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  3. Trust, Communication and Expertise

Trust, Communication and Expertise (HPSC90012)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeHPSC90012
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Questions of trust, effective communication, and judging credibility, are integral to the assessment of knowledge claims both within science and in the context of public debate. Questions about trust and legitimate communication consequently arise every day in a range of professional contexts, for example in scientific research and the dissemination of scientific knowledge, in journalism and media, public relations, and in police, accounting and development work, etc. But what makes one trustworthy? How do we pick out who the experts are? This course will interest students in a wide range of careers.

Questions to be covered:


  • What is trust? What makes one trustworthy?
  • Is there a decline in trust, in the media, in politicians, or in scientists for example?
  • Do we need to trust our sources of information, and do they need to trust us?
  • How do we manage conflicts that arise in relationships of trust?


  • What indicators do people rely on when communicating with others?
  • How do communication patterns vary from context to context, such as face-to-face, in broader media, and in ethically and politically contested public spaces?
  • What makes someone a credible source of information?
  • What role does the conveyance of quality information play in contested social debates, and what role should it play?
  • Are public debates about communicating information or voicing substantive differences?


  • What makes someone an expert?
  • What role do ‘experts’ play in public debate?
  • Should we defer to experts?
  • What if even the experts disagree?
  • Can lay people contribute expertise?

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • develop an understanding of recent approaches to trust, communication, and expertise in the social sciences and humanities.
  • be able to apply these approaches to problems involving one or more of the three topics that arise in their area of professional specialisation.

Last updated: 9 August 2019