Editor's Page--Volume 88, Number 3.

AuthorParkerson, Christopher B.

One of my responsibilities of serving as Editor of the Defense Counsel Journal is reviewing written materials submitted in support of presentations at IADC meetings to determine whether there is potential to expand the materials into journal articles that may reach a wider audience. It is a nice chance to review some of the cutting-edge topics in the law. I have found one fascinating area in these submissions to be the papers and presentations discussing the interaction of science and the law. These two disciplines cross paths often, and I find it very interesting to see how some of our IADC members recommend lawyers address scientific issues.

There is no doubt that many lawyers spend countless hours arguing about various issues ranging from engineering, chemistry and biology to physics and economics. These arguments, while often in-depth and passionate, accept basic principles such as the importance of the scientific method in solving problems. The debate between experts often is the underlying factor in the outcome of major disputes. It is critical that lawyers be able to understand and advocate on the part of science. It is also important that judges, jurors, and administrative decision makers be able to accept the importance of the role of science in these disputes.

The recent perception set forth in the media is that Americans are rejecting science and have no faith in science or scientists. Knowing the importance science plays in our jobs, these reports caused me to be concerned about how decisions may be made by people who reject science and are willing to take a stance on key issues without regard to opinions of experts.

My concern was calmed somewhat by research from polling data put together by the Pew Research Center which show that the share of Americans with confidence in scientists to act in the public interest is positive and has even increased since 2016. As of 2019, 35% of Americans report "a great deal of confidence" in scientists to act in the public interest, up from 21% in 2016. Only 13% of Americans have "not too much" or "no confidence" in scientists to act in the public interest. Compare this number to the less than 10% who have a "great deal of confidence" in elected officials or the news media to act in the public interest. Even more importantly, 63% of Americans say the scientific method "generally produces sound conclusions," while only 35% think it can be used to produce "any result a researcher wants."


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