An asset for research on digitization and trust

© Roland Berg

Trust, the loss of trust in particular, has become a topic of very intensive public discussion in recent years. Scepticism towards established social institutions and actors in business, politics, the media and academia can be seen to be growing. Digitization has led to a greater public expression of mistrust towards individuals and organisations than before. At the same time, digital forms of communication open up new opportunities for building trust.

The Research Training Group “Trust and Communication in a Digitized World”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), has accompanied this process since 2012. The researchers involved have investigated how trust may be established, developed and maintained under digital conditions in the fields of economy, sports, science and the media. The research projects dealt with theoretical and conceptual principles of trust and mistrust research as well as specific application areas of trust communication and methodological problems of research. In addition to the numerous scientific publications and conference contributions, the Research Training Group has also worked intensively on disseminating its findings outside the scientific communities. Results were presented in an exhibition as well as in schools, academies and at workshops. Broadcast, print and digital media have reported on the research.
Dissertation prizes and awards document the professional recognition of the scientific achievements. The interdisciplinary work in the Research Training Group – in which researchers from Communication, Psychology, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Business and Economics and Information Systems worked collaboratively – was always a great challenge. However, it contributed significantly to broadening disciplinary perspectives and creating a win-win situation.

Great thanks for their various support go to the DFG, the University of Münster and the participating faculties and institutes, as well as to the researchers who developed the research program and shaped it over many years, and to the people who reliably provided for scientific coordination, public relations and administration. Above all, however, a big thank you goes to the PhD students who have enormously enriched research on trust and digitization with their PhD projects.

Prof. Dr. Bernd Blöbaum
(Speaker of the Research Training Group)

Picture galery


The start: the Research Training Group “Trust and Communication in a Digitzed World”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) since 1 April 2012, was inaugurated in Schloss Münster (City Palace) on 6 June 2012.
© Susanne Lüdeling
  • Trust in journalism research: in February 2014, the Research Training Group co-organised the conference of the DGPuK interest group Journalism Studies in Münster.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Lecture series: regular public lectures such as the “Münsteraner Gespräche zu Vertrauen und Kommunikation” (Münster talks on trust and communication) offered insights into the interdisciplinary research topic of the Research Training Group throughout its entire duration and encouraged discourse on issues of trust.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Knowledge transfer: in the 2014 Year of Science with the topic “The Digital Society”, MS Wissenschaft also made a stop in Münster’s city harbour. The PhD students contributed a touch screen to the exhibition, which visitors could use to operate a computer-based query. The program asked in a playful way about trust in digital everyday communication.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • The Research Training Group organised the “Late Autumn School” format six times in all. For this, renowned trust researchers from Germany and abroad came to Münster as guests. Here: keynote speaker in 2018, Prof. Harrison McKnight.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • keynote speech by Dr. Lisa van der Werff at the Late Autumn School in 2019.
    © Bettina Distel
  • Interdisciplinary cooperation: trust research is an interdisciplinary field of research. The PhD students benefited from the exchange on many occasions, for example, at workshops within the context of the Late Autumn School 2015.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Workshop of the doctoral students at the seminar house Landhaus Rothenberge of the Universitätsgesellschaft Münster (Friends of Münster University) in Wettringen in 2018.
    © Anne Mollen
  • Break during a self-organised “writing workshop” in Research Training Group life.
    © Verena Koenig
  • Regular messages on the project website and posts on social media provided insights into the research and interaction at the Research Training Group.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Agent-based modelling (ABM): the Research Training Group, in cooperation with Universität Hamburg, organised a total of six internationally attended workshops on the research methodology of computer-based modelling. Shown here is former PhD student Dr. Daniel Westmattelmann, who used the method for his research on anti-doping behaviour in elite sports.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • First edited volume published: in 2016, the Research Training Group “Trust and Communication in a Digitized World” published the interdisciplinary edited collection “Trust and Communication in a Digitized World – Models and Concepts of Trust Research”. Bernd Blöbaum, speaker of the Research Training Group, acted as editor of the volume. The publication contains 14 essays by the PhD students dealing with concepts and models of trust research.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Kollegtagung 2016: distrust in the media, trust in science and trust relationships in international politics – these topics were the focus of the Research Training Group’s conference in September 2016.
    © Foto Fotolia / Gestaltung GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Second funding period approved: after the DFG approved the second funding period from April 2016 to March 2021, a new cohort of PhD students started with a fresh set of diverse doctoral projects, accompanied by the applicants.
    © Peter Leßmann
  • Print, web, podcast, radio and television: research and people from the Research Training Group were regularly present in the media and the public.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Public dialogue: in November 2017, the well-attended panel discussion “Zwischen Fake News and Lügenpresse – Medien in der Kritik” (Between fake news and the lying press – the media under fire), with guests from journalism and politics, provided assessments, especially on the role of social media for trust in journalism and for the climate of opinion.
    © Maria Zimmermann
  • Moving to the cathedral: at the beginning of 2018, the Research Training Group moved from Geiststraße back to Domplatz, where - in the initial phase - it had previously had its office.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • The 20th disputation from the ranks of the Research Training Group “Trust and Communication in a Digitized World” took place in July 2018. Psychologist Dr. Maria Zimmermann was supervised by the applicants (from left) Prof. Dr. Ulrike Röttger, Prof. Dr. Regina Jucks and Dr. Benjamin Brummernhenrich.
    © Verena Koenig
  • Excellent: several PhD students received prizes for outstanding doctoral degrees.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Conference attendance: the Research Training Group attached great importance to promoting scientific exchange on an international level. PhD students travelled to major international conferences, presented their research results and made valuable contacts. Here: PhD students Maike Bruckes and Richard Hossiep at the Academy of Management (AOM) in Chicago in 2018.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Current and former PhD students from communication studies at the 2019 International Communication Association (ICA) Annual Meeting in Washington.
    © Christian Wiencierz
  • New avenues of research: PhD student Robin Janzik is seen here in the Game Lab of the Department of Communication, wearing virtual reality glasses. His dissertation deals with the acceptance and trust in this new technology.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Digital Research Training Group: in March 2020, due to corona, the Research Training Group switched operations to digital. From then on, meetings, events and exchanges took place via video conference.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • 100 years of DFG: PhD students wearing campaign T-shirts congratulate the German Research Foundation on its 100th anniversary.
    © GRK Vertrauen und Kommunikation
  • Second edited volume published: in July 2021, the Research Training Group “Trust and Communication in a Digitized World” published the second interdisciplinary anthology “Trust and Communication: Implications of Trust Research” with a focus on empirical results in the research field of trust and communication. Bernd Blöbaum, speaker of the Research Training Group, acted as editor of the volume.
    © Springer Verlag