The legal system relies heavily on expert testimony on a wide range of subjects. Indeed, the likelihood that a scientist may be called upon to be an expert witness is sufficiently great that all scientists should understand the process. This is especially true in cases of environmental and health and safety suits, where court actions may be critical to the well-being of individuals, the community and society at large.

The role of expert witness provides opportunities for public service and professional development, but it has its dangers. Many people regard expert witnesses as charlatans whose testimony is bought, and who will say anything to get their extraordinarily high fee. The spectacle of two supposed experts vehemently disagreeing on an issue in court only fuels that image. Certain areas of litigation tend to produce "professional" witnesses, but too-frequent testimony from a particular bias can make such an expert appear self-serving.


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