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ALLEA Awarded H2020 Project on Public Trust in Expertise

PEriTiA (Policy, Expertise and Trust in Action) will explore the conditions under which people trust science and expertise used by governments and other societal decision-makers to inform their policies.

The multi-disciplinary Horizon 2020-funded project will be coordinated by University College Dublin (UCD) and co-led by ALLEA. It is a follow up of the ALLEA Truth, Trust and Expertise Working Group and the UCD project When Experts Disagree (WEXD).

Its main goal is to test how emotions and values influence the process of placing or refusing trust in expertise that shapes public policies. In a coordinated action of various qualitative and quantitative investigations, it will assess its conceptual and empirical framework with the exemplary case of climate science. Its final aim is to help building trustworthy and trust-enhancing narratives about the role of science in governance.

The initiative is funded by the EU research and innovation programme H2020 with €3 million for 3 years, starting in February 2020.

Policy, Expertise and Trust

Public trust in expertise plays a central role in democracy, but the rise of anti-elitist narratives and populist politics, among other factors, have put the credibility of experts into question.

In its discussion paper series, ALLEA examines different aspects of this topic including the alleged loss of trust in science and expertise, the role of the changing landscape of communication, and trust within science itself. PEriTiA will take a further step and explore some unanswered questions derived from this work.

“Given the central role assigned to expert bodies and organisations in social and political governance, (justified) trust in the information provided by scientific bodies and advisory organisations, by both the general public and policy makers, is a fundamental condition of good governance,” said Project Coordinator Maria Baghramian on UCD’s website, who has been an active part of the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise and member of the Royal Irish Academy.

“Our aim, in this project, is to better understand the nature and conditions of trust in the public domain and to discover indicators which can be used in measuring and establishing the trustworthiness of those involved in social and political decision making,” she added.

Engaging the public in a cross-cutting collaboration

PEriTiA will bring together philosophers, social and natural scientists, policy experts, ethicists, psychologists, media specialists and civil society organisations to carry on a comprehensive multi-disciplinary research.

The collaboration will use innovative formats to conduct and disseminate its research including podcasts, citizens’ and experts’ fora across Europe and an essay competition addressed to young students.

In addition to ALLEA and UCD, the consortium consists of various partners from across Europe including University of Oslo (Norway), Institut Jean Nicod (France), Vita-Salute San Raffaele University (Italy), American University of Armenia (Armenia), Sense About Science (UK), King’s College London (UK), Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), Utrecht University (The Netherlands) and Strane Innovation (France).

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 (irles@allea.org).

For content related inquiries please contact Daniel Kaiser (kaiser@allea.org).

 

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.