Paper $33.00 ISBN: 9780226113616 Published March 2009
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Rethinking Expertise

Harry Collins and Robert Evans

Rethinking Expertise

Harry Collins and Robert Evans

176 pages | 8 halftones, 6 line drawings, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2007
Paper $33.00 ISBN: 9780226113616 Published March 2009
E-book $10.00 to $32.99 About E-books ISBN: 9780226113623 Published September 2008

What does it mean to be an expert? In Rethinking Expertise, Harry Collins and Robert Evans offer a radical new perspective on the role of expertise in the practice of science and the public evaluation of technology.

Collins and Evans present a Periodic Table of Expertises based on the idea of tacit knowledge—knowledge that we have but cannot explain. They then look at how some expertises are used to judge others, how laypeople judge between experts, and how credentials are used to evaluate them. Throughout, Collins and Evans ask an important question: how can the public make use of science and technology before there is consensus in the scientific community? This book has wide implications for public policy and for those who seek to understand science and benefit from it.

“Starts to lay the groundwork for solving a critical problem—how to restore the force of technical scientific information in public controversies, without importing disguised political agendas.”—Nature

“A rich and detailed ‘periodic table’ of expertise . . . full of case studies, anecdotes and intriguing experiments.”—Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)

List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction Why Expertise?

Chapter 1           The Periodic Table of Expertises: Ubiquitous and Specialist Expertises
Chapter 2           The Periodic Table of Expertises: Meta-expertises and Meta-criteria
Chapter 3           Investigating Interactional Expertise and Embodiment
Chapter 4           The Color-Blindness and Perfect Pitch Experiments
Chapter 5           New Demarcation Criteria

Conclusion         Science, the Citizen, and the Role of Social Science
Appendix           Waves of Science Studies
Review Quotes
Gary H. Sanders, Project Manager, Thirty Meter Telescope Project

“The way forward is no longer paved by single discipline experts. In Rethinking Expertise, Collins and Evans map out the interwoven expertises of science, technology, public policy, and decision making, illuminating the reality of modern leadership and the new expertise.”

Martin Kusch, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

Rethinking Expertise is a groundbreaking contribution to the sociology of knowledge: it skillfully defends a shift in analytic focus from propositional knowledge to expertise; it meticulously classifies different forms of expertise in a ‘periodic table’; it impressively highlights the significance of the hitherto overlooked category of interactional expertise; and, perhaps most importantly, it convincingly demonstrates that sociology can make highly fruitful and surprising use of the experimental method. Rethinking Expertise will be required reading in the social sciences and philosophy.”

Michael E. Gorman, Professor of Science, Technology & Society and Systems Engineering, University of Virginia

“This revolutionary book shows how science studies can contribute to understanding the contents of expert knowledge, not just the process by which experts are given that status by society. The authors create a novel taxonomy of types of expertise from which they derive normative recommendations concerning public debates about science. For all readers, this volume will be provocative; for some, it will also be revelatory.  I highly recommend it.”

Robert P. Crease | Nature
"Collins and Evans put their points vividly, with elegant language and diagrams....Their book starts to lay the groundwork for solving a critical problem—how to restore the force of technical scientific information in public controversies, without importing disguised political agendas."
Matthew Reisz | Times Higher Education Supplement
"The book offers a rich and detailed ’periodic table’ of expertise, ranging from the kind of beer-mat knowledge useful only in pub quizzes to the levels of skill that enable people to make a contribution to cutting-edge science. It considers wine buffs and art connoisseurs, hoaxers, journalists and pseudoscientists. It looks at deep philosophical issues of ’embodiment’—whether you need to move around in the world to acquire a language or the jargon of a specialist field— that have major implications for the study of artificial intelligence and computer learning. It is full of case studies, anecdotes and intriguing experiments. But at its heart are questions arising directly out of the authors’ work in the sociology of science and the challenges of scientifically literate public decision-making."
"What makes an expert an expert? The answer has often been epistemologically grounded. Experts were experts because they possessed special training, methods, and analytical strategies that better enabled them to ’be in the truth’ relative to lay reasoners. However, in the wake of science and technology studies, postmodern theory, and a growing distrust of expert assessments, such a realist treatment of expertise seems epistemologically flawed and politically naive. Collins (Cardiff Univ.) and Evans (Cardiff School of Social Science) seek to provide an account of expertise that does not fall victim to a postmodern leveling of all distinctions between the expert and nonexpert in terms of the traditional version of expertise described above. To accomplish this new ’sociology of expertise,’ the authors put forward what they refer to as the Periodic Table of Expertise. The Table differentiates between different types of expertise and the contexts in which these types are most useful and effective. Such an approach grounds expertise not in its special methodological features but in the tacit, socialized knowledge that individuals gain as members of specialized groups. The authors believe this approach can lead to a new way of sorting out the contributions experts make to decision making in society."

Tim Thornton | Metapsychology Online
"A stimulating read for philosophers and general readers."
"Knowledge is about doing, not talking. Collins and Evans suggest that a lesser form of expertise, which they dub 'interactional expertise'—the province of journalists and science-studies ethnographers—can master the talk but that it brings one no closer to walking the walk like contributory experts, those who are actually specialists in a particular area....There is no doubt that Collins and Evans capture something interesting about the self warranting nature of expert knowledge."
Technology and Culture
"[Collins] and Evans advance into his liminal territory through a multistaged assault, progressing through excising logical extensions in the manner of philosophers, eschewing the inconvenient but potentially germane complexities posited by those who linger amid the thorny thickets of case studies."
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