msb ~067 Expertise


Expertise at a workshop
experts in the room

When I was looking into boundaries between ‘experts’ and ‘public’ on local coastal change, I explored ways to classify expertise. One typology, proposed by Michael Carolan, suggests that most of us can usually contribute abstract (e.g. scientific) or practical (e.g. local) knowledge. He described this as ‘contributory expertise’, but also identified an additional category: ‘interactional expertise’. Individuals use this to help bring together those with different forms of knowledge: essential when the issues are contentious and the debate can be confrontational.

And looking further, to the values behind the issues, Carolan identified a third category – ‘public expertise’: “Inevitably, once we begin to move from questions of what ‘is’ to ‘what should be done’ … an expertise is required that goes beyond merely possessing knowledge that contributes to the cognitive base … What is also required is a gauge of public sentiments and values.”

As with concepts of ‘4 As’ for engaging change or ‘Boundary Objects’ for collaboration, there are alternative approaches to expertise, but I like the direct appeal of a framework that demands equal attention to how to best bring together complementary knowledge and how public values are incorporated, as much as to the specific specialisms we need to draw on.

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