Sept 2016: Workshop @ The Institute for Advanced Legal Studies (S95)

20 September 2016 – 21 September 2016

2016 W G Hart Legal Workshop

Valuing Expertise: Legal, Normative and Social Dimensions

From expert evidence in the courtroom, to the use of scientific knowledge in the justification for, and framing of, legislation, law and science are inextricably intertwined. Yet the extent to which science is well represented in law has long been doubted by virtue of a ‘clash of cultures’ (Jasanoff 1992). The issue has become more pressing in recent years due to the growth of scientific and technological innovation, which draws into the adjudicative, legislative and policy realms areas of great scientific complexity for which legal expertise, in and of itself, proves insufficient (Vick 2004; Schrama 2011). Such work also highlights the significant barriers and obstacles for regulators understanding other disciplines and the problems that can result. The same dangers confront non-legal disciplinary experts that are drawn into, or whose work is ‘dropped’ in, the legal and political realms. Disciplines are akin to foreign cultures, with different languages, norms and forms of life and actors become disciplined, and acquire the tacit knowledge inhabiting their fields by virtue of social immersion. It is the socialisation within the expert domain which provides the ‘deep understanding’ underpinning expertise (Collins and Evans 2007). The logical corollary of this is that a lack of socialisation within target disciplines results in the absence of a deep appreciation of what is going on in other fields. Despite serious ramifications for justice, the detailed work necessary to develop tools and interactional expertise for bridging a science-law gap that is far wider and more complex than is typically appreciated, is missing.

This workshop seeks to bring together a range of scholars, policy actors and others, whose diverse and innovative work addresses the complex meeting point of law and science, regulation and politics, evidence and epistemology. We welcome contributions that help to facilitate a conversation that can more broadly investigate the barriers to the kind of interdisciplinary understanding necessary for evidence-based legal and policy practice, and to map in concrete contexts how a commitment to evidence-based approaches would impact upon legal and public policy. We actively encourage participation in the workshop from early career scholars. The workshop will invite key contributors to speak to the core themes:-

  • The Relationship of Expert Knowledge to Governance
  • Law’s Knowledge
  • Identifying Expertise – Demarcating the boundary between science and policy
  • Using Expertise
  • Measuring Expertise
  • The Politics of Expertise
  • Judging Expertise


The key aim of the workshop is to draw together a range of scholarship and work around the manner by which science, regulation and politics meet for which ‘expertise’ constitutes an organising concept. We will seek to publish a selection of some of the works and findings that arise in the course of the workshop in a special issue of a leading UK journal.


  • Vick, Douglas (2004),Interdisciplinarity and the Discipline of Law’ 31 Journal of Law and Society 163.
  • Jasanoff, Sheila (1992), ‘What Judges Should Know about the Sociology of Science’ 32 Jurimetrics Journal 345.
  • Schrama, Wendy (2011) ‘How to carry out interdisciplinary legal research: Some experiences with an interdisciplinary research method’ 7(1)Utrecht Law Review 1.
  • Collins, Harry and Evans, Robert Rethinking Expertise (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2007).