Is the world tired of experts? Research charity Wellcome Trust begins #ExpertDebate

Medical research charity Wellcome Trust has begun an #ExpertDebate, a four-week campaign looking at whether a pushback in society against the views of proclaimed experts might be hindering the environment for research.

The trust, which is one of the world's largest charities and underwent a rebrand last year, posted a video (see end of story) on Facebook yesterday in which various researchers and scientists it works with discuss what the term 'expert' means to them.

It follows the now infamous comment by pro-'leave' former Conservative minister Michael Gove that the UK was "tired of experts", following predictions of negative fortunes for the country if it voted to leave the EU.

The charity said on the post on Facebook accompanying the video: "Over the last couple of years, we’ve noticed a pushback in society on 'experts'. Whether it’s politicians saying that people of have had enough of experts, or a rejection, in some circles, of the scientific consensus on issues such as climate change, vaccination, or evidence-based decision-making as a whole, something seems amiss.

"At Wellcome, we think this could be hindering the environment for research. So we’re holding a debate to explore the role of expertise in research, policy making and wider society."

Some of the researchers in the video agreed that it was helpful for the expertise of so-called experts to be called into question, and that experts needed to avoid thinking too highly of themselves.

The campaign will include polls, user-generated content and Facebook Live interviews over the next few weeks, with the end goal of seeing what, if anything, research funders, the research community, and Wellcome itself could do to help.

It is led by the charity's in-house team, but the agency Third City, which has worked for the charity on multiple occasions, were commissioned to run social listening to inform the scope of the campaign.

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