Amirkhanian, Paturyan, Balayan

AUA Acopian Center Partners in a Project on Trust, Experts, and Governance

3 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia – The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment partners in a project that is recently awarded three million euros by the European Union’s prestigious Horizon 2020 program. 

The newly approved project, titled Policy, Expertise, and Trust in Action (PERiTiA), is led by Prof. Maria Baghramian of the University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland. 

The project brings together over 20 philosophers, social and natural scientists, policy experts, ethicists, psychologists, media specialists, and civil-society organizations to study trust in and the trustworthiness of policy-related expert opinion. Using climate change as a test case, PERiTiA will carry out multidisciplinary and integrative research to understand the factors that contribute to the enhancement or breakdown of trust in experts involved in social and political decision-making. Since trust in experts and expert advisory bodies is a fundamental condition of good governance, the project will contribute to improving the measures of trust for sustainable and legitimate governance. 

At AUA, the project will be led by Alen Amirkhanian, director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment. “PERiTiA comes at a critical juncture in Armenia’s socio-political development toward democratic decision-making and institution building. The country is looking to effectively integrate the people’s voice in decision-making while also heeding experts who can offer critical knowledge and opinion,” says Amirkhanian. “Evidenced-based policymaking is an aspiration held by many leaders in the country. Trust in and the trustworthiness of experts are critical to achieving this end. We need to understand the conditions and factors in Armenia that lead to high levels or breakdown of trust in experts. The project will offer tools to avoid some of the key pitfalls in integrating experts in governance,” continues Amirkhanian. 

Other AUA faculty involved in the project include philosophy lecturer Dr. Arshak Balayan and assistant professor in political science Dr. Jenny Paturyan, College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Balayan will be involved in the theoretical work on trust and trustworthiness, while Dr. Paturyan will be involved in a large-scale social survey to be conducted in Armenia.

PERiTiA’s investigation will be carried out in three phases: theoretical, empirical and ameliorative. The first phase carries out a foundational – theoretical and normative – investigation into the concept and conditions of trust and trustworthiness. The key goal here is to enhance the knowledge base on the topic of public trust in social and political contexts by providing an analysis of trust in experts from social, philosophical, psychological and ethical perspectives. 

The second phase of the project will adopt an empirical approach. It will analyze existing data on the changing levels of trust in experts and generating a longitudinal overview of the subject matter through surveys on trust in experts in seven countries, including Armenia. There will also be lab-based behavioral studies that will investigate the determinants of judgments of trust and trustworthiness by the general public.

The third phase is the action/intervention phase of the project, known as the ameliorative phase, will involve public engagements addressing issues related to trust in experts. The core action planned will be encounters among representative groups from the general public and experts, policymakers and journalists specializing in the area of climate change. These “citizen forums,” which will also be organized in Armenia, will test and give critical insights into how deliberative democracy can be strengthened. The project will engage youth through essay competitions on trust and governance. The final outcome of this phase is the construction and testing of a trustworthiness toolkit for policymakers. 

PERiTiA will commence in early 2020 and last three years. The international consortium comprises 11 institutions: 

PERiTiA is the second Horizon 2020 project the AUA Acopian Center brings to AUA following Respondrone that started in mid 2019.

For updates on the PERiTiA visit

The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia, promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. The AUA Acopian Center’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity and conservation, greening the built environment, clean energy, and energy efficiency, as well as information technology and the environment.