Measuring Statutory Law and Regulations for Empirical Research
Public Health Law Research, February 28, 2012
36 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2012
Date Written: February 28, 2012
Effectively studying the relationship between law and population health requires (1) variation in both the law and health outcomes being studied, preferably over space as well as time, and (2) valid and reliable methods for capturing variation and representing it in forms that allow comparison. A rigorous method for measuring law generates numeric data representing variation in law. The key feature of the method – and that which distinguishes it most from traditional legal research – is that relies on observation of the apparent features of legal texts. By eschewing interpretation, this restrained observational approach produces data that is replicable through a process that is transparent. Transparency and replicability are essential attributes of scientifically defensible data.
There are challenges in measuring law. Relevant legal texts can be hard to find and when found can be rife with ambiguous and conflicting meanings. Formulating reliable and valid ways of reducing complex bodies of law into numeric data can be difficult. There may also be cultural and logistical challenges to blending legal and empirical expertise. These challenges can be overcome by a methodical process of design, data collection and analysis that adheres to general scientific standards. Steps include the careful delineation of the legal questions to be addressed and the cope of the research; the iterative development and refinement of a coding scheme; quality control; and the production of a transparent research protocol and codebook.
Keywords: public health law research, statutory law, empirical legal research
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation