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Institute of Advanced Study

Unreliable Evidence

Evidence comes in a wide variety of forms. One of the causes of this range is the information/data on which it is based. Unlike a simple physical measurement, for example that of length or temperature, evidence must always be considered within a context, which may not always be apparent or easy to articulate. Even the above examples must be associated with an error estimate, in order to determine the strength of the evidence. The aim of this workshop is to bring together scientists, social scientists, philosophers, psychologists and members of the legal profession, to search for common ground firstly on their understanding of what constitutes evidence, and then more challengingly, on how they choose to assess the reliability of their evidence. A failure to carry out this task in a rigorous and consistent way, can have serious consequences. For example in the medical field when using statistical evidence, and that based on personal experiences, and also in the political arena where evidence from any source is open to misunderstanding, and/or deliberate misrepresentation. The human element associated with a body of evidence must always be carefully examined, together with its influence on the reliability of that evidence. The latter part of the workshop will consist of a forensic examination of 2 or 3 specific case studies, in which the evidence is held to be particularly controversial.

An ambitious outcome will be to seek a generic series of tests that can be applied across disciplines to a piece or to a body of evidence, in order to determine its degree of reliability.

This two day workshop is organised by Professor Martin Ward (Department of Physics). For further information contact

2015/16 Annual Programme: Evidence