A synthetic review of the trust-participation nexus: Towards a relational concept of trust in energy system transformations to net zero

Danny Otto, Jason Chilvers, Karolina Trdlicova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Trust is crucial to achieving sustainability transformations and net zero. Much research has focused on building trust in policies, technologies and behavioural changes related to sustainability. It has been argued that building trust is strongly linked to processes of communication, deliberation and participation. In this article, we reconsider this relationship through analysing how studies of two decarbonisation technologies - carbon capture and storage (CCS) and wind energy - conceptualise trust and approach the relation between trust and participation. In a systematic review of 97 journal articles, we investigate how trust has been defined and conceptualised and how the relationship between participation processes and trust building has been established. Our findings show that trust has mainly been approached through a narrow theoretical lens, primarily as a key factor for gaining acceptance for specific technology projects. In this dominant instrumental framing participation serves as a means to gain trust or overcome distrust. How trust emerges, transforms or erodes, therefore, remains unclear beyond rationalistic assumptions on the role of actors, information provision or participation processes. Drawing on our literature analysis, we propose a new theoretical framework for trust and its relation to participation. This ‘networks of trust’ approach linked with an ecologies of participation perspective is based on sociological theory and relational perspectives in science and technology studies, enabling a broader understanding of the trust-participation nexus that goes beyond narrow acceptance-based approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103140
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Early online date24 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Carbon capture and storage
  • Decarbonisation
  • Participation
  • Relational
  • Sustainability transformations
  • Trust
  • Wind energy

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