The big question

For centuries, modern societies have depended on trust. The notion that public figures and professionals are trustworthy has been integral to the health of representative democracies. After all, the very core of liberal democracy is the idea that politicians can represent millions of others.

We have in recent years, found ourselves in an era when science and politics often appear to collide. Previous renditions of the Global Challenges Competition have explored contemporary and topical issues and challenges such as UK’s counter-terrorism post-Brexit, “fake news”, climate change and inclusivity. These issues are interrelated to the emergence of a “post-fact” world, in which virtually all authoritative information sources are challenged by contrary facts of dubious quality and origin, where comforting narratives and familiar messengers beat fact and argument. Similarly, resentment towards “liberal elites” brew even in the absence of supporting evidence. What is emerging now is what the social theorist Michel Foucault would have called a new “regime of truth” – a different way of organising knowledge and trust in society. Arguably, this crisis is about trust rather than facts.

2020 has been a challenging year with a global pandemic disrupting life as we knew it. Varying levels of crises preparedness and strategies has added to the distrust of experts and elites. Global crises like the financial crisis, climate change and pandemics are transboundary, and one state alone cannot resolve the issue, whereby cooperation is crucial. Therefore drawing on the experiences and conclusions from previous projects we are faced with, what seemingly is, the truly global challenge of:

How can we achieve policies that are evidence-informed, in a timely and appropriate way to enable more effective responses to global crises?

We are particularly looking for implementable projects that students want to continue working on alongside academic staff; therefore, we are asking teams to formulate an action implementation strategy to realise their projects. For examples of previous winners and continued projects, please see our website.