Over the past months senior politicians in the UK have called into question the role of experts in politics. Much of this view is linked to the Brexit debate and Michael Gove’s comment that ‘people in this country have had enough of experts’. The meaning of the term ‘expert’ in this context was linked to an institutionally and professionally established role. Economists by and large agree that open societies are better for wealth creation (and indirectly for the public good) than closed societies.
However, professional experts in think tanks and government departments are not the only experts when it comes to decisions. There are countless other knowledge providers with an intimate knowledge of something about which they are able to offer advice.
Expertise is not limited to professionals or academic researchers. Much expertise comes from practitioners who are not doing academic research at all. They may have a university degree but are usually not active researchers. This has always been the case with doctors or lawyers, but now spreads much further. Doctors are challenged by patient power, with online platforms providing trusted expertise among communities of sufferers. This ‘field expertise’ is emerging everywhere, helped along by the expansion of higher education and online communication.