Area of Expertise

“Area of Expertise”  refers to the area where one is a specialist in knowledge of and an authority on information in that particular area. In academia, professors are generally regarded as the qualified experts, because they are supposed to be promoted primarily on the basis of their research achievements.

When I was the managing editor of Labuan Bulletin of International Business and Finance, I often need to seek the expertise opinion of  a referee to evaluate the contribution of the submitted manuscript. To find the suitable referee, I would use Google Scholar, Scopus or ISI/WoS. Sometimes, I found that some professors in my discipline did not have many publications in the area they were supposed to profess. At the other extreme, there were some academics who have published extensively in a particular area yet did not even have a PhD. When such situation arose, I often opted for the latter. In my view, a solid publication record is a necessary (or even a sufficient) condition for an academic to be labeled as “expert”.

After returning to Malaysia, I often heard academics with PhD claimed that their “area of expertise” is XXX.  Again, a PhD does not qualify one to be an expert. It is just a recognition that the successful candidate has proven his/her ability to conduct independent research, and that the PhD thesis materials are publishable (sometimes, due to varying reasons, the potential of publishable never fulfilled).  A 3-4 year of rigorous PhD training helps the candidate  to develop an area of specialization, but he/she still needs to further research and publish before that area becomes his/her “area of expertise”. Even someone without PhD can become an expert  in his field, as long as he has solid publication records.

I always look up to John Creedy, the Truby Williams Professor of Economics at the University of Melbourne (check his bio here). In terms of academic qualifications, Prof. John Creedy has a B.Sc. (Economics with Statistics) from the University of Bristol, and a B.Phil. (Economics) from Oxford University. A quick check of his CV reveals that he was promoted to Professor of Economics at Durham University in 1978, 6 years after he obtained his B.Phil. Even without master and PhD degrees, Prof. John Creedy is widely regarded as an expert in economics. His excellent publication records include  32 books, 17 edited books,  54 book chapters, and 234 journal articles. He is often ranked as the top economist in Australia (see, for example, Macri and Sinha, 2006, and references cited therein).