Knowledge engineering and subject matter experts: 4 key points

Here are 4 key points to remember if you are working with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create a knowledge base for an expert system:

1. Expert knowledge is a critical ingredient

The value of the expert system comes from its expert knowledge. If your knowledge engineering efforts rely on SMEs who are weak in their domain, it will have a significant negative impact on the quality of the expert system.

2. SMEs must frame their knowledge in a way non-experts can use it

SMEs have two important jobs. Besides providing expertise, they serve as ‘proxies’ for the expert system’s end users. Most SMEs who operate in a professional or service-based context can articulate the way non-experts describe their problems in the domain, along with typical user misconceptions, limitations, and so on.

3. SMEs must understand and accept the context of the expert system

SMEs need appreciate the objectives, strengths and limitations of the expert system. They must recognize it as a pattern recognition system designed to address problems in the domain. A SME who dwells on the fact that the expert system is not a human, and that it can’t handle every possible situation, will have trouble with the knowledge engineering process.

4. Knowledge engineers don’t have to be SMEs

Knowledge engineers don’t need to be SMEs in the domain. Knowledge engineers only need to know the knowledge engineering methodology. They must also be effective facilitators.

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