With ALT-C 2009 approaching I found myself updating my details in CrowdVine. It was interesting to see how my work had moved on since the last conference and how my interests had developed, but I found myself stalling at the same question that had foxed my last year:
What topics are you an expert in?
Now there’s a good question… that is ‘What is an expert?‘
At what point would you call yourself or someone else an expert? Is it an absolute term or a relative one? If you can translate two words from an obscure dead language, and that’s two more than anyone else in the world, are you an expert? Well, you know more than anyone else so, relatively, you are. However, look at it another way, that’s just two words of many thousands, or tens of thousands; you know next to nothing in absolute terms. Feel like an expert now?
Maybe one’s expertness can only really be judged by others; they know how much more we know than they do, we look like experts, but we know always how much more there is to learn.
So, what do I profess to be an expert in? Well, the term is loaded for me; perhaps it is my training (any physical scientists want to comment on that?) but I would be be loath to apply it to myself without thinking I had a lot to back up my claim. The area of my doctoral and post doctoral research, yes, I was the expert in that very small area of that very small field, and unsurprisingly I don’t remember a crowd beating a path to my door to learn more about it. (Buy me a coffee, a good cup of coffee, and I promise not to tell you anything about it).
Yet, there are probably areas in which I could offer someone help and advice; how do you express that though without using the word ‘expert’.
Look forward to meeting you at ALT-C 2009, expert or not!