How to Understand Trust in Expertise during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic was a real-time test for the role of experts in governance. Excellent, timely and independent science advice was at the core of government actions designed to tackle this health emergency. Policymakers and experts worked together to make use of the best evidence and knowledge available. All this required communicating scientific knowledge and uncertainty under extraordinary circumstances.

In this context, understanding trust in expertise became essential. PERITIA investigated the conditions under which people trust experts and their expertise used for policymaking. Its team members and partners collaborated to help the public and policymakers with their knowledge and research.

Below is the work that arose from this collaboration.

Lessons From the UK’s Lockdown: Discourse on Behavioural Science in Times of COVID-19

PERITIA’s Liam Delaney and UK colleagues published a research article on public & media representations of the role of behavioural science in the UK’s early policy responses to Covid.

Valorised or Vilified – Has the Pandemic increased Trust in Science?

An article on Research Europe featuring PERITIA Work Package Leaders Tracey Brown and Gloria Origgi discusses the question whether the pandemic will make researchers more trusted by the public.

The undesirable effects of monetary incentives for vaccination

Piero Ronzani and Matteo Motterlini discuss the limitations of paying people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. (In Italian.)

An immunization campaign against fake news about anti-COVID vaccines

Folco Panizza and Matteo Motterlini present the state of the art in research combating misinformation on social media, and propose some quick and easily applicable solutions. (In Italian.)

Ethical assessment of vaccine approval procedures in the EU

PERITIA Advisory Board Member and Chair of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies Christiane Woopen discusses the different approaches for vaccine approval in the EU and the UK in a Tagesthemen interview, highlighting the crucial role of trust in such procedures for successfully fighting the pandemic. (In German.)

Watch the video here.

Recreating a climate of trust in experts is essential for beating Covid-19

An op-ed by PERITIA colleagues Maria Baghramian and Shane Bergin published in the Irish Times on how to tackle current and future societal challenges like COVID-19 through the reassessment of the role of expertise and joint efforts to “recreate a climate of trust in expertise”.

Read the full article here.

PERITIA Webinar ‘Who to trust on Covid-19?’ at Berlin Science Week

Five of PERITIA’s principal investigators discuss questions on trust in science and expertise in the PERITIA webinar “Who to trust on Covid-19?” In a lively and interactive discussion moderated by our colleague Shane Bergin, Maria Baghramian, Tracey Brown, José van Dijck, Bobby Duffy and Carlo Martini shed light on the different strategies used to address the Covid-19 pandemic across Europe, their impact on trust in expertise, and the general role of science in society. They also address the problems researchers face when a high demand for reliable scientific evidence and a high level of uncertainty co-exist.

Watch the full video recording here.

Expertise and Democracy

How does the current crisis shed light on questions regarding the relationship between science, policy and democracy? Watch Cathrine Holst‘s 2020 CPS Annual Lecture “Expertise and democracy: what can we learn from the corona virus crisis?”.

Understanding Covid-19 in Poland and beyond

Our project partner, the Polish Academy of Sciences, published the study “Understanding COVID-19. Report of the COVID-19 Advisory Team to the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences”. The report presents the current state of knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 virus, COVID-19 disease and its medical, psychological, economic and social impacts.

Coronavirus: The Return to School

Bobby Duffy speaks to BBC Radio 4’s The Briefing Room on how we should balance the risks when reopening schools.

Listen here.

Science Advice: What Works in a Crisis?

2020’s Covid-19 outbreak has shone the spotlight on science advice like never before. PERITIA’s Christiane Woopen and other high-ranking European science advisors participated in a virtual SAPEA roundtable to reflect on how well Europe’s science advice frameworks are standing up to this major stress test.

Watch the video recording.

This webinar was part of the INGSA Global Week of Dialogue. Click here to view the full programme.

Coronavirus Uncertainties: Vaccines, Symptoms and Contested Claims

Who’s most likely to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine? One in six say they’re unlikely to or definitely won’t get one. This study from Bobby Duffy‘s Policy Institute at King’s College London analyses the attitude towards a potential vaccine and people’s claims why they would or would not refuse it. The Observer reported on the study.

Connected against Covid-19 – How networks spread and combat pandemics

Networks play a crucial role during the Corona health crisis. This webinar (in Dutch with automatically generated English subtitles) organised by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences brought together four experts, including PERITIA’s José van Dijck, to shed light on the relevance of networks in combating the epidemic.

In this interview, conducted (in English) after the webinar, she talks about the complex relationship between technology, user and ideas.

Coronavirus Fallout: Blame, Trust and the Future of the UK

A new UK study by our Work Package Leader Bobby Duffy from King’s College London and Ipsos MORI finds that more people think the Covid-19 crisis has been handled badly than well in the UK, with political leaders receiving most of the blame.

What drives public trust in science-based policies? Ask PERITIA!

We live in times of complexity, when the opinion of uninformed sources on social media platforms seems to have a stronger influence than expert voices. This is already worrying in periods of stability – during crises like a global pandemic, knowing whom to trust can become a matter of life and death.

This article and three accompanying interviews on the European Science-Media Hub present the work of PERITIA. Our investigators Maria Baghramian, José van Dijck and Bobby Duffy highlight why we need trust in trustworthy expertise, the impact of digital media, how our views of the world are tied up in our own identities, and how a detailed study of trust can be transformed into trust-building processes and actions inspiring change that lead to more social cohesion and more robust democracies.

Trusting Politicians, Trusting Experts

There is a high level of trust in scientists and a low level of trust in politicians. Onora O’Neill reflects on how scientists and politicians working together in addressing the pandemic has an impact on levels of trust in them.

Contact Tracing Apps – A Promising Tool in the Fight Against COVID-19?

Contact tracing apps have raised many questions in the context of COVID-19, including technical aspects, ethical concerns, data protection, security, and overall effectiveness. This virtual panel discussion compares different international approaches and experiences from a scientific perspective. It was hosted by ALLEA‘s German Member Academy Leopoldina and includes PERITIA’s Advisory Board member Judith Simon.

Young Philosopher Awards on Covid 19

Our PERITIA colleague Danielle Petherbridge from the UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life (CEPL) presented the winning entries for the 2020 Irish Young Philosopher Awards. The awards, now in their third year, took place online due to the pandemic, and focussed specifically on moral themes relating to COVID-19. You can find out more about the Awards in this article in The Irish Times and see some of the projects here.

Baking, gardening, crochet … how the lucky ones lived under lockdown

Bobby Duffy is quoted in this Observer article on how people have been living under lockdown: “Human beings are social animals and so we’re trying to substitute face-to-face contact in different ways. The pandemic coming now, in this era where we have social media and video conferencing, has helped – but it is not the same as face-to-face contact. The crisis is making that clear.”

Has Covid-19 Reset the Immigration Debate?

There has been much appreciation of the role played in the COVID-19 crisis by lower-paid frontline workers, including migrant workers – but has this led to a shift in views on immigration? Bobby Duffy (PERITIA, KCL Policy Institute), Sonia Sodha (The Guardian/Observer) and Sunder Katwala (British Future) discuss the latest findings, longer-term trends, and what they mean for the future of the immigration system.

Freedom, Digital Sovereignty, and the Corona Warning App

Judith Simon from the PERITIA Advisory Board was interviewed (in German) by the University of Hamburg podcast “Wie wollen wir leben?” She talks about freedom, digital sovereignty and a COVID warning app.

Trust, Political Identities and COVID-19

How has trust in government changed over the Covid-19 crisis? Are people trusting, dissenting, or just frustrated? Listen to PERITIA’s Bobby Duffy talking with journalists Philip B. Berman and Rafael Behr about trust, political identities, and risk perception on the Politics on the Couch podcast.

Trust in the Time of Coronavirus

This Research Professional News article features PERITIA project leader and coordinator Maria Baghramian. It discusses whether researchers could face a crisis of faith in their expertise after the pandemic recedes, arguing that “declaring a ‘win’ for science may prove premature. If Covid-19 estimates and projections are found to be inaccurate in several months’ time, this could raise questions about the necessity of draconian lockdown measures and trigger a crisis of faith in the researchers seen to be behind them.”

UCD COVID-19 Response

Our colleagues from University College Dublin provide a growing archive of papers, journal articles, preprints and other online material from UCD academics related to Covid-19/ SARS-Cov-2. Includes several publications from PERITIA team members.

Keeping COVID-19 at bay in Poland

Should we be wearing masks? Is it possible to catch the virus from a dog? What’s the purpose of a quarantine, since we can test for the virus? When will the epidemic end? What awaits us after the pandemic? As one of PERITIA’s consortium partners, the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) has collected answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the Coronavirus and the Covid-19 disease. They update the FAQ page whenever new scientific information emerges.

Science and Politics – How Expert Advice Shapes Decisions in Government

On 16 June, Tracey Brown from Sense about Science joined an online panel at the Institute for Government to discuss the UK government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The government has repeatedly said that it will be led by the science. But who decides the agreed scientific view and what happens when it changes? Should politicians, or their advisers, be a part of this process? How does expert scientific advice shape political decision making? And what happens when government ministers decide to ignore, or over-rule, the scientific advice?

Coronavirus – Growing Divisions over the UK Government’s Response

Bobby Duffy and his colleagues from the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI published a major survey showing that trust and confidence in the UK government’s response to coronavirus declined significantly over the past six weeks. Two articles in The Times and on Inews discuss the implications of its results for a gradual return to normality in the UK.

Balancing Individual Freedom and Collective Health

Together with Christiane Woopen, medical ethicist, Executive Director of CERES at the University of Cologne, and member of the PERITIA Advisory Board, the Strategy & Insider Podcast discusses the implications of COVID-19 for basic human rights and that health is only one of our fundamental goods, whereas freedom is the highest good from an ethical perspective.

Covid-19 delivers valuable lessons on how science operates

Our PERITIA colleague Shane Bergin from University College Dublin published an opinion piece in The Irish Times. Scientists have been central to Ireland’s Covid-19 response. As we move from the initial reaction, to a potentially bumpy phase of lifting and applying restrictions, he argues that sustaining public trust in science and scientists will require us talking about how science is done, as well as the outcomes of its work.

Do we really want things to go back to normal post-Covid-19?

Philosopher and chair of the PERITIA Advisory Board Onora O’Neill shares her thoughts on the time after Corona in an Op-ed on The Irish Times.

Is the mood tilting?

Christiane Woopen discusses the gradual easing of lockdown measures and its perception in Germany on Deutschlandfunk Kultur.

Behavioural Science in the Context of Great Uncertainty

Liam Delaney (PERITIA, UCD Geary, LSE), Nick Chater, Paul Dolan, Ulrike Hahn, and Grace Lordan joined an online panel at the London School of Economics and Political Science on 13 May that is now available as a podcast. The impacts of COVID-19 and how we deal with them hinge on how politicians, firms and the public respond. What lessons can we learn from behavioural science about how we act in a time of crisis characterised by great uncertainty? What lessons can behavioural science learn about how it can be best placed to provide guidance in an uncertain world?

Using social and behavioural science to support COVID-19 pandemic response

41 authors published an article in Nature on how social and behavioural science contribute to tackling Covid-19.

Does the COVID-19 crisis show people are inherently selfish?

In this video, Silvia Panizza offers three considerations for thinking that human nature is not only motivated by self-interest. The video is part of Ask CEPL, a series of videos on the COVID-19 pandemic that answers your questions.

Ireland’s COVID-19 Crisis Response

Our colleagues Maria Baghramian, Liam Delaney, and David Farrel examined Ireland’s Covid-19 crisis response in two online conferences on 24 April and 1 May. The conferences are part of a series of Covid-19 crisis policy response events hosted by, an independent online platform for informing and debating public policy in Ireland.

Three Ways People Are Reacting To Coronavirus: ‘Accepting’, ‘Suffering’ And ‘Resisting’

In this article published on The Conversation, Bobby Duffy (PERITIA) and Daniel Allington from King’s College London analyse the reaction to the coronavirus lockdown in the UK and identify three main clusters within the population regarding their underlying attitudes towards the measures.

Human Dignity and Proportionality of Measures against COVID-19

PERITIA Advisory Board Member Judith Simon has been interviewed for an article in the Austrian newspaper Kurier. She discusses a statement from Wolfgang Schäuble, President of the German Parliament (Bundestag), from an ethical point of view. He has recently stated that not all measures could be justified by the protection of lifes against Covid-19 and that the fundamental right to human dignity not necessarily protects people from having to die.

The Role of Experts in Policy at the Time of COVID-19

In this video recording, PERITIA’s principal investigator Maria Baghramian provided some reflections on the role of experts at the time of COVID19 in an online policy session organised by UCD‘s Geary Institute.

Say Goodbye to the Information Age – It’s all about Reputation now

In light of the overwhelming amount of expertise and advice in the Covid-19 crisis and the apparent challenge to assess this information, PERITIA investigator and Work Package Leader Gloria Origgi reflects on what she names the “reputation age”, in which we should rank the quality of information not by its content but by the agenda of its source.

Daily Emotional Well-being During the COVID-19 Pandemic

PERITIA investigator Liam Delaney (Work Package Experimental Measures of Trust/Distrust), jointly with Leonhard K. Lades, Kate Laffan, and Michael Daly, has published a study on the activities, interactions and settings of the lives of Irish people during the Covid-19 outbreak. These were assessed in Ireland on the 25th March, 2020, following the closure of schools and non-essential businesses. The findings highlight key activities that may play a protective role in relation to well-being during the pandemic, the importance of setting personal limits for exposure to Covid-19 related media coverage, and the need for greater educational supports to facilitate home schooling during this extremely challenging period.

3 Bad Reasons to Defy Restrictions During the COVID-19 Crisis

Why should I do what I am told to do by the government and the medical authorities? Rowland Stout, PERITIA’s team member and leader of the Ethics of Trust Work Package, addresses this non trivial question.

Broad Expertise is Necessary for Sustainable Corona Measures

Opinion piece by José van Dijck, leader of the PERITIA Work Package Trust in a Changing Media Landscape, published in the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad.

A Good Corona App Needs Public Control

PERITIA’s José van Dijck and Albert Meijer from Utrecht University discuss the conditions that should apply when using a Tracing-App to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Opinion article published in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.

“We Must Show Solidarity”

Our colleague Judith Simon, Professor at University of Hamburg and member of the PERITIA Advisory Board, offers some advice on ethical questions concerning Covid-19 in an interview with the German local newspaper Oberhessische Zeitung.

Under Lockdown in Piedmont

Silvia Panizza from CEPL reflects on how the increasingly severe restrictions in Italy have pushed to the forefront questions about humans’ animal nature, the links we form between each other, and the links we have to other animals.

No Signs of Lock-down Fatigue in Ireland… yet

Opinion piece published in the Irish Times and co-authored by PERITIA’s team member and Professor of Economics at UCD Liam Delaney (Work Package Experimental Measures of Trust/Distrust) with Pete Lunn.

Behavioural Science academic resources related to Coronavirus

Useful resources on Covid-19 and Behavioural Science compiled by PERITIA team member Liam Delaney (UCD/Work Package Experimental Measures of Trust/Distrust).

Philosopher in Italian coronavirus lockdown on how to think positively about isolation

PERITIA team member Silvia Panizza (UCD) casts a philosophical eye on the current COVID-19 crisis.

“When Resources are Scarce, Existential Questions Arise”

Christiane Woopen, PERITIA Advisory Board Member, was interviewed by magazine Der Spiegel about crucial ethical questions that doctors are facing to address the Covid-19 emergency.

Sense about Science Resources

PERITIA’s partner Sense about Science provides key insights and advice on how to engage with uncertainty and conspiracy theories.

European Academies Support Fight Against COVID-19

PERITIA’s partner ALLEA offers useful research funding and information resources from European Academies and other key stakeholders to help tackle Covid-19 crisis.

Science Fighting Coronavirus – Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA)

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) has compiled a series of key resources on science advice and Covid-19, as well as a communications guide for disseminating research in these uncertain times.

Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic from UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life

University College Dublin’s Centre for Ethics in Public Life (CEPL) has published their members’ contributions to the public discussion around the Covid-19 health emergency. They are also accepting ethical questions concerning the current situation from the general public.