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The Future of Expert Communities. Part 1. Forerunners of expert communities

The Future of Expert Communities. Part 1. Forerunners of expert communities

Today, the investment sphere in the so-called innovative economy is more and more dependent on the experts. I mean not the narrowly focused specialists in the specific professional sphere. I refer to the specialists that use the acquired practice of the systems thinking for building interaction with other specialists individually in various systems of the labours` division. These are the professionals who know how to manage their own qualifications and competences. Exactly due to this ability to manage their own competences and qualifications while interacting with other professionals, they are attracted to perform expert analysis by external customers.

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The specifics of the experts` interaction with the interested parties, ones or another, that make an order for their expertness via business, state, social organisation — leads to the situation where the expert community plays the biggest part in the life of this expert. So those, who need experts, work not with the single professionals, but with the overall expert community.

By virtue of the specifics of the expert communities existence, they deal with the challenges that are unbearable for other forms of professional activities. That is why it is so important for everyone who holds an interest in expert communities to know and understand how to form and get use of them.

However, let’s have a deeper look at how the role of expert communities has been changing in history.


The origin of the scientific communities

Expert communities should be distinguished from intellectual schools within the framework of educational institutions on the one hand, and on the other hand, from professional workshops and guilds. In the first case (we talk about multiple educational institutions from Pythagorean schools to modern universities) there was a strict academical hierarchy, complex stages of reaching the selected group and relative autonomy from external actors, that have their interests in the results of the schools’ performance. The main problem of the functional guilds was a tight connection of the craftsman to their personal mastery. The system was built on the orientation to the development of low-intellectual skills that did not imply the deep division of labour, and hence also of the knowledge that usually appeared while building interaction with other professionals. Moreover, the functional guilds did not aim at the expertness advance. They were created to keep the only standard of the product creation for years and centuries. However, the functional guilds have to be mentioned because they created a prototype of modern professional and industry communities, with many features that are inherent to them now.

I would subsume the emerging of the expert communities to that intellectual clubs that stand at the roots of modern science academies: Pontaniana (Naples)Leopoldina (Halle)Royal Society of LondonParis Academy of Sciences, etc. These communities have similar stories. At first, there was an informal club of intellectuals whose task was to search the truth in one or another discipline of natural philosophy. Over time, these communities were taken into the state guardianship. One of the reasons for that move was the aristocratic origin of the clubmen. One of the main elements of aristocratic lifestyle was inclusion in science, philosophy and art, which were more likely to be related to the eternal soul evolvement, not as conversational worldly possession. Therefore, science studies did not imply any benefits. Is there any good greater than the search for the truth?

The Future of Expert Communities. Part 1

However, the role of the scientific communities was not reduced just to the symbolism of particular monarchy enlightenment. They glorified its greatness and it was not the only mission. Soon, the state became the main customer of the specific researches. Conversely, the state with the lords on board, represented by the kings, princes, viziers and tyrants reinforced their greatness by positive reinforcement of the elegant arts and lofty disciplines. Yet, just the occurrence of the scientific communities in the Enlightenment, the lords started to cooperate with them in the form of institution, not with the individual scientific activists.

Immanuel Kant`s description of the cognition goals became the most important distinguishing feature of the scientific institution. He pointed out the desire to form knowledge that meets the requirements of:

  • Justification;

  • Authenticity;

  • Validity.

The community has formed those rules, as a fundamental basis, that made it possible to alienate the products of its activities from each particular participant and pass the products off as the creation of the community as a whole. That worked as a ground for the experimentation method in the natural sciences. It made it possible for any member of the community to verify the reliability of knowledge of any other member and the reliability of the overall community’s knowledge. The procedures of new concepts protection (justification) came from here. Hence the connection between university education, which produces neophytes of science and forms a single language they speak (validity). There is to say on the language of the philosophy of science, the scientific community did not form the knowledge of the individual scientists. It formed the knowledge of the entire community as a single transcendental subject. Having passed a certain path of upbringing within the community, a person could stand in a certain supra-individual position of a transcendental subject and see the world as any other member of the community sees it without any personal distortions and other obstacles that are described as idols of the mind by Francis Bacon. To emphasize again, the scientific community also became the keeper and the environment which guaranteed the sought for the very true knowledge, by virtue of the norms of its existence.

Regardless of the fact that scientific clubs and communities were rooted in mediaeval universities, it is evident that an emerging scientific community has been formed in contrast to the Middle-Aged norms of the academic community existence. First of all, because the procedures that certify certain data as reliable facts were the source of true knowledge, not the Scripture or spiritual authority experiments a logically consistent theory; and the hypothetico-deductive method, which launched the process of generating and testing new knowledge in practice, in contrast to the inductive method, that only gave impetus to the scientific theory development. The described new method launched the process of generating and testing new knowledge in practice. That way, any member of the community at any time and any place could verify things as facts.

True knowledge, which is above the interests of each particular scientist, became the main goal of the scientific community. The community itself was built based on the principles of the knightly order. Up to this days, various types of activity aimed at the reproduction and development of the scientific community itself (peer-reviewed scientific papers, participation in certification committees, scientific seminars, etc.) are done completely free of charge and are considered to be the duty of the scientific community to itself.

Only wealthy people, that are independent of external financing sources, could afford this. Therefore, there were no external intermediaries between scientists and knowledge. The value of each member`s contribution to the common cause was determined at the level of horizontal relations between all participants. This later became an integral feature of any other community built on the knowledge base.


Transformation of the Expert Communities Role

The knowledge that was created by the scientific community at the Enlightenment, even at the level of experiments, was much more visual and close to practice (production) than the knowledge generated by medieval universities. The reputation of the founders of the scientific communities was that much sizable that it could not be left without the interest or orders from the state or different comparable entities (for example magnates as the Medici family were the ones who sponsored activities of many scientists and artists like Galileo Galilei).

The state’s interest in scientific research grew along with the increasing complexity of the division of labour and its technological intensification. The industrial revolution facilitated the demand of the complex activity systems — from production to the military affairs — for the selection of the specific area, that was meant to be used for the generation, testing and structuring of new knowledge. The relationships of the state with the scientific communities became closer. The allocation of money from the state budgets on the researches contributed to the structuration of these relationships:: from verification of the results of the search by the third party to the system of the technical assignment and financial flows granted for researches. This way the club form of the exploratory activity began its turning into the big bureaucratic institute. “The Scientist” has become a profession, scientists have been working for money, and the science itself from the worship to the truth — non-utilitarian and “man-sized” — has begun to turn into a variety of statewide R&D. It is clear that the main reason for the existence of science has become serving the national economy, especially in military science and society management.

However, Michel Foucault wrote his concept “Knowledge / Power” about the interdependence and the closest connection of the institutes of knowledge with the interests of the authorities. This topic deserves separate analysis, so here we are not going to belabour it.

With the growth of bureaucracy in scientific institutions, those values ​​that were laid in the foundation by founding fathers began to fade into the background. Completely mercantile goals began to appear in focus. All activities of the scientific communities obeyed the battle for financing, that was represented by the number of the ensuing circumstances: ignoring the achievements of the competing scientific institutions` representatives, hierarchizing and pyramidal distribution of income, conspiracy about peer review and the formation of a whole new class called bobo — a bohemian bourgeoisie that arose next to the academic expert community. All these features of the science behaviour and structure are perfectly disclosed in a number of studies of the sociology of science.

All these facts and much more factors led to the situation when the science community ceased to exist in the proper sense of the word.


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