Harvesting collective agreement in community oriented surveys: the medical case.

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The chapter discusses the role of simple and lightweight Web-based systems in promoting a different approach to the externalization of practice-related knowledge within communities of professionals. This approach exploits common online questionnaire systems to collect the preferences of large numbers of domain experts to interesting paradigmatic work cases and proposes a statistically sound evaluation of these responses to evaluate the agreement reached within the community. We tested this approach in a case study that involved a large international medical association, that we chose as an example of a large and highly distributed community of expert professionals
in this study we challenged more than 1,000 surgeons about some border-line clinical cases where tacit notions based on lifelong practice and situated experiences coexist (and sometimes clash) with scientific evidences drawn from the specialistic literature. We make the point that a sound evaluation of the collective agreement is a necessary precondition to use such lean Web-based tools in bottom-up knowledge elicitation initiatives. To this aim, existing measures of agreement and survey-related heuristics can be exploited to get a more precise picture of the “opinion of the many” in collective settings like communities of practice.