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Crisis of Expert Knowledge and Authority


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Even after years of study and of academic or practical experience, the consequences of most policies are uncertain. While agreement among experts is far greater than realised by the general public, there is legitimate disagreement. Because individuals cannot sensibly invest the effort needed to determine the best policies or their consequences, we must rely on experts. This conclusion, which is at the core of representative democracy, has fallen into deep question.

Since the 2008 financial crisis we have witnessed an erosion of citizens’ trust in experts. Europe has seen populist movements rejecting expert knowledge on a range of issues, from debt, growth, migration and trade to vaccines.

Many who denounce academic experts and mistrust their advice choose instead to follow their own (often self-proclaimed) “experts”. Unfortunately, reliance on charlatans rather than experts can have profoundly negative economic and political consequences.

There are reasons to distrust some experts, since they may err, but rejecting expert knowledge per se is calamitous for society. It is therefore crucial for decision makers and citizens to be able identify reliable experts, and for experts to restore lost credibility. Our program aims to discover the key reforms and mechanisms needed to accomplish this goal.


The questioning of experts has played a significant and not necessarily good role in the current covid-19 pandemic. In countries where governments have been slow to consult with experts in the initial stages of the pandemic effective measures were implemented at a very late stage, with tragic consequences.  As governments now move to reopen the economy, again little effort may be made to involve and consult with experts.

The EUI is involved in trying to communicate relevant scientific knowledge to policy-makers through its Covid-19 Knowledge hub. Several members of this research cluster with expertise relevant to the crisis are additionally involved in policy-related communication through the international group Covid-19 Research Conduit. As our Experts research cluster moves forward we expect our experience with this crisis to inform and be informed by our broader study of the role of experts.



Vincenzo Grassi 
(former EUI Secretary General)
Mustafa Kaba 
stjohn sarahSarah St John 
(Office of the Secretary General)
Gaby_Umbach1Gaby Umbach





Cluster events 2021

15 February 2021
3 - 4:30 pm - via Zoom

Who is an expert?
Speaker: David Levine (Department of Economics, EUI)

18 January 2021
 3 - 4:30 pm - via Zoom

The role of economists in the climate change debate: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Speakers: John Hassler (IIES, Stockholm University) and Per Krussel (IIES, Stockholm University) - PPT presentation

Cluster events 2020

16 November 2020
 2:30-4 pm - via Zoom

Covid-19: The Science-Politics-Interface in Times of Crisis
Speakers: Andrea Ichino (Department of Economics, EUI) and Jakub Steiner (Associated Professor with Tenure, CERGE-EI and Associate Professor, University of Zurich)

19 October 2020
3-4:30 pm - via Zoom

Expertise under Pressure: The Shock of the Old
Speaker: Stéphane Van Damme (EUI and Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris) - PPT presentation

15 October 2020
1:30 pm - via Zoom

Oganisational meeting for members of the Crisis of  Expert Knowledge and Authority cluster

11 June 2020
3:30 pm - via Zoom

Book presentation: Expert Failure by Roger Koppl
Speaker: Junze Sun (Max Weber Fellow)

2 April 2020
12:30 pm - via Zoom

Discussion of the role of experts in the Covid-19 crisis

20 February 2020
12:30 pm

Preliminary meeting

Page last updated on 15 February 2021