Trust in Science and Scholarship – A Global Societal Challenge

11th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities

10 – 11 December 2017, Berlin


Across the globe, a decline of trust by the wider population in societal elites has been palpable. While scientists and scholars still tend to enjoy higher levels of societal trust than, for example, politicians or journalists, science and scholarship are to a large extent elite affairs: a small group of (often privileged) people working on matters which are largely incomprehensible to the average citizen, yet require substantial resources and in some cases have the potential to change the lives of millions of people – with or without their consent. It is obvious that in a setting like this, trust is of vital importance. However, while the decrease of trust in elites has dominated discussions in the political realm for some time, the academic world is only beginning to come to terms with this global societal challenge. Evidence-based argumentation is at the core of science and research. But with trust in elites on the decline, unsubstantiated assertions by non-experts can gain more traction in public discourse – and by extension, public policy – than scholarly insights based on evidence. This development does not just raise questions with regard to the future of public funding for science and research, it threatens one of its core missions: to achieve progress through knowledge. In times like these, individual scholars and the international academic community as a whole have to confront the question of their individual and shared responsibility to society more urgently than ever. The 11th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities aimed to move the discussion forward by focusing on three aspects: the relationship between the communication of research results and public trust; ways of engaging trust in science and research through active involvement by scholars; and the role of funding organizations in the endeavor to increase trust in science and scholarship.

11th Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities, Berlin (Photos: Humboldt Foundation/David Ausserhofer)

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Forum on the Internationalization of Sciences and Humanities

International Advisory Board


Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Jean-Paul-Str. 12
53173 Bonn

Phone: +49 (228) 833 245

Dr. Martin Schaffartzik
Program Director
Strategic Planning Division

Dr. Barbara Sheldon
Head of
Strategic Planning Division