Why Trust Raoult? How Social Indicators Inform the Reputations of Experts

Social Epistemology 36 (3):299-316 (2022)
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The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the considerable challenge of sourcing expertise and determining which experts to trust. Dissonant information fostered controversy in public discourse and encouraged an appeal to a wide range of social indicators of trustworthiness in order to decide whom to trust. We analyze public discourse on expertise by examining how social indicators inform the reputation of Dr. Didier Raoult, the French microbiologist who rose to international prominence as an early advocate for using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. To comprehend how these indicators came to inform his reputation, we outline Dr. Raoult's rise to fame based on discourse about hydroxychloroquine. We then discuss why we trust in experts like scientist-practitioners. This is followed by an examination of how social indicators of trust like status, epistemic authority, influence and values have informed Dr. Raoult's reputation. We conclude with recommendations for how to improve the selection and evaluation social indicators of trust and reputations. Our aim here, instead of making a claim about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine or Dr. Raoult's reputation per se, is to outline through this case study how social indicators of trust inform reputation and the challenge they present to evaluating expertise.

Author Profiles

Gloria Origgi
Institut Jean Nicod
Tiffany Morisseau
Université Paris Cité
T.Y. Branch
University of Cologne


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