Under the auspices of the National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists (NCLS), the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program (SRHRL) sponsors activities that seek to improve the level of scientific and technical expertise available to the courts. In 1990, at the request of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, NCLS convened a special task force composed of legal professionals and scientists/engineers to consider and offer recommendations on how the science and engineering communities could most usefully assist the courts in obtaining reliable and impartial scientific and technical expertise.
The task force recommended the initiation of a demonstration project to test and evaluate the feasibility of establishing a link between the scientific and engineering communities and the courts to respond to trial judges’ increasing need for independent scientific experts. In November 1993, a planning conference was held to advise the Program and NCLS on important issues to consider in designing such a project. The conference was attended by members of the judiciary; attorneys drawn from the plaintiffs’ and defense bars and from academia and the federal government; scientists and engineers, as well as staff members from their professional societies; and individuals from private sector organizations with an interest in issues in the science/law nexus.
The feedback of conference participants enabled SRHRL staff, with assistance from working and steering committees composed of the key constituencies noted above, to design a demonstration project with AAAS serving as the link between the courts and the scientific/engineering communities.