The ecosystem of expertise: complementary knowledges for sustainable development (Brand and Karvonen)

Abstract: This article critically examines the approach of technical experts, including engineers, natural scientists, architects, planners, and other practitioners, who are attempting to create more sustainable forms of economic development, environmental protection, and social equity. The authors identify four principal characteristics of expertise–ontological assumptions, epistemological approaches, power inequalities, and practical issues–and employ this framework to test the capability of traditional experts to deliver sustainable development. The authors then provide four alternatives to conventional forms of expertise: the outreach expert who communicates effectively to non-experts, the interdisciplinary expert who understands the overlaps of neighboring technical disciplines, the meta-expert who brokers the multiple claims of relevance between different forms of expertise, and the civic expert who engages in democratic discourse with non-experts and experts alike. All of these alternative forms are needed to manage the often-competing demands of sustainable development projects and they can be described collectively as an “ecosystem of expertise.”

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