Monday, July 25, 2005

How to Defend Science: All In One Handy Package

I've written a number of times about the right-wing corporate Republican attempt to corrupt science in an effort to undermine the basis for regulations that protect workers, consumers and the environment. (here, here, here and here.) What most of these stories have in common is that they are based on articles by George Washington University Professor David Michaels.

Now Michaels and a few friends have put together a supplement to the American Journal of Public Health on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy. The entire journal can be downloaded free of charge at the site.

The purpose of the supplement is to arm scientists, attorneys and public health advocates with the tools they need to navigate the modern legal and regulatory system that has come under attack for being based on junk scientists, and where judges have been given unprecedented powers to determine the validity of scientific information by the Supreme Court's 1993 Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc decision.

Some of the highlights includeManufacturing Uncertainty: Contested Science and the Protection of the Public’s Health & Environment, by Michaels & Celeste Monforton, A Cognitive Scientist Looks at Daubert, by George Lakoff, and Science and Regulation: Current Impasse and Future Solutions, Polly J Hoppin & Richard Clapp and much, much more.

Michaels and the authors have been around the block a few times and understand how things work in the real world. As Michaels points out in the opening editorial,
The likelihood that questions of scientific validity are raised in a legal proceeding is related to the wealth of the parties involved.

Indigent defendants in criminal trials, for example, are rarely capable of hiring experts to counter questionable science that purports to link them with a crime. In contrast, corporate defendants often hire teams of lawyers and scientific experts to use Daubert to make it difficult and costly for plaintiffs to put on their scientific cases through expert witnesses.
And while you're in the neighborhood, check out the rest of the Defending Science website sponsored by the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP).

SKAPP is an initiative of scholars to examine the application of scientific evidence in the legal and regulatory arenas. We are committed to a future of transparent decision-making that draws on the best science to protect public health. Our objectives are:

  • to enhance understanding of how science is used and misused in government decision-making and in legal proceedings; and
  • to inform decision-makers about the nature of scientific inquiry and opinion.