Most of my colleagues and friends know that I have a strong research interest in questions of expertise, including topics such as expertise: development; management; networking; location; sharing; communities; etc. So, when I read July 29th Science Times section in the NY Times, I was surprised, and delighted, to find three articles that illustrate the issues we have to examine in studying expertise processes in organizational and societal settings.
First, and on the cover, was a story about Ted Kennedy’s recent encounter with cancer titled “The Story Behind Kennedy’s Surgery“. Given his grave situation, Kennedy did what most of us cannot do – he convened a panel of experts from across the US (May 30th, 2008) and sought input (expertise) from the best experts he could assemble who had access to the latest research and treatments (knowledge). Here is a real life social example and application of expertise networking and expertise location. It turns out (or so the article alleges) that this approach to problems is a standard approach for the powerful Kennedy and illustrative of how he approached similar problems in the past.
Second, “Climate Experts Tussle Over Details. Public Gets Whiplash” the author writes: “Scientists see persistent disputes as the normal stuttering journey toward improved understanding of how the world works. But many fear that the herky-jerky trajectory is distracting the public from the undisputed basics and blocking change.“. What interested me about this story was the notion that experts don’t always agree and the challenge we have as individual consumers of the knowledge-products they produce is how best to discern who to trust and what positions to adopt or follow.
Third, “Doctor and Patient, Now at Odds” deals head on with issues of trust. In the article, they point out that: “About one in four patients feel that their physicians sometimes expose them to unnecessary risk, according to data from a Johns Hopkins study published this year in the journal Medicine. And two recent studies show that whether patients trust a doctor strongly influences whether they take their medication.“. The short story:- when we trust physicians, we are more likely to follow their advice. Trust and credibility are paramount to the determination of whether an expert’s advice will be adopted and followed.
In some ways, this snapshot on one day of major newspaper shows the ubiquitous role of experts and expertise networks in our everyday lives. I would be interested to receive stories and case studies from anyone out there that are illustrative of expertise-in-action.