How Do Lawyers Relate to Science Literacy? A New Methodological Framework

Sarah Cooper (Corresponding / Lead Author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    How do Lawyers relate to Science Literacy? A New Methodological Framework introduces a novel framework for investigating the relationship between lawyers and the concept of science literacy, contextualized within intersections of criminal justice and forensic science. Part I grounds the framework by examining the broader connections between law and science: how science helps the law to understand the world in which law and legal policy must operate, particularly within the criminal justice system's utilization of forensic techniques. It then considers how the responses of criminal courts to uncertainties arising from scientific progress in the form of DNA technology illuminate the distinctive perspectives of law and science in interpreting the world, prompting the question: how can we reconcile these differences in pursuit of a stronger justice system? Part II presents deepening our understanding of science literacy in the context of legal practice as a strategy, defining the concept and underscoring its significance in legal practice, using the realm of criminal justice and forensics to illustrate. Here, it is argued that any exploration of how lawyers relate to science literacy must be sensitive to the norms of their environment i.e., how law approaches the world, as they likely impact how a lawyer relates to science literacy. In Part III, the paper unveils the proposed methodological framework, drawing on the conceptualization of science literacy by the National Academy of Sciences in its 2016 report, Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences, and responding to its call for researchers to focus on justice systems. In stages that gradually refine the inquiry’s focus, the framework directs research attention towards – and joins up – societal systems, community structures, and the daily relevance of science literacy to lawyers. As a case study, it proposes an inquiry into how state public defenders, operating the criminal justice system, relate to science literacy in their routine legal practice involving forensics. It concludes that the framework serves as a starting point for working towards a more comprehensive understanding of how, in context, lawyers navigate the intersections of law and science, which could offer insights on how to improve collaboration and comprehension between legal and scientific communities.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAmerican Journal of Trial Advocacy
    Publication statusAccepted/In press (AAM) - 9 May 2024


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