An investigation into the possibility of using sociological research methodologies for the elicitation of tacit knowledge for building knowledge intensive systems
The research notes that deficiencies in knowledge acquisition are impeding the advancement of Knowledge Intensive Systems (KIS), such as Expert Systems (ES) and Decision Support Systems (DSS). Humphreys (1989) maintains the problem is not the quantity of knowledge collected but its quality. Humphreys (1989) contends that 'Knowledge' has too narrow a definition in knowledge acquisition dogma and a wider definition of 'knowledge' capable of handling 'procedural uncertainty' is required. 'Tacit knowledge' by which Polanyi (1967) contends individuals interpret the world appears a fruitful area to widen the definition of knowledge. The subjective nature of tacit knowledge makes its explication problematic, however, it is noted that tacit knowledge has a social aspect (interiorization) which appears amenable to sociological investigation. On the basis of the above it seemed prudent to focus the investigation down to the following research question, 'On the basis of its nature, is there a method whereby at least some tacit knowledge can be explicated for. a) building the knowledge base; b) more accurately predicting or planing for its usage and for setting expectations.' To test the thesis, a pilot investigation was undertaken at a local Housing Association in order to gain first hand experience of knowledge acquisition. Examples of how experts tacitally classify their domain were identified and methods of explicating this knowledge were tentatively formulated. The above resulted in the formulation of a new perspective: traditionally KBS has concerned itself with eliciting knowledge to be embodied in the knowledge base, whereas, IS has concerned itself in gaining the knowledge involved in the systems use/interpretation. Fieldwork was later conducted in the maternity units of two local hospitals in order to test the generalizability of these methods. Five methods for the explication of tacit knowledge were identified. 1) The analysis of the reification of existing systems and the rationality internal to these systems, can be used to explicate tacit knowledge. 2) More than one set of tacit knowledge can be present in one domain. Points where two sets of tacit knowledge interact expose contradictions which can be used as a tool to explicate the tacit knowledge of both groups. 3) The analysis of anecdotes revealed how domains were tacitally delimited and the 'criticality' of tasks within a domain. 4) Action research using a 'mock up' data base revealed tacitally held domain knowledge with implications for micro level criticality, of particular importance to interface design. 5) The thesis identified knowledge acquisition as a method of sociological investigation.