National Courts and Sciences Institute
National Courts & Sciences Institute
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Judges' Science Boot Camp

 

Operating through NCSI’s Center for Science, Health and the Courts, we partner with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The Center’s Chief Scientific Officer is James P. Evans, MD, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Genetics, and Director of UNC’s Bryson Institute on Human Genetics. The Center’s Executive Officer is Franklin M. Zweig, Ph.D., JD, NCSI Senior Fellow. The next program offered by the Center is Judges’ Basic Science and Medical School, December 6-8 2017 at the UNC William and Ida Friday Conference Center, with accommodations at the adjacent Courtyard by Marriott Chapel Hill.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE JUDGES' SCIENCE BOOT CAMP

Question: Is the Boot Camp only for resource judges preparing for a concentration?

 

Answer: No. All resource judges must complete a Boot Camp in order to be certified in a concentration, but NCSI will design and present a Boot Camp for jurisdictions and judges' associations upon request.

 

Question: What is an NCSI Science Boot Camp’s central theme?

 

Answer:  The applicable law of evidence can be understood fully only if it is viewed as an inquiry into the underlying scientific methodology of the evidence purportedly claiming to support one side or another in a criminal or civil trial. 


Question: How do judges intersect with “scientific methodology”?

 

Answer: All jurisdictions now recognize the role of the presiding judge as the gatekeeper of the fitness of evidence presented at trial and preserved on appeal.  The key question facing the presiding judge is whether the evidence has been derived from valid scientific research or is another form of claim intended to persuade the tier of fact.


Question: Why can’t most judges separate valid science from other claims?

 

Answer:  Most majored in humanities and political science in college. Many also avoided fields that required a substantial foundation in math and statistics. 


Question: If I failed chemistry in kindergarten, can I gain from a Boot Camp?

 

Answer: You, among millions, may have been a victim of poor teaching and learning approaches.  Most judges find that their resistance to science quickly gives way to plain English descriptions presented in historical context. 


Question: Does NCSI have a remedy for early negative experiences with science education?

 

Answer:  Make it fun. Unleash innate curiosity. Design experiments and generate empirical evidence.  Make the curriculum interactive. Recruit neutral and independent scientists who eschew being a career expert witness, and who survive NCSI’s audition process. Present science and technology in plain language. Amply illustrate with court cases.


Question: How much experience does NCSI have in convening and evaluating Science Boot Camps?

 

Answer: Beginning in 1995, an estimated 4,500 judges have been immersed in science education for a few days with lots of room for informal contact and case examples.


Question: What’s NCSI’s Science Boot Camp takeaway objective?

 

Answer: Judges will be able to identify valid science and to distinguish it from pseudoscience or non-scientific claims garbed in scientific jargon, so-called junk science.


Question: How much math or statistics background is required?

 

Answer: None.  The Boot Camp thrives on concepts, research principles, and published reports.


Question: What can judges expect from a Science Boot Camp experience?

 

Answer: Answers to the following questions in cases coming into the courtroom:

 

            1. What is science?

 

            2. How does science differ from other approaches to describing and

            explaining natural phenomena?

 

            3. What rules does science adopt for distinguishing between strong and

            weak research evidence?

 

            4. What attributes must a proffered witness possess to be qualified as an

            “expert”: in forensics; in developmental neurobiology and risk measures;

            in ecosystem and climate sciences; in health care outcomes research; and in

            genetic engineering?


Question: Does NCSI always answer questions with questions?

 

Answer: Of course not. Ask us for concrete responses, and you will get them. (You can use the Contact menu on this web site or call us). But good scientific research is continuous and infinite, often producing more questions than a given study can answer.  In this the process very much resembles good judicial practice and a never-ending stream of decisions and verdicts. That’s the nature of progress.