eCite Digital Repository

Discord in the Communication of Forensic Science: Can the Science of Language Help Foster Shared Understanding?


Howes, LM and Kemp, N, Discord in the Communication of Forensic Science: Can the Science of Language Help Foster Shared Understanding?, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 36, (1) pp. 96-111. ISSN 0261-927X (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 The Author(s)

DOI: doi:10.1177/0261927X16663589


The criminal justice system is one arena in which nonscientists use scientific findings and expert opinions to aid decision making. Forensic science is a standard feature of criminal investigations, out-of-court settlements, and trials. Yet forensic science may be poorly understood by those who use it as a decision aid, with a consequent risk of contributing to miscarriages of justice. In this article, we discuss some of the contentious aspects of communicating expert opinion, and consider how research suggests that scientists might balance the competing concerns of scientific correctness and comprehensibility for nonscientists. Highlighting both research and theory, we argue that modifying language is a necessary component of ensuring understanding. However, the aim of transferring knowledge from a forensic scientist to a nonscientist is a complex task. Language modification alone is not sufficient; the practices and processes of communication require consideration. We argue that the dialogue and participation models of communication have much to offer to foster understanding of forensic science and enhance its value in the criminal justice system. We acknowledge some practical challenges to dialogue and participation approaches, and provide an example of how innovative organisational practices can help to facilitate effective interprofessional communication.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:inter-professional communication, forensic science, police, court
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Police administration, procedures and practice
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Criminal justice
UTAS Author:Howes, LM (Dr Loene Howes)
UTAS Author:Kemp, N (Associate Professor Nenagh Kemp)
ID Code:110833
Year Published:2017 (online first 2016)
Web of Science® Times Cited:15
Deposited By:School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-08-17
Last Modified:2017-11-06

Repository Staff Only: item control page