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What defines an expert within a field?

  1. Mar 6, 2016 #1
    What type of achievements, credentials etc. is required to define someone as an expert in a field of study?

    Do you need to be a researcher of said field and have published papers, and journal articles? Or have written sections of whole books on subjects? Etc.

    What are your opinions on this?

    (Sorry if it is in the wrong section)
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 6, 2016 #2


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    There are no general rules to satisfy to fill the position of "expert".

    At a minimum, you should have either a graduate degree in a particular field or lacking that, an undergraduate degree with plenty of experience. Publishing articles or books burnishes your qualifications.

    The qualifications of an expert witness, i.e., one who offers testimony at trial in technical matters, often varies by the court.

  4. Mar 6, 2016 #3
    "Expert" is an outside opinion, or perception. Its in the mind of the observer. There isn't any prescribed course of steps a person can take to become regarded as an expert, and there's no certification of expertise per se. Basically, you're an expert if all concerned agree you are in a given situation.
  5. Mar 6, 2016 #4


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    Expertise usually implies experience in a particular field, which means doing the research, or application, for some amount of time, and often publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals or at conferences, which are a more informal way of peer review (most institutions would do an internal review before a paper is presented at a conference). Eventually, it may include contributions to a textbook, or even authoring an entire textbook.

    In some cases though, some folks may be experts in areas where the work is not published, e.g., proprietary work or otherwise restricted. Nevertheless, the work would be peer-reviewed at multiple levels.
  6. Mar 6, 2016 #5
    All this only applies to academic expertise. Consider other fields. There is a man named Bob Hoover who is considered by many the greatest living expert on the old air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle. If you get into Beetles someone will eventually point you to the writings of Bob Hoover. If there were a court case involving this car, he might well be approached to give testimony. Or consider carpentry. Norm Abrams would be considered by most as a completely acceptable "expert." Neither field has an academic underpinning: no vetting process or publication venue or peer review, as such.
  7. Mar 6, 2016 #6


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    Not at all. Certainly, this is the case in academia, but I was reflecting on my experience in industry.

    In my practice in the nuclear industry, I've published at conferences, some of which has been cited repeatedly in the literature, but most of my work is proprietary, so it's not necessarily in the public domain. I have been encouraged to publish in journals, which is still an opportunity. Of course, there are numerous technical and nontechnical fields in which one could be an expert, with or without publishing.

    One could be an expert in numismatics, philately, or any human activity, e.g., trainspotting (or locomotives or freightcars) with or without publishing.

    As one can see, Norm Abrams has published several books concerning his craft. It is normal practice for publishers to have books reviewed by experts in a given field. So there is some vetting, by other practitioners, but eventually by the public.
  8. Mar 6, 2016 #7
    OK, as long as you grant this, I'm fine.
    In Norm's case, expertise preceded publication. He started out as just a contractor Bob Vila hired to help renovate houses on "This Old House." It turned out he was also a fine cabinet maker, so they eventually gave him his own show demonstrating that skill, and most of those books were published in conjunction with that show. I doubt one other cabinet maker was ever asked to vet the books: the popularity of the show was all the publishers needed.
  9. Mar 7, 2016 #8
    I like the definition from the quotes thread. "An expert is someone who has made all possible mistakes in a narrow field."
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