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When Is Expert Testimony Useful to Courts?

You have been asked to provide expert testimony in a judicial proceeding. Even if you have done so dozens of times, you are slightly anxious. You are a scientist. You take pride in that role and consequently want to do an outstanding job. The task seems simple enough. You are familiar with the topic about which you are to testify, and the attorneys sound pleasant enough. But as you reflect a little more, you have some nagging concerns: Just what do courts expect from me? How can I more eff

Neil Browne

You have been asked to provide expert testimony in a judicial proceeding. Even if you have done so dozens of times, you are slightly anxious. You are a scientist. You take pride in that role and consequently want to do an outstanding job. The task seems simple enough. You are familiar with the topic about which you are to testify, and the attorneys sound pleasant enough.

But as you reflect a little more, you have some nagging concerns:

  • Just what do courts expect from me?

  • How can I more effectively perform my role?

  • Will my participation in the legal process damage my self-respect as a scientist?

Our study of the process of expert testimony may hint at tentative answers to those questions.1 While we cannot answer the questions with the certitude we would prefer, there is much to be gained by recognizing that the answer to all three questions...

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