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Lost in Translation: (The Politics of) Expertise in Legal and Regulatory Translation Spaces Session 1

Fri, August 31, 9:00 to 10:30am, ICC, E5.6

Session Submission Type: Traditional (Closed) Panel


While translation of scientific expertise for and by non-scientists is inevitable in the courtroom and in regulatory contexts, a challenge remains to better understand the “spaces” in which this translation work is being done, as well as the ways in which the mediation, reconstruction, or shaping of scientific knowledge potentially encourages questionable or confusing outcomes. The papers in this panel offer examples (from various law or policy contexts) of missteps and challenges in translating scientific expertise, including (i) the manipulation of testifying experts by the non-scientist lawyers who hire them, (ii) the idealization of non-scientist juries as having a clear understanding of scientific testimony, (iii) the pressure on non-scientist arson investigators to be “scientific,” (iv) the legal and technological narratives in wrongful conviction scholarship, and (v) the ways in which legal and regulatory pressures to provide public information about health risks may undermine mainstream scientific perspectives. And while problems of the epistemic status of scientific knowledge in legal/regulatory contexts is not a new theme in STS, there are new anxieties stimulated by 'post-truth' pre-occupations of many citizens—overt political pressures seem to be increasingly applied to regulatory institutions. The solution is not to avoid translation, but more transparency and accountability. By including Australian and U.S. scholars on the panel, we will take a comparative/transnational approach, giving examples of existing problems and currently proposed solutions in two different national contexts.

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