Article ID: CBB434670765

An infrastructural account of scientific objectivity for legal contexts and bloodstain pattern analysis (2021)


In the United States, scientific knowledge is brought before the courts by way of testimony – the testimony of scientific experts. We argue that this expertise is best understood first as related to the quality of the underlying science and then in terms of who delivers it. Bloodstain pattern analysis (BPA), a contemporary forensic science, serves as the vaulting point for our exploration of objectivity as a metric for the quality of a science in judicial contexts. We argue that BPA fails to meet the minimal standard set by Helen Longino’s social-procedural account of objectivity (1990, 2002). In light of some pressing issues for social-procedural accounts, we offer an infrastructural account of objectivity. This account offers what amounts to a friendly amendment to Longino’s account and adds to the ways in which we might analyze social-procedural objectivity. Finally, we address an issue that is pressing in the legal context: given that scientific knowledge is delivered by individuals, not communities, at least in U.S. courts, we (may) need a way to evaluate individual scientific and epistemic agents. We suggest a means for making this evaluation that is derived from our infrastructural account of objectivity.

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Authors & Contributors
Saumitra Basu
Federico Brandmayr
Marcus B. Carrier
Xin-zhe Xie
Papadopoulos, Dimitris
Silva, Susana
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Social Studies of Science
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Jewish History
History of the Human Sciences
RSC Publishing
Palgrave Macmillan
M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
Cambridge University Press
University of Minnesota
Forensic sciences
Science and law
Science and technology studies (STS)
Police; criminal justice departments
Time Periods
19th century
21st century
20th century, early
20th century
20th century, late
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
United States

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