In the term "Subject Matter Expert" (SME), what does the qualifier "Subject Matter" mean? Are there experts without subject matter (other than perhaps Irwin Corey, the "World's Foremost Authority")


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    Welcome to EL&U. As a reminder, questions on Stack Exchange are expected to demonstrate some initial attempts at research. Subject matter can be found in a dictionary. – choster Aug 22 '19 at 13:57
  • I'm not convinced the second part of this question ("Are there experts without subject matter") belongs here. It's not really a question about the English language. Obviously "expert" without "subject matter" before it is good English. – Stuart F Aug 22 '19 at 16:30
  • @choster I'll argue that I did include a link to the research, an entire Wikipedia article on the subject, which did not actually differentiate aS ubject Matter Expert from other types of Expert. The terms and acronym are commonly used in business . – prototype Aug 23 '19 at 19:14

But I totally see his point

All experts are only expert in their subject matter.

it is kind of understood, and implied.

So it is kind of redundant to call someone a subject matter expert.

It is a $5 term for a 25 cents concept.


From the page you reference:

In general, the term is used when developing materials (a book, an examination, a manual, etc.) about a topic, and expertise on the topic is needed by the personnel developing the material.

The reason you might call someone a "subject-matter expert" is to clarify that the person is an expert on this subject matter. A medical doctor can certainly be called an expert, but if he's being quoted in a book about plants, then he's probably not a subject-matter expert.

  • no one disagrees that there is a definition. But the OP says the term Subject Matter Expert... Is redundant. And I think he has an excellent point... what expert isn't only an expert of his/her subject matter? – dolphin_of_france Aug 22 '19 at 21:57
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    @dolphin_of_france An expert marksman may know nothing about the theory of shooting, but still be an excellent shot. They are not expert in a subject matter (body of knowledge) but in a practice. – Jason Bassford Aug 23 '19 at 2:32

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