The latest climate change to capture the attention of environmental scientists is taking place not in the atmosphere but in the nation's courtrooms. There science is getting a chilly reception, argue researchers with the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP). They suspect that a 1993 ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals is keeping reliable research out of legal proceedings and preventing certain science-based lawsuits from moving forward.
The Daubert ruling was supposed to help judges in their role as evidence gatekeepers. Determining when science is good enough to be admitted is no easy job, remarks Judge Pamela A. Rymer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting in Pasadena, Calif. Rymer chairs the advisory committee for an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) pilot project that offers independent science experts to judges. "In some cases where the science and technology issues are especially complex, the gatekeeper can benefit from an independent expert," Rymer explains. "The judge has to make the call, but the scientist can serve as a sounding board."
This article was originally published with the title Science v. Law.