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Our goal was to avoid the silo mentality that too often creates obstacles to useful discourse between science and law.The essays in this issue are divided into three sections.Previewing the essays that follow–many of which were written by scientist-lawyer teams, or authors who are themselves both scientists and legal scholars–Diamond and Lempert divide the issue into three sections: “Connecting Science and Law”; “Accommodation or Collision: When Science and Law Meet”; and “Communicating Science in Court.” Through the insights offered and solutions suggested throughout the issue, Diamond and Lempert remain optimistic about future collaboration between science and law.
As in Salem, claims of expertise have often been questioned and objections raised about the bases of expert knowledge.
Expertise, then and now, did not have to be based on science; but the importance of science and the testimony of scientific experts has since medieval times been woven into the fabric of the English jurisprudence that Americans inherited.
Yet the legal system then as now needed to resolve the dispute between the parties, and the scientific evidence offered was the best they had to work with.
As the trial system and the law of evidence developed, courts and juries have continued to struggle to make use of the conflicting expert advice they receive.
For example, in the 1781 trial of , the issue was whether the construction of an embankment, as opposed to natural forces, had caused the deterioration of Wells Harbor.
The first trial introduced engineering testimony from a well-credentialed Fellow of the Royal Society.
By the third trial in 1783, prestigious engineering experts testified on both sides and were subjected to vigorous cross-examination.
The disagreement, in retrospect, was understandable: more than two hundred years later, science still cannot provide a definitive answer to the question posed in that litigation.
The essays in the first section examine the science-law interface by focusing attention on two sets of key players: the judges who determine what scientific evidence will be considered by the legal system, and the scientists and engineers with the expertise to provide that assistance.
The authors of the first two essays have closely studied the history, discourse, and decision-making of U. courts when they are called on to deal with scientific evidence as gatekeepers and decision makers.