I understand the desire for experts to be identified and acknowledged. In many aspects of life there are people I respect and admire for their knowledge and wisdom - their expertise - in everything from making pies to modelling ecological communities. On the other hand, I’m not big on labels that all too often exempt their recipients from critical scrutiny and, whether it’s intended or not, reduce others to the category of nonexpert.
I’m a lapsed member of the American Fisheries Society (and several other academic clubs). I belonged for years because membership was a prerequisite for being taken seriously in some contexts. For example, when working as a consultant I was sometimes asked if I was a member by potential clients who believed (erroneously) that it reflected something more meaningful than my ability and willingness to part with the membership fees. I didn’t mind too much because getting the journals delivered to me was convenient. And I was able and willing to part with the fees. The AFS developed a certification program of sorts that allowed those with a certain employment and publication records to apply for their professional designation. Not many people I knew at the time ever bothered although I don’t know whether that reflects how things were in other peer groups or regions. Regardless, I know many people with limited or no formal training whose knowledge of fish, lake systems, wetland communities and whatnot is vastly more broad and nuanced than some of the “experts” revered within that group. They would never have been granted the certificate. I went to some meetings of the association and found them valuable but I’m an introvert by nature and not enthusiastic about parting with large sums of money so I didn’t go often. I am aware that the main thing I lost was a social network that is the main feature of these bodies and a major determinant of who gets called an expert. If you’re unorthodox and outside the club you’re always going to be suspect no matter what you know. I’ve sat through meetings in which profoundly brilliant and widely read people have been savaged by club members who didn’t have even a basic understanding of the work they were criticizing and where decisions were made using stereotypes and prejudices that were wholly unsupported by facts because some “expert” supported them.
If a person has a publication record that means something. The same is true of many other measures of competence employed in academia, business, the law or wherever. There is no formula that agglomerates all of those meaningful criteria into an objective measure of expertise.
Anyway, expert is one of those terms like leader, patriot or freedom-fighter. It’s what some people call other people who confirm their biases. The smartest, wisest, most constructive people I’ve known have all cringed when people called them experts.