Over at Wired News, a piece about Gordon Rugg and the verifier method. What is that? Well, you see, in and around every field of speciality, there is an “expertise gap” that exists… approaches and possibilities that lie outside the mainstream of extant disciplines.
This “expertise gap” is rife in academia, but few recognize it, let alone know how to correct for it. It starts with the best of intentions. Institutions want top-notch people, so they offer incentives to attract and groom experts. Young grad students learn early that if they want to carve out a niche, they must confine their interests to a narrow field. It’s not enough to work in spinal cord regeneration; it must be stem cell-based solutions to the problem. That’s great if a researcher just happens to stumble on a perfect stem cell cure. But as specialists get further from their core expertise, the possible solutions – what’s been tried, what hasn’t, what was never properly examined, what ought to be tried again – get even more elusive.
With the verifier approach, Rugg begins by asking experts to draw a mental map of their field. From there, he stitches together many maps to form an atlas of the universe of knowledge on the subject. “You look for an area of overlap that doesn’t contain much detail,” he says. “If it turns out there’s an adjoining area which everyone thinks is someone else’s territory, then that’s a potential gap.”
And if you look in that gap, you find solutions to problems that people didn’t even know were specifically there, though they kind of intimated them by the way that theories malfunctioned or broke down when aimed that this or that subject.
Though the formatting on the page is messed up, the article is quite fascinating. Here’s hoping Rugg manages to help find more interesting and useful breakthroughs in the areas of Alzheimer’s and physics!