Research project

Communicating statistics in forensic science

We are working in collaboration with Cambridge University and the Alan Alda Centre for science communication to develop new tools for the communication and understanding of statistics in forensic science

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Start date

January 2019

What we are doing

We are working with partners across the justice space to understand the needs of the community in the understanding of statistics and probabilities used in the interpretation, evaluation and presentation of evidence in the courts.

Why we are doing it

It is essential when giving expert evidence in court, that statistical information is conveyed in a manner that is unambiguous and concise.  The strength of scientific evidence is most often conveyed in a numerical form that taxes most of the actors in this theatre – judge, legal teams, scientists, expert witnesses and the public alike and there are many examples where a misunderstanding or an incorrect assumption has led to grounds for appeal or even a miscarriage of justice.  Therefore, the stakes are high to ensure that both communication and understanding of the subject are fit for purpose, especially when the ultimate decision is being made by members of the public who may have limited scientific and statistical understanding and where the impact is on people’s liberty.

How will we do it

We are working in partnership with Sir David Spiegelhalter’s team in Cambridge at the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication and with the Alan Alda for communicating science at Stony Brook University in New York to coordinate the statistical training of legal practitioners with the wider impact of making statistical and probabilistic thinking accessible to both the gatekeepers of scientific evidence (the Judges) and the trier of fact (the Jury). With Northumbria and Cambridge University we are co-creating a training vehicle for statistics and probability for legal audiences in a court room setting.  We are using other innovative tools including comics and participatory theatre to address how the interpretation of evidence can be understood by members of the public.