Science and Law
19th October 2012

What do scientific organizations consider as valid evidence?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has taken a critical stance on epidemiologic methods and systems for determining the value of study evidence.

What do scientific organizations consider as valid evidence?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has taken a critical stance on epidemiologic methods and systems for determining the value of study evidence. This recently published report highlights the methods and criteria used by various reputable scientific organizations (e.g., International Agency for Research on Cancer and the American Institute for Cancer Research) and how these organizations go about collecting, assessing and weighing evidence when making causal judgments.

A short commentary written by David Oliver (Partner at VORYS LLP) calls out two important ideas: (1) criteria should be explicit regarding the weight or relative importance, given to studies in humans, animals, or other experimental systems; and (2) strong and consistent epidemiological evidence in rigorously conducted studies is prima facie (self-evident from the facts) evidence.

These considerations regarding what is valid scientific evidence have significant implications in the context of litigation shrouded by complex science. As complex scientific issues and mechanisms enter the courtroom, legal professionals must maintain a high understanding of the intricacies of modern science as well as adequately determine whether expert testimony or causal evidence is based on rigorous scientific reasoning and methodology.

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