CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: Special Issue "Public (dis)trust in science in digital media environments"

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: Special Issue "Public (dis)trust in science in digital media environments"

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 30 September 2023

Public (dis)trust in science in digital media environments

Nowadays, large parts of the population obtain information about science, technology, and topics such as climate change online—this includes online journalistic media, but increasingly also social and other internet-based media (e.g., European Commission, 2021; Guenther et al., 2022; National Science Board, 2018). Digital media environments, especially social media, are characterised by a combination of interpersonal and mass-mediated communication; they provide heterogeneous content regarding actors, publics, and topics (e.g., Neuberger, 2014). Content critical of science (e.g., Gierth & Bromme, 2020), disinformation (e.g., Scheufele & Krause, 2019), conspiracy narratives (e.g., Allgaier, 2019; Mahl et al., 2022), and algorithm-curated information environments (e.g., Ziewitz, 2015) seem to be related to a so-called “post-truth era” (Keyes, 2004) and potentially negative consequences for public trust in science (e.g., Schäfer, 2016; Weingart & Guenther, 2016). So far, however, empirical evidence of a decreased public trust in science is lacking (Krause et al., 2019) and social media may also potentially benefit public trust in science by facilitated access to and exchange with scientific information (e.g., Taddicken & Krämer, 2021).

This Special Issue of the Journal of Science Communication is dedicated to exploring public (dis)trust in science against the backdrop of changing information environments and potentially contrasting trends regarding audience’s increasing use of digital media. To advance research in this field, we invite theoretical and empirical contributions as well as practical insights, to cover different perspectives and aspects of this topic, and to reflect on current academic and public discourses surrounding it. This includes research and insights from various disciplines in fields such as communication research, sociology, psychology, or linguistics. We welcome research articles, practice insights, essays, and reviews that fall within the scope of JCOM. We are open to contributions that reflect on (Fage-Butler et al., 2022) and advance theory (e.g., an epistemic understanding of trust in science, Hendriks et al., 2015), or methods of trust research (e.g., reassessments of survey measures, Besley & Tiffany, 2023, or mixed-method-designs) and strongly encourage submissions from different countries, cultures, or with a global perspective. Possible contributions may engage with but are not limited to the following thematic areas (based on Reif & Guenther, 2022):

• The difference and relationship between trust and distrust in science or other related concepts (e.g., conspiracy beliefs, Plohl & Musil, 2021, science-populist attitudes, Mede et al., 2021, authenticity, confidence, deference, scepticism, risk perception)

• The relationship between science and the public, including the perspectives of citizens, scientists, government, and the media as intermediary of (dis)trust in science

• (Dis)trust in science in general or regarding/compared to specific scientific topics, issues, or disciplines

• The heterogeneity of online environments and science communication formats in connection to public (dis)trust in science

• (Dis)trust in science for diverse (online) publics or population segments

• Shifts in (dis)trust in science over time, and its potential reasons (e.g., trust in science related to COVID-19, Buturoiu et al., 2022; Yokoyama & Ikkatai, 2022)


● Deadline for submitting abstracts: 30 September 2023

● Feedback regarding the selection of abstracts: 20 October 2023

● Deadline for full manuscripts: 30 March 2024

● Target date for publication of JCOM Special Issue: September 2024

Timeline Procedure:

500-word abstracts (or article outlines) should be submitted by 30 September 2023 to all guest editors (see names and contact details below). The abstract should include: 1) the angle on or definition of (dis)trust in science, and the central aim of the paper, 2) the context of and perspective on digital media environments that will be discussed, and 3) the expected findings, recommendations, or conclusions. The abstract must indicate whether the contribution is intended as a research article (typically 6,000 to 8,000 words), a practice insight (3,000 to 5,000 words), or an essay (3,500 to 4,500 words). You are welcome to consult with the editors of this special issue about your article ideas and potential angles or approaches.

Decisions will be communicated to the authors by 20 October 2023. Invited paper submissions, adhering to the journal’s style guide, are due on 30 March 30 2024, and will be submitted directly via the submission site for JCOM: where they will undergo peer review following the usual procedures of the journal. Please note that the invitation to submit a full article does not guarantee acceptance into the special issue. The target date for publication is September 2024.

Special Issue Guest Editors:

● Anne Reif <>

● Lars Guenther <>

● Hiromi M. Yokoyama <> 


Allgaier, J. (2019). Science and Environmental Communication on YouTube: Strategically Distorted Communications in Online Videos on Climate Change and Climate Engineering. Frontiers in Communication, 4, Artikel 36.

Besley, J. C., & Tiffany, L. A. (2023). What are you assessing when you measure "trust" in scientists with a direct measure? Public Understanding of Science, 9636625231161302.

Buturoiu, R., Corbu, N., Oprea, D.A., & Boțan, M. (2022). Trust in information sources during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Romanian case study. Communications, 47(3), 375394.

European Commission. (2021). European citizens’ knowledge and attitudes towards science and technology (Special Eurobarometer Nr. 516). European Commission.

Fage-Butler, A., Ledderer, L., & Nielsen, K. H. (2022). Public trust and mistrust of climate science: A meta-narrative review. Public Understanding of Science, 9636625221110028.

Gierth, L., & Bromme, R. (2020). Attacking science on social media: How user comments affect perceived trustworthiness and credibility. Public Understanding of Science, 29(2), 230–247.

Guenther, L., Reif, A., Taddicken, M. & Weingart, P. (2022). Positive but not uncritical: Perceptions of science and technology amongst South African online users. South African Journal of Science (accepted).

Hendriks, F., Kienhues, D., & Bromme, R. (2015). Measuring Laypeople's Trust in Experts in a Digital Age: The Muenster Epistemic Trustworthiness Inventory (METI). PloS One, 10(10), e0139309.

Keyes, R. (2004). The post-truth era. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Krause, N. M., Brossard, D., Scheufele, D. A., Xenos, M. A., & Franke, K. (2019). The Polls-Trends: Americans' Trust in Science and Scientists. Public Opinion Quarterly, 83(4), 817-836.

Mahl, D., Schäfer, M. S. & Zeng, J. (2022). Conspiracy theories in online environments: An interdisciplinary literature review and agenda for future research. New Media & Society, 146144482210757.

Mede, N. G., Schäfer, M. S., & Füchslin, T. (2021). The SciPop Scale for Measuring Science-Related Populist Attitudes in Surveys: Development, Test, and Validation. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 33(2), 273–293.

National Science Board. (2018). Science & Engineering Indicators 2018. National Science Foundation.

Neuberger, C. (2014). Konflikt, Konkurrenz und Kooperation. Interaktionsmodi in einer Theorie der dynamischen Netzwerköffentlichkeit. M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 62(4), 567–587.

Plohl, N., & Musil, B. (2021). Modeling compliance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines: The critical role of trust in science. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 26(1), 1–12.

Reif, A. & Guenther, L. (2022). How representative surveys measure public (dis)trust in science: A systematisation and analysis of survey items and open-ended questions. Journal of Trust Research.

Schäfer, M. S. (2016). Mediated trust in science: concept, measurement and perspectives for the ‘science of science communication’. Journal of Science Communication, 15(05), 1–7.

Scheufele, D. A. & Krause, N. M. (2019). Science audiences, misinformation, and fake news. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(16), 7662-7669.

Taddicken, M., & Krämer, N. (2021). Public online engagement with science information: On the road to a theoretical framework and a future research agenda. Journal of Science Communication, 20(3), A05.

Weingart, P. & Guenther, L. (2016). Science communication and the issue of trust. Journal of Science Communication, 15(05), C01.

Yokoyama, H. M., & Ikkatai, Y. (2022). Support and trust in the government and COVID-19 experts during the pandemic. Frontiers in Communication, 7, Article 940585.