Breakfast Symposium “Science, Media, Law”

in het kader van het lustrum van de Universiteit Leiden, thema “Emotie en Rationaliteit”,

en ter gelegenheid van de uitreiking aan RD Gill van de Distinguished Lorentz Fellowship 2010 (NIAS en Lorentz Centrum) later die middag.

Maandag 22 maart, vanaf 9:00 uur, Burumazaal, LUMC (Gebouw 3)

(Gebouw 3 = onderwijsgebouw; Gebouw 1 = hoofdgebouw)

Gratis entree, maar svp zich van te voren aanmelden dmv email aan; Subject: Aanmelding Ontbijtsymposium

Aan het einde van het ochtend programma – rond 13:00 uur – is er gelegenheid (op eigen kosten) mee te lunchen.

Programma commissie


Dagvoorzitter: Hans Nijboer

De ochtend wordt afgesloten met een forum discussie, ondersteund door een panel van gast-experts waaronder George Maat, Maurice de Hond, Ton Broeders

Hoofdlijnen programma:
09.00 uur: Champagneontbijt
09.30 uur: Opening
09.40 uur: van Hintum, Lust, de Knijff
10.50 uur: Pauze
11.20 uur: de Noo, Aben
12.20 uur: Forumdiscussie met de zaal
13.00 uur: Einde
Locatie: Burumazaal in Gebouw 3 van het LUMC, Hippocratespad 21, 2333 ZD Leiden.

Google map location

LUMC buildings (see "Gebouw 3")
Wegwijs in het LUMC (met plattegrondje)
Plattegrondje (symposium is in Gebouw 3

Een schot voor de boeg (persoonlijke opinie RDG)

Justice is (or should be) public. Society has to have trust in its legal institutions and nowadays that demands openness. Established authority is not enough (though in NL it seems to work longer than anywhere else!). Trials are public. Nowadays some trials depend on complex and maybe controversial “scientific” evidence. 

I like to see the triple “Science”, “Justice”, “Media” as three important players which might fight one another, or might work together. There are possibilities of unholy alliances between two of the parties against the third (all three possibilities!).

The three players represent:

“Science”: technical forensic or medical or whatever experts;

“Justice”: lawyers judges prosecutors etc;

“Media”: newspapers and TV and internet fora.

Any individual person has their individual ethics and beliefs, as well as possibly a public role. He or she may wish to act in several corners simultaneously.

Justice (the system thereof) is there to serve society. We have an open democratic society founded on freedom of speech and rule of law. The operation of law has to be transparent and reasonable.

So what is the role then of the media reporting on fights about scientific evidence in court cases? Newspaper editors want to sell newspapers, TV talk show presenters want high viewing ratings.

What is the role of scientific communities? A scientific community wants to preserve its priviledges and its “ownership” of certain domains of knowledge or expertise.

The official/nominal role of those in/serving the justice system is kind of obvious but remember the individuals in those systems have short term and long term aims and interests, we have (should have) separation of the powers.

BTW I am forgetting the politicians (who I would, I suppose, add to the media), the reason I forget about them is that they seem to be rather passive these days. And guided more by short term electoral advantage than by long term aims. I am not forgetting the artists, I think of them as part of the media, part of the forum, the discussion.

A good rule of law needs the three corners of this triangle relation to be aware of their responsibilities and that they are a part of the whole. A bad rule of law happens when the three corners each pull in their own different direction. Disasters happen when an unholy alliance destroys equilibrium.

There are the problems of the lawyers, when a kind of parallel trial (or volksgericht) is held in the media and with scientists speaking out. The problems of the public, or the media, when the lawyers and scientists operate a smooth running closed shop between themselves. The problems of the scientists, when the lawyers (knowingly or unknowingly) play to media emotions and take short cuts, flaunting logic and science.

I am thinking of those three monkeys “speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil”. I am also thinking of game theory.