Experts vs. Amateurs - Governance

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Getting the dynamic between amateurs and experts right in Peer Production projects, is one of the key issues of Peer Governance, especially where the accuracy of the data are at issue.

Various projects will therefore develop specific instances of distributed Communal Validation processes, which guarantee a role for experts, in the context of accuracy, while avoiding any Crowding Out effects, i.e. the discouragement of broad participation through excessive reliance on the power of experts.


Validation in Citizen Science projects

Citizen Science projects pose the problem of accuracy and the cooperation between experts and amateurs.

By Adam Glenn at

See our entry on Citizen Journalism for extra context:

"I think such citizen science projects offer valuable models that can be applied to citizen media projects:

1. Rigorous data collection. The Christmas Bird Count uses carefully developed methodologies to avoid spoiling data with inaccurate or duplicate information. Likewise, citizen journalists can establish and disseminate guides for reporting and photography standards -- especially regarding verifiable info such as names, quotes, attribution, numbers and the like.

2. Pooling and verifying cumulative results. The sheer volume of overall data collected in the Bird Count ensures that, if any contaminated info does sneak in, it won't unacceptably distort the final result. That's an important lesson for citizen journalism sites, harking back to the journalistic principle of verifying information with multiple sources. Ideally, citJ projects should seek multiple iterations of information -- for example, requiring that assertions by one contributor be verified by others.

3. Vetting amateurs. Even small hurdles like registration forms and minimal fees can weed out the unworthy, while extensive mandatory training can seriously raise the level of contributions (as well as the cost, unfortunately). It's worth considering whether citJ sites might benefit from mandatory online tutorials, accuracy checklists or story forms to make sure vital info isn't left out of submissions.

4. Expert-amateur interaction. Most citizen science projects aim to pair the novice with either experienced amateurs or experts themselves, fostering mentoring relationships that ultimately improve the data. Why shouldn't experienced citizen journalists (or professional journalists associated with new media or even mainstream media) provide the same mentoring? This could be done via workshops, in-the-field training, online editing, or other means. If the gains in media democratization aren't enough for you, how about the ways in which the resulting bond with the community and its most active news consuming members could pay off in loyalty to the news product?" (

More Information

  1. Beth Noveck on Experts vs. Knowledge Networks in an article on Wiki-Government.