and identifies a number of challenges to be considered by funding agencies in order to prevent perverse incentives and unintended consequences in the scientific publishing sector and the research evaluation system when moving towards open access.

 “ALLEA supports open access as a major step towards realising the universality of science and welcomes the ambition of Plan S in this regard. Implementation will however require extensive consultation and dialogue with all parties, in particular the research performing communities represented through ALLEA and other scientific stakeholders”, the statement reads.

The response provides comments and recommendations regarding various implications of Plan S concerning ethics and trust in science, the research evaluation system, the protection of intellectual property rights as well as economic considerations.

“ALLEA supports open access as a major step towards realising the universality of science and welcomes the ambition of Plan S in this regard. Implementation will however require extensive consultation and dialogue with all parties, in particular the research performing communities represented through ALLEA and other scientific stakeholders”

It furthermore notes the legitimate concerns of some researchers, especially those at the early stage of their careers, that their ability to win research grants and promotions may be adversely affected if they do not have publications in what are perceived at the moment to be high status journals. Research assessment without consideration of journal reputation or impact factors, as advocated in Plan S, is thus crucial.

“It is essential that whatever model or models finally gain acceptance ensure the highest quality standards, incentivise and reward ethical behaviour, are economically viable, and support the integrity and trustworthiness of scholarly communication across the full range of academic disciplines”, the European federation of academies underlines.

The response highlights that further clarification is needed regarding the protection of intellectual property rights of authors and the type of open licence to be used. “Any prescription should ensure an appropriate degree of choice for researchers and allow for exceptional cases”, it states.

“It is essential that whatever model or models finally gain acceptance ensure the highest quality standards, incentivise and reward ethical behaviour, are economically viable, and support the integrity and trustworthiness of scholarly communication across the full range of academic disciplines”

ALLEA stresses the need for coordination within the global scientific system. “In the context of big science a further complication is that many consortia are global in scope with authors in multiple jurisdictions using different funding models, so some global coordination of the transition to full open access is needed”, the statement reads.

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*Plan S requires that from 2020, scientific publications resulting from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant open access journals or platforms. Learn more:

ALLEA paper on the impact of SSH presented at EU Council Presidency Conference

Seeking to shape the next EU science and innovation programme Horizon Europe, ALLEA presented a paper at last week’s Austrian EU Council Presidency conference in Vienna. The document underlines the need for understanding innovation as a factor to transform society, presents new approaches to integrate the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and calls for a conceptualisation of impact that takes wider social, cultural and political developments into account.

On 29 November, Professor Kerstin Sahlin, member of the ALLEA Working Group Horizon Europe, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, presented an ALLEA paper at the “Austrian EU Council Presidency Conference on Impact of Social Sciences and Humanities for a European Research Agenda”.

Prof Kerstin Sahlin presents the ALLEA paper at the EU Council Presidency conference in Vienna on 29 November.


The paper, entitled “The Importance of SSH Research in Horizon Europe” and composed by Working Group Chair John Bell (British Academy), is based on the discussions that have been taking place over the past months within the Working Group.  The full paper will be published as part of the conference proceedings in the Journal for Research and Technology Policy Evaluation (Fteval).

The paper warns of the dangers of emphasising the economic impact of research alone.  According to the document, such an approach could foster “a technocratic paradigm in which the translation of fundamental research into innovative ‘products’ is seen as the benchmark of success”.

“In the past, the Commission has understood the relationship between research and innovation too much in terms of an overly simplistic, linear process in which research is expected to lead to ever higher Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). The dominance of this paradigm belittles the contribution of Humanities and the Social Sciences”, the paper reads.

Challenging norms and traditions to foster social innovation

Humanities and Social Sciences can offer new approaches towards social problems that follow non-experimental methods and use imagination and modelling to think through “what if?” scenarios, as well as challenge norms and traditions to foster social innovation. Social Sciences and Humanities also help to consider non-material features of the human existence.

“The quality of life depends not on having new gadgets or new products, but on being able to live a life which has value that may make use of what technology has to offer in a valuable way. Vision, beauty, style, and enjoyment are integral to a valuable human life”, the working group argues.

More inter- and transdisciplinarity

All this can only be achieved in a joint endeavour, especially by intensified inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation across Europe and beyond. The challenges ahead call for a profound and inclusive dialogue between all actors in society.

In this sense, the ALLEA Working Group Horizon Europe argues for more interdisciplinarity and a bigger and well-defined role of the SSH in design and evaluation of the research which is funded through Horizon Europe. “Otherwise the societal challenge to build inclusive, innovative and reflective societies runs the danger of being marginalised by other, more tangible material and technological challenges.”

Nominations for 2020 Breakthrough Prize are now open

The Breakthrough Prize, in partnership with ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, announces the opening of public nominations for the 2020 Breakthrough Prizes in the fields of Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences and Mathematics. The partnership, now in its third year, encourages European nominations for world’s largest science prize.

For the third year, the Breakthrough Prize and the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) announce the opening of the public nominations window for the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in in the areas of Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences and Mathematics. Each prize comes with a $3 million award. Prizes will be awarded in late 2019, during a live, globally televised gala award ceremony in Silicon Valley. 

Nominations can be submitted online starting today until 1 April 2019. While self-nominations are prohibited, anyone may make a nomination for another person. The nomination form and rules are available at

This is the eighth year of the Breakthrough Prize, known as ‘The Oscars of Science’ as it is regarded the world’s largest science prize, honouring top scientists from across the globe by awarding up to four prizes in the Life Sciences, one in Fundamental Physics and one in Mathematics. In addition, up to six New Horizons Prizes, each consisting of a prize of $100,000, will be handed to promising early-career researchers in the fields of Fundamental Physics and Mathematics.

The Breakthrough Prize welcomes nominations on behalf of outstanding scientists throughout the world. For the third year, ALLEA’s online platforms, as well as other communication channels, will increase awareness of the opportunity to nominate great scientists and mathematicians for this honour. ALLEA brings together 58 academies in more than 40 countries, with members leading scholarly enquiry across all fields of the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

All researchers in Europe are encouraged to visit the site and make a nomination on behalf of outstanding scientists and colleagues.


About the Breakthrough Prize

The Breakthrough Prize was founded by Sergey Brin, Pony Ma, Yuri and Julia Milner, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Anne Wojcicki to celebrate achievements in Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences and Mathematics. The awards are presented at an annual globally televised ceremony, followed by a day of lectures and discussions co-sponsored by Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and University of California, San Francisco. In addition to the Breakthrough Prize, awards for junior researchers in mathematics and physics are also handed out yearly.

To learn more visit,


Contact information

For The Breakthrough Prize
Janet Wootten / +1 212-843-8024

Susana Irles / +49 (0) 30 325 98 73 72

ALLEA publishes Italian, Portuguese, Slovak and Slovenian translations of the European Code of Conduct

A new set of translations of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity has been published on November  2018 with the support of the European Commission’s Translation Services and ALLEA Member Academies.

ALLEA has just released four new translations of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. The newly available translations are in Italian, Portuguese, Slovak and Slovenian. In the upcoming months, ALLEA will continue to publish translations of the European Code of Conduct in all official languages of the Council of Europe area, as well as selected languages from around the globe.

You can access all available translations of the Code of Conduct here.

Implementing the Code

The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity serves the European research community as a framework for self-regulation across all scientific and scholarly disciplines and for all research settings.

The 2017 revised edition of the Code addresses emerging challenges emanating from technological developments, open science, citizen science and social media, among other areas. The European Commission recognises the Code as the reference document for research integrity for all EU-funded research projects and as a model for organisations and researchers across Europe.

The revised Code was published originally in English on 24 March 2017. Since its publication in English, the Code has been used by multiple research institutions and universities across Europe, and presented in various conferences on research integrity and research ethics.

A Nordic perspective on Europe

How have Nordic values contributed to our idea of Europe? On 14 November 2018, the Council of Finnish Academies invited speakers from Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Great Britain to take a Nordic perspective on questions of identity, nationalism, migration and populism in Europe. The symposium was held in Helsinki at the House of the Estates and forms part of the ALLEA series “Europeon Test – Narratives of Union and Disunion”, with conferences in various European countries.

ALLEA Vice President Krista Varantola welcomes the audience of the “Europe on Test” symposium at the House of the Estates in Helsinki.


In the opening addresses, Professor Jan Sundberg and Professor Krista Varantola, former chancellor of the Council of Finnish Academies and ALLEA Vice President, stressed the need for reflections on European identities in times of multiple crises and growing populist right wing movements in Europe and beyond.

Nordic exceptionalism

In the first session, historical trajectories of the Nordic countries in relation to Europe were examined by Juhana Aunesluoma, Bo Stråth and Mary Hilson. They pointed out that Nordic countries are quite diverse and each one has a distinct history of relations with Europe. Whereas only Finland is in the Eurozone, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have their own currency. In parallel, Finland, Denmark and Sweden are part of the European Union, while Norway and Iceland are not. Some are constitutional monarchies, others republics and three out of five are in the NATO. ALLEA Vice President Krista Varantola illustrated this diversity in Northern Europe by describing Nordic countries as “a typical family that disagrees in words but nevertheless sticks together when they feel their values or actions are questioned or threatened from the other side”.  

Nordic countries are “a typical family that disagrees in words but nevertheless sticks together when they feeltheir values or actions are questioned or threatened from the other side”. – ALLEA Vice President Krista Varantola

Professor Mary Hilson from Aarhus University in Denmark argued that the narrative of a Nordic exceptionalism had a bidirectional effect in all countries. Like in other processes of (European) identity formation, “Nordic Europe” was considered a first step towards an integrated Europe. This narrative at the same time created new boundaries between Nordics and the rest of Europe. Nordic peculiarities such as a high level of public trust and openness towards other cultures further contributed to their integration in Europe.

Populism and migration

The discourse behind European integration is however being challenged or reshaped by the recent global economic crisis, conflicts over migration and mobility, as well as by the spread of populist movements in Europe. In the second and third panel discussions, these changing narratives were analysed. One of the statements was that migration is being blamed for problems that have other roots in the economic and social systems our societies are depending on. Populism and new nationalisms are built on the premise that such systems could be managed by isolated countries themselves. Speakers warned about this increasingly powerful but naïve narrative and called for a deconstruction of such arguments.

Reinventing narratives of Europe

In the concluding reflections, speakers agreed that new narratives are necessary to reinvent the idea of Europe in order to counteract these growing nationalist tendencies. Such voices threaten the achievements of European integration and therefore peace and stability. Nordic European values such as openness and institutional trustworthiness should be emphasised in such narratives. The Nordic welfare state, consensual politics and industrial relations, and a security community in international affairs could help to shape future narratives.

Inspired by a British Academy conference on “European Union and Disunion” in late 2016, the ALLEA series “Europe on Test: Narratives of Union and Disunion” has recently taken up the debate at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities with the conference “Germany and Europe – Views from within and without” on 20 October 2018.

The initiative seeks to address recent political developments and other aspects of relevance that may pose a challenge for the future of Europe as a community. The debate will continue at upcoming conferences in Torino at the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino on 11 and 12 April 2019, and in Warsaw at the Polish Academy of Sciences on 11 October 2019.

Watch the conference