Making Sense of Expertise : Cases from Law, Medicine, Journalism, Covid-19, and Climate Change book cover
1st Edition

Making Sense of Expertise
Cases from Law, Medicine, Journalism, Covid-19, and Climate Change

ISBN 9781032335643
Published October 24, 2022 by Routledge
210 Pages

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Book Description

Current debates about experts are often polarized and based on mistaken assumptions, with expertise either defended or denigrated. Making Sense of Expertise instead proposes a conceptual framework for the study of expertise in order to facilitate a more nuanced understanding of the role of expertise in contemporary society.

Too often different meanings of experts and expertise are implied without making them explicit. Grundmann’s approach to expertise is based on a synthesis of approaches that exist in various fields of knowledge. The book aims at dispelling much of the confusion by offering a comprehensive and rigorous framework for the study of expertise. A series of in-depth case studies drawn from contemporary issues, including the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, provide the empirical basis of the author’s comprehensive approach.

This thought-provoking book will be of great interests to students, instructors and researchers in a range of fields in the humanities, social sciences, and science and technology studies.

Table of Contents



Part I


  1. A General Concept of Expertise
  2. Knowledge based expertise

    Advisors, specialists, commentators and artificial intelligence

    Public curiosity

    Supply and demand of expertise

    Experts and narratives


  3. Expertise in STS
  4. Laboratory studies

    Actor-Networks, human and more-than human agency

    Regulatory science

    Citizen expertise

    Honest brokers


  5. The Power of the Professions
  6. Insiders and outsiders

    Owning the problem

    Networks of expertise

    Tacit knowledge?


  7. Predicting the Future
  8. Foxes and hedgehogs


    The limits of certainty

    A sober view of experts

    Forming judgements in the face of uncertainty


  9. The Politics of Knowledge
  10. Beyond the linear model

    Knowledge, science, and expertise

    Epistemic communities

    Deliberative democracy

    Knowledge regimes


  11. Expertise and Economics
  12. A critique of expertise

    Methodological and political individualism

    Asymmetric information


  13. Discussion and Conclusion

    Part II


  15. The IPCC: A Chameleon of Expertise
  16. Meanings of expertise

    Genesis and function of the IPCC

    Criticism of the IPCC: Geographical and professional bias

    IPCC and public discourse: The narrative of climate change

    Boundary work

    IPCC headlines: From bad to worse to hope?

    How effective has the IPCC been?



  17. COVID, Expertise, and Society: Stepping out of the Shadow of Epidemiology
  18. The necessary but insufficient role of epidemiology

    The role of science, expertise and decision-making

    National responses

    Wicked problems

    COVID and climate: Similarities

    Climate and COVID: Differences

    International cooperation

    The role of data and metrics

    The role of norms and values

    Crisis and emergency



  19. The Challenge to Professional Expertise

The case of medicine

Doctors as experts

Citizens as medical experts

The challenge of AI

Journalism as professional expertise

The rise of citizen expertise

The robot journalist

Fake news

The case of legal practice

Citizen expertise in law

AI applications in law

What do the examples of the professions tell us?


Part III


11. Conclusion

All-to-human and more-than-human


12. Afterword

Project Fear

Governing in the 21st century

Wither expertise?

Towards a heterarchical world society?

What about democracy?

The rise of AI

A reconfiguration of knowledge regimes?

View More



Reiner Grundmann is Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK. His main research interests lie in the relationship between knowledge and decision-making. In recent years, he has studied the public discourse on climate change and how scientific experts, decision makers, the mass media and the general population have framed their views on the issue in different ways. Grundmann also researches the social, political, and cultural dimensions of climate change, including the ethics of climate research, the dilemmas of scientists between advocacy and honest brokering, and the relevance of Sociology and Science and Technology Studies to the climate change debate. He is author of Transnational Environmental Policy: Reconstructing Ozone (Routledge, 2001) and co-author of Experts: The Knowledge and Power of Expertise (Routledge, 2011) and The Power of Scientific Knowledge: From Research to Public Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2012). He is also chief editor for the specialty section Climate and Decision Making in the Frontiers in Climate journal and co-editor of Economic Life in the Modern Age (Transaction, 2001), Knowledge (five volumes, Routledge, 2005) and Society (four volumes, Routledge, 2008).


"This book is a sophisticated attempt to provide a theory of expertise that defines it as a category in the social and organizational worlds. it engages a variety of literatures that are segregated from one another, which students should be exposed to. The discussions of different traditions in the expertise literature, in different chapters, serves any reader well."    

Stephen Turner, author of The Politics of Expertise (Routledge, 2013), and Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Director of Center for Social & Political Thought, University of South Florida, USA

"In this book Grundmann offers new theoretical insights into the nature and operation of expertise in society. He combines his theoretical framework with an empirical application to highly relevant examples, making fascinating discoveries along the way. He is analytically sharp and applies his insights to cases that are highly relevant in current debates, such as Covid-19, Climate Change, or Artificial Intelligence. He manages to resolve the confusion surrounding the role of expertise in these debates. The reader is rewarded with new insights, based on a ground-breaking approach."  

Nico Stehr, author of Knowledge Capitalism (Routledge, 2022) and Emeritus Karl Mannheim Professor of Cultural Studies, Zeppelin University, Germany