15 April 2021, 2-5pm, hosted online

Qualitative research can help us understand the changing levels of trust in expertise and claims to knowledge. What is more, it is particularly well placed to do this because of its own questioning of the status of the knowledge that it creates.

Much public energy is given to disputing authorised versions of knowledge, policies, events, practices, affecting our sense of what and what we can trust. We can see this in varied responses to public health planning and communications, to very opposed accounts of the contributions of migrant groups to societies, the science of climate change and the value of arts, culture and sport. These debates are rooted in contemporary experience of disillusion with previously trusted personal, procedural and political sources of knowledge. There are challenges to reliance on experts, especially where their findings and advice contradict personal and social experiences of events and group discourses. These doubts and challenges now radically affect how academic, community and commercial research and researchers can be presented, seen and discussed.

Appreciating this revolution in the framing and reception of “research” makes it all the more important for qualitative researchers to use and adapt their skills to examine their own position and practices. They need to do this to question their own contribution to such debates, to demonstrate their capacity to listen respectfully, so as to find out how to adjust their understanding of what approaches are now appropriate and constructive and for what purposes. This symposium will provide an overview and improved understanding of what qualitative research can and should do to discover how trust in expertise operates and, where appropriate, to promote trust as a basis for re-building new understandings.

Key questions to be addressed include:

  • Can the reflexive character of most qualitative research help us to better understand popular (dis)trust in expertise?
  • How, if at all, is qualitative research implicated in discourses that are claimed to have undermined trust in expertise?
  • What can qualitative expertise tell us about the complex relationships between experience and expertise?
  • What is the status of the expertise claimed by qualitative researchers and how, if at all, should qualitative researchers be ‘experts’?
  • What is the role of formal qualitative methodology in supporting claims to expertise?

2-2.15pm Welcome, introduction and orientation for the event

Professor Fiona Poland, Professor of Social Research Methodology, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia


2.15-2.55pm Keynote speaker

Ben Garrod: Trust me, I’m a Scientist

Ben Garrod is Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Science Engagement in the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia

Abstract and biography

Click to watch recording

3.05-3.35pm Panel discussion

What does trust mean to you in qualitative research?

Jamie Murdoch, Senior Research Fellow in Process Evaluation, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia

Eylem Atakav, Professor of Film, Gender & Public Engagement, University of East Anglia Biography

Harry Dyer, Lecturer in Education, School of Education & Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia Biography

Chair: Fiona Poland

Click to watch recording

3.55-4.35pm Keynote speaker

Ron IphofenConstructing Ethical Evidence: Can We Rely on the Virtues of a Reflexive Qualitative Researcher to Generate Trust?

Ron Iphofen is a Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences, the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Society of Medicine

Abstract and biography

Click to watch recording

4.35-4.50pm Next steps and Closing remarks

View the event report