What is an expert?
In The Death of Expertise, The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, author Tom Nichols provides a rough guide to distinguish the expert from the dilettante.
“True expertise”, the kind of expertise others rely upon, “is an intangible but recognizable combination of”:
- Legitimate formal educational credentials. These are tangible signs of hard work and dedication; they signal achievement and are a good start to identify true experts.
- Talent. Talent separates the merely credentialed from the credentialed who, “have a deeper feel or understanding of their level of expertise.”
- Experience and longevity. True experts, “stay engaged in their field, continually improve their skills, learn from their mistakes, and have visible track records.”
(Another interesting book I recommend is Peak Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. “Deliberate practice” is the key to this new science. “The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.”)
- Peer affirmation. Another sign of expertise is the acknowledgment, acceptance, and correction by an expert’s peers. “Self-policing” through peer review helps ensure the maintenance of quality standards and instills confidence in the expert by the layperson.