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Science in the courtroom.

Dahl RC - Environ. Health Perspect. (2008)

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Over the last 20 years, the term “junk science” has gained increasing use by defendants in toxic tort litigation as a pejorative phrase to discredit health effects data that do not meet some standard for scientific validity—or, some say, that are favorable to the interests of plaintiffs... Courts have responded by raising the bar that scientific evidence must exceed in order to be admitted as evidence... But has this change produced sound results? In a mini-monograph in this issue, 5 articles examine these questions and others that arise when examining the juncture of science and litigation... Bucher of the NIEHS conclude that public health decisions to allow exposure to possible carcinogens should not rely “on untested hypotheses that are promoted to explain away adverse outcomes. ” Their article focuses specifically on rodent carcinogenicity studies and examines how strict attention to design and evaluation can reduce inaccurate conclusions and provide data that are useful for evaluating human health risks... The authors cite early animal studies on benzene as an example of poor design that failed to detect carcinogenic effects, even though epidemiologic studies demonstrated a causal association between benzene exposure and leukemia in humans... Those early studies employed too few animals, insufficient controls, too short a study duration, and inadequate levels of exposure... In addition, the authors write, “evaluations that are based on incomplete necropsy or histopathology, do not combine related tumor effects, fail to adjust for differences in animal survival, or incorrectly use historical control data would not be expected to produce reliable information on chemical carcinogenesis. ” Courts, meanwhile, have also taken steps to reduce the likelihood of “junk science” influencing juries... Boden and Ozonoff re-examine whether litigation-based science should be treated differently from other science offered as evidence in the courtroom... They conclude that it shouldn’t... In her article, Jasanoff agrees that restrictions placed on litigation-based science following Daubert are misconceived because the scientific knowledge needed to resolve legal disputes often arises only in response to litigation... In the last paper, William R... Freudenburg of the University of California, Santa Barbara, takes a critical look at the nature of bias itself, concluding that scientists oftentimes are not conscious of its influence on them... The problem, he writes, was “the temptation to start changing my own judgments. .. in response to their repeated insistence that it was precisely my independent and scientific credibility that they valued. ” The articles in the mini-monograph share a common thread: when science is used to serve the purposes of litigation or administrative proceedings, great care is needed to ensure its proper deployment, and a courtroom judge is probably not the appropriate person to decide on the reliability and relevance of scientific evidence.

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Should research conducted expressly for court use be held to higher standards than any other research?
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f1-ehp0116-a00037: Should research conducted expressly for court use be held to higher standards than any other research?


Science in the courtroom.

Dahl RC - Environ. Health Perspect. (2008)

Should research conducted expressly for court use be held to higher standards than any other research?
© Copyright Policy - public-domain
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2199310&req=5

f1-ehp0116-a00037: Should research conducted expressly for court use be held to higher standards than any other research?

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

Over the last 20 years, the term “junk science” has gained increasing use by defendants in toxic tort litigation as a pejorative phrase to discredit health effects data that do not meet some standard for scientific validity—or, some say, that are favorable to the interests of plaintiffs... Courts have responded by raising the bar that scientific evidence must exceed in order to be admitted as evidence... But has this change produced sound results? In a mini-monograph in this issue, 5 articles examine these questions and others that arise when examining the juncture of science and litigation... Bucher of the NIEHS conclude that public health decisions to allow exposure to possible carcinogens should not rely “on untested hypotheses that are promoted to explain away adverse outcomes. ” Their article focuses specifically on rodent carcinogenicity studies and examines how strict attention to design and evaluation can reduce inaccurate conclusions and provide data that are useful for evaluating human health risks... The authors cite early animal studies on benzene as an example of poor design that failed to detect carcinogenic effects, even though epidemiologic studies demonstrated a causal association between benzene exposure and leukemia in humans... Those early studies employed too few animals, insufficient controls, too short a study duration, and inadequate levels of exposure... In addition, the authors write, “evaluations that are based on incomplete necropsy or histopathology, do not combine related tumor effects, fail to adjust for differences in animal survival, or incorrectly use historical control data would not be expected to produce reliable information on chemical carcinogenesis. ” Courts, meanwhile, have also taken steps to reduce the likelihood of “junk science” influencing juries... Boden and Ozonoff re-examine whether litigation-based science should be treated differently from other science offered as evidence in the courtroom... They conclude that it shouldn’t... In her article, Jasanoff agrees that restrictions placed on litigation-based science following Daubert are misconceived because the scientific knowledge needed to resolve legal disputes often arises only in response to litigation... In the last paper, William R... Freudenburg of the University of California, Santa Barbara, takes a critical look at the nature of bias itself, concluding that scientists oftentimes are not conscious of its influence on them... The problem, he writes, was “the temptation to start changing my own judgments. .. in response to their repeated insistence that it was precisely my independent and scientific credibility that they valued. ” The articles in the mini-monograph share a common thread: when science is used to serve the purposes of litigation or administrative proceedings, great care is needed to ensure its proper deployment, and a courtroom judge is probably not the appropriate person to decide on the reliability and relevance of scientific evidence.

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