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National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists

The National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists (NCLS) was established in 1974 as a joint standing committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Section of Science and Technology Law.  The committee has fourteen members, half appointed by AAAS and half appointed by the ABA.

The goals of NCLS are:

  • To promote a better understanding of science among lawyers and judges and of the legal system among scientists;
  • To improve communications between lawyers and judges on the one hand, and scientists and engineers, on the other;
  • To monitor and examine emerging public policy issues of concern to lawyers/judges and scientists/engineers;
  • To examine such issues cooperatively and, where appropriate, to recommend policy alternatives to their respective organizations and others relating to such matters;
  • To sponsor joint symposia, programs and studies; and
  • To identify and collaborate with groups from other nations interested in exploring similar subjects.

In furtherance of these goals, NCLS serves as an advisory body to the Center for Scientific Responsibility and Justice.  AAAS and ABA personnel provide staff support to the committee and AAAS staff also serve on the S&T Section Leadership Group.  NCLS is available to advise the AAAS CEO and Board of Directors on science/law issues that come to its attention in order to provide guidance on AAAS policy decisions.  Similarly, the S&T Law Section can call on NCLS for advice on scientific and public policy issues.

Throughout its history, NCLS has been at the leading edge of exploring issues at the interface of science and law.  Through workshops, symposia, conferences, and studies, NCLS efforts have touched on many of the most controversial and complex issues in a rapidly changing legal and scientific environment.  For example, NCLS was among the first to hold multi-disciplinary workshops to discuss scientific misconduct, genetic enhancement, and the ethical, legal, and policy implications of genetic testing.  Beginning in 2006, NCLS has sponsored a series of judicial education seminars on “Emerging Issues in Neuroscience.”  In 2009, the series received a Judicial Education Award from the ABA Judicial Division’s National Conference of Specialized Court Judges.  NCLS also participated in drafting amicus briefs for AAAS in two legal cases, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals and Daniel J. Bernstein v. U.S. Department of Commerce.

AAAS Members

Shobita Parthasarathy
University of Michigan

John Randell
Human Cell Atlas

Hanan Samet
University of Maryland

Dawnie Wolfe Steadman
University of Tennessee

Staff Officer:
Alain Norman

ABA Members

Hugh B. Wellons, Co-Chair
Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC

Michael A. Aisenberg
MITRE Corporation

James J. Casey, Jr.
City University of New York

Patrick J. Coyne
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP

Charlene Goldfield
Federal Communications Commission

Ric Henschel
Potomac Law Group

Laura McDonald
Levine, Blaszak, Bock & Boothby

Staff Liaison:
Caryn Hawk
American Bar Association