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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Psychological Science's Replicability Crisis and What It Means for Science in the Courtroom

By Jason Michael Chin
Journal of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law (Forthcoming)

In response to what has been termed the “replicability crisis,” great changes are currently under way in how science is conducted and disseminated. Indeed, major journals are changing the way in which they evaluate science. Therefore, a question arises over how such change impacts law’s treatment of scientific evidence. The present standard for the admissibility of scientific evidence in federal courts asks judges to play the role of gatekeeper, determining if the proffered evidence conforms with several indicia of scientific validity. The alternative legal framework, and one still used by several state courts, requires judges to simply evaluate whether a scientific finding or practice is generally accepted within science.

This Essay suggests that as much as the replicability crisis has highlighted serious issues in the scientific process, it has should have similar implications and actionable consequences for legal practitioners and academics. In particular, generally accepted scientific practices have frequently lagged behind prescriptions for best practices, which in turn affected the way science has been reported and performed. The consequence of this phenomenon is that judicial analysis of scientific evidence will still be impacted by deficient generally accepted practices. The Essay ends with some suggestions to help ensure that legal decisions are influenced by science’s best practices.

Download the essay here.