The role of experts and the public’s attitude to them was the theme of thought-provoking debates run by the Audit Quality Forum which took place on the 12 June.
In the era of social media and easy access to information, experts are coming under increasing challenge and scrutiny which is undermining their authority and credibility. This has important implications for business who employ experts.
The focus on experts is part of a series of events run by the Forum which are looking at what business needs to get right to increase confidence and trust. Find out more about previous events in the series below:
Timandra Harkness, known for being the resident reporter on Radio 4's social psychology series The Human Zoo, gave the provocation at the event. Timandra looked at why we trust some experts more than others. She argued that we tend to have confidence in experts when their goals, interests and values closely align with ourselves.
The Forum began the debates by looking at what qualities make up an expert. Joining Timandra on stage were:
Panelists discussed the importance of experts self-regulating themselves and knowing when to admit that they are not specialists in an area. The debate also looked at how commercial principles are affecting the public’s view of experts.
The debate moved on to look at the impact of social media on expertise. The panel discussed how the digital world could be empowering by engaging with people quickly and providing the opportunity to respond to challenges.
The result was a healthy environment for discussion and debate, where experts need to provide higher quality of opinions because they are going to be held to account more.
The panelists recognised a growing tendency for people to critique on the basis of who experts are and where they receive their funding rather than addressing their opinions or research.
The final part of the debate began with an audience poll where 67% said they did not feel that experts would be replaced by computers. The panel recognised that human expertise would still be needed, but it would change and become more narrowly focused. Business that invested in computer technology for their expertise needed to be clear how they would be used.