Acculturating Forensic Science: What is ‘Scientific Culture’, and How Can Forensic Science Adopt It?

39 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2011 Last revised: 21 Feb 2014

See all articles by Simon A. Cole

Simon A. Cole

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Date Written: December 1, 2010

Abstract

Some recommendations from the National Research Council's 2009 Report on forensic science are relatively clear and easy to endorse, such as the need for validation research, accreditation, certification, and standardization of reporting. This paper takes on a more difficult question, the Report's call for forensic science to adopt a "scientific culture." The paper rejects the notion that there is any unitary "culture" that applies to all activities labeled "scientific" any more than there is a unitary thing called "science" or a unitary "scientific method." Nonetheless, there is still a utility to thinking about how a broader notion of "scientific culture" might apply to forensic science. The paper endeavors to do so by conceptualizing what is conventionally labeled "forensic science" into a series of tasks. The paper argues that we should desire different skills, virtues, and norms of behavior from individuals who perform different forensic tasks. The paper concludes by positing an analogy between forensic science and medicine. The paper suggests that the relationship between medical researchers, clinicians, and technicians offers a reasonable model for forensic science in conceptualizing the differentiation of tasks and the relationship between individuals playing different task-roles.

Keywords: Forensic Science, National Research Council, National Academy of Science, Scientific Culture, Scientific Method

Suggested Citation

Cole, Simon A., Acculturating Forensic Science: What is ‘Scientific Culture’, and How Can Forensic Science Adopt It? (December 1, 2010). Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2010, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2011-22, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1788414 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1788414

Simon A. Cole (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.seweb.uci.edu/faculty/cole/

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