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Experts are ‘knowledge masters’ of a subject. Conference speaker, Dr. Court Sandau on expert environmental forensics.
What Makes an Expert.. an Expert?

What Makes an Expert.. an Expert?

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How hard is it to find an expert?

I am guessing… it's probably really hard.   Not because there are not experts out there.

More because filtering out a real expert from a self-proclaimed expert is difficult.

I have a PhD in Chemistry. Went to post secondary school for 9 years. Been working in the chemistry field for over 20 years. There are still things that I will not proclaim to be an expert on in the field of chemistry. I have taken many chemistry courses on various chemistry topics. I have even worked on projects on those areas of chemistry. I still resist calling myself an expert on that.

An example for me would be metals. I have researched, measured, investigated sources of contamination, fingerprinted metals. I know all about metal chemistries, isotopes, reactivities, and toxicities. Yet, I resist calling myself an expert.  

I probably know more about metals than most. Does that make me an expert? It probably does in the broad sense of the term. I would definitely opine on the topic if I needed to. I would testify (and have) on metals. But, am I an expert?

I think it depends on use of the term and what it means to your situation.

When you look up definitions of the word “expert”, it does not make things much clearer:

Merriam – Webster:
one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject
a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority

Cambridge Dictionary:
a person having a high level of knowledge or skill in a particular subject

is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study

Collins Dictionary:
is a person who is very skilled at doing something or who knows a lot about a particular subject.

I underlined the keys words in the definitions that I thought stood out. Is an expert very skilled? Or do they just need to have ‘high level’ or extensive knowledge? My favourite: Do they just need to have ‘special skill’?

I think Merriam-Webster has it best where they include “representing mastery”.

How many experts have knowledge that represents mastery of the topic? I would suspect, not as many as you had thought.

Your goal, if looking for an expert, is to find ‘knowledge masters’ of the subject matter that you are looking for.

What do you like better: knowledge master or knowledge mastery?

 How do you know that you have knowledge master? Some insight is provided in my upcoming post. Stay tuned.


How do you define ‘expert’ and what first thing that you look for in your experts?  


About the Author

Court Sandau

Court is the President and owner of Chemistry Matters – a niche environmental consulting firm which specializes in geoforensics, environmental forensics, biomonitoring, and arson investigations. As an international speaker and expert chemist, Court is often called upon to provide his expert services in oil & gas investigations and litigious chemistry issues.

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