New books


Rethinking expertise

Harry Collins og Robert Evans

The University of Chicago Press 2007, 160 s ISBN 9780226113609
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

What does it mean to be an expert? Traditionally, expertise has been associated with authoritative knowledge, honed by practice and certified by powerful institutions. Scientists, of course, are often presumed to be the ultimate experts, but it is exactly in this area that the importance of defining what it means to be an expert is paramount. 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.

After setting out the problem of expertise in the context of modern society, Collins and Evans present a Periodic Table of Expertises based on the idea of tacit knowledge—in other words, knowledge that we have but cannot explain. They then look at how some expertises are used to judge others, how we judge between experts even when we are not experts ourselves, and how credentials are used to judge experts. A central new concept in the book and, the authors argue, in society, is interactional expertise—a proficiency in the language of a specialism if not in its practices. Here, they describe experiments in which those with interactional expertise succeed in pretending to be full-blown experts in imitation games.

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? It is a quandary that has wide implications for public policy and for those who seek to understand science and benefit from it. The authors offer a balanced assessment of the main issues and propose a new understanding of how to extend public participation in technical decision making without abandoning the idea of expertise as real, useful, and necessary.

Provocative and profound, Rethinking Expertise will be of keen interest to scientists and scholars in science studies but will also have implications for decision makers and experts across many fields—in technology, education, sociology, psychology, philosophy, computer engineering, and business.


  • LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS: Anthropological/Sociological Aspects of Language
  • LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES: General Legal Studies
  • LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES: Law and Society
  • PHILOSOPHY: General Philosophy
  • PSYCHOLOGY: Social Psychology
  • SOCIOLOGY: Collective Behavior, Mass Communication
  • SOCIOLOGY: General Sociology
  • SOCIOLOGY: Social Psychology--Small Groups
  • SOCIOLOGY: Theory and Sociology of Knowledge