What is an expert? A systems perspective on expertise

Caley, M. Julian, O'Leary, Rebecca A., Fisher, Rebecca, Low-Choy, Samantha, Johnson, Sandra, & Mengersen, Kerrie (2014) What is an expert? A systems perspective on expertise. Ecology and Evolution, 4(3), pp. 231-242.

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  1. Expert knowledge continues to gain recognition as a valuable source of information in a wide range of research applications. Despite recent advances in defining expert knowledge, comparatively little attention has been given to how to view expertise as a system of interacting contributory factors, and thereby, to quantify an individual’s expertise.

  2. We present a systems approach to describing expertise that accounts for many contributing factors and their interrelationships, and allows quantification of an individual’s expertise. A Bayesian network (BN) was chosen for this purpose. For the purpose of illustration, we focused on taxonomic expertise. The model structure was developed in consultation with professional taxonomists. The relative importance of the factors within the network were determined by a second set of senior taxonomists. This second set of experts (i.e. supra-experts) also provided validation of the model structure. Model performance was then assessed by applying the model to hypothetical career states in the discipline of taxonomy. Hypothetical career states were used to incorporate the greatest possible differences in career states and provide an opportunity to test the model against known inputs.

  3. The resulting BN model consisted of 18 primary nodes feeding through one to three higher-order nodes before converging on the target node (Taxonomic Expert). There was strong consistency among node weights provided by the supra-experts for some nodes, but not others. The higher order nodes, “Quality of work” and “Total productivity”, had the greatest weights. Sensitivity analysis indicated that although some factors had stronger influence in the outer nodes of the network, there was relatively equal influence of the factors leading directly into the target node. Despite differences in the node weights provided by our supra-experts, there was remarkably good agreement among assessments of our hypothetical experts that accurately reflected differences we had built into them.

  4. This systems approach provides a novel way of assessing the overall level of expertise of individuals, accounting for multiple contributory factors, and their interactions. Our approach is adaptable to other situations where it is desirable to understand components of expertise.

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7 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 64783
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Bayesian network, Taxonomy, Expert knowledge, Expert opinion, Expert judgement, Hierarchy of classes, Supra-expert
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.926
ISSN: 2045-7758
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES (010000) > STATISTICS (010400)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES (050000)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical & Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS)
Current > Schools > School of Mathematical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Please consult the authors
Deposited On: 26 Nov 2013 00:31
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2015 20:51

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