A wall on an outside building covered with graffiti that is nondescript, except for the word "Trust." FreeImages.com/Berkeley Robinson

Call for Papers: Investigating Public Trust in Expert Knowledge

“Trust” image courtesy of FreeImages.com/Berkeley Robinson

Call for Papers2017 Special Issue

Investigating Public Trust in Expert Knowledge: Ethics, Narrative, and Engagement

We invite the submission of papers for a forthcoming (2017) special issue in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry on “Investigating Public Trust in Expert Knowledge: Ethics, Narrative, and Engagement.”

Guest Editors
  • Silvia Camporesi (King’s College London)
  • Mark Davis (Monash University)
  • Maria Vaccarella (University of Bristol)

Please contact Dr. Silvia Camporesi at silvia.1.camporesi@kcl.ac.uk for more information.


Trust pervades personal, social, and political life. Basic trust is seen as the foundation of self, trust figures in the everyday reciprocity of social relations, and governmentality is imbued with questions of trust and distrust. Trust in expert knowledge (i.e., willingness to believe, endorse, and enact expert advice) has emerged as a problem for governments seeking to engage and influence “publics” on matters as wide-ranging as public policy on the environment and economic development, biopolitics, and well-being over the life course. For example, the knowledge systems that support climate change policy have been criticized and even refuted, leading to public policy challenges for action on climate. The uptake of vaccines in populations appears to be eroding and scientific/ethical controversies have marked the field. Emerging “superbugs” require that publics engage with the idea that antimicrobials are no longer available to the extent they once were. Biotechnological interventions in reproductive life and health are subject to changed expectations for expert and consumer rights and responsibilities. The recent explosion of the CRISPR genome editing debate has brought with it socio-technical expectations (e.g., CRISPR technologies as a panacea for a world rid of diseases from birth, and some say even of ageing), together with fears of eugenics and a return to the discourse of designer babies, which now seems a possibility. Public life is marked also by the questions of trust, knowledge, and ethics implicated in end-of-life decision-making, related controversy over physician-assisted suicide, and other questions of life’s limits. Against this backdrop of troubled trust, expert knowledge, and changing bio/thanopolitics, how can governments engage publics? How do public communications take effect? How do experts and publics narrate trust? What are the ethical ramifications of efforts to garner, sustain, or regain public trust? As some have argued, are we already post-trust and therefore in alternative modes of public engagement with the idea of collective life?

This special issue will be the first of its kind to examine the ethics of public trust in expert knowledge systems in emergent and complex global societies. Through an interdisciplinary approach, it will draw from contributions in bioethics, the social sciences, and the medical humanities.


Contributions are solicited from the above disciplines that look at the role of narratives in the construction and deconstruction of public trust in expert knowledge and at ethical or unethical ways of engaging with the public on a variety of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Sustainability and Climate Change
  • Public Policy and Economic Development
  • Vaccination and Other Biotechnologies
  • Emerging Infectious Diseases, including Superbugs
  • Reproductive Health
  • Provider–Consumer Relations in Healthcare and Beyond
  • Genetics, including Genome Editing Technologies (e.g., CRISPR/Cas9)
  • Race
  • End-of-Life Decision-Making

We seek contributions that apply narrative approaches to bioethics, sociology, and the medical humanities. The special issue will consist of 810 contributions (with a recommended length of 7,000-7,500 words each) that employ a variety of methodological approaches.

Additional information for authors:

Abstract Submission and Timeline
  • January 25, 2016 Submission of an extended abstract of 750 words to Dr. Silvia Camporesi. Please clearly state in your abstract the methodology you are employing in your paper and how your contribution addresses the topic of the special issue: ‘‘Investigating Public Trust in Expert Knowledge: Ethics, Narrative, and Engagement.”
  • February 15, 2016 Authors will be notified of the decision on their abstract.
  • May 1, 2016 Full papers are expected.
  • August 1, 2016 Reviewed papers will be returned to authors.
  • October 1, 2016 Revised papers are expected.
  • June 2017 Printed version of the special issue is expected to appear. (Papers will appear electronically as “Online First” in early 2017.)