Science and Law
11th June 2014

How Does Your Busy Litigation Team Access the Science?

Once the science related to your case has been identified and the team is alerted to its existence, it needs to be stored and archived in a central location that can be accessed and updated by any team member. We know many individuals working on large, science-based cases store files on their local computers or a central, shared drive.

How Does Your Busy Litigation Team Access the Science?

In our previous posts, we discussed the first and second steps of effective scientific information management for litigators: Targeting and Identifying the Right Science and Alerting the Team. Today, we’re going to discuss the third step: Archiving the science. Our belief is that if literature is easily accessible to the entire team through rational, effective systems, it is more likely that your team members will refer to it, which can often help strengthen your case.


Once the science related to your case has been identified and the team is alerted to its existence, it needs to be stored and archived in a central location that can be accessed and updated by any team member. We know many individuals working on large, science-based cases store files on their local computers or a central, shared drive. But when the number of documents gets very large (100s or 1,000s of documents), this process becomes untenable and there are always questions leaving you wondering if you have the latest version of the document or if the drives properly synched. Essentially, if the information is not archived in a retrievable fashion, it gets initially digested but then your team members are often left scrambling to retrieve a piece of information that they read, but don’t have ready access to. Consequently, team members often end up summoning an archivist to help them find an article they need.

Central archiving is usually best achieved using a database. There are many excellent scientific literature databases out there, including web-based versions, desktop versions, and hybrid solutions, including the following excellent examples:  RefWorks, Mendeley, Endnote, and Zotero. Each example has plusses and minuses and at the end of the day it is an individual choice as to which one is best for your particular situation. The best solutions are ones where the users are most comfortable interacting with the interface, they allow documents to be tagged by litigation topic, and provide full-text search capabilities.

It is also important to link identification and retrieval parts of the information management process (i.e. step 1) to the archive and storage part of the process. When these two parts of the process are linked, you have an efficient, truly end-to-end solution. PubMed (a very commonly utilized identification tool) provides document retrieval capabilities if you subscribe to their LoansomeDoc service. However, this service requires you to register with a local library, and then once your literature arrives, an appointed person must do the manual upload and tagging to ensure the article is properly archived. Furthermore, there is no archival solution built in to that process, so your team will invariably need to store the documents in yet another system.

For ease of retrieval, the archival database solution you chose should include specific information about every element of scientific information, including the following: study title, authors, abstract, journal name, and even full-text of the article ideally. In addition, many litigation teams like to have the articles coded with subjective tags that allow similar articles to be called up together.  This might include tags about study design, subject type, pro-defense or pro-plaintiff findings, etc. This allows you to effectively group scientific information together and to readily access the right information when needed.

In our next post in this series, we will be expanding upon the fourth step in the process of effective scientific information management: Compiling and tabulating the science relevant to specific litigation topics so you can fully leverage it to create effective cross examination modules that allow you to confront opposing experts with the totality of scientific information on your topic.

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