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Joseph V. Rodricks serves on NAS advisory panel and authors new chapter in just-released 3rd edition of the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence

Date: October 06, 2011


ENVIRON founder and Principal Joseph V. Rodricks, Ph.D., served for three years as a member of the advisory/editorial panel for the just-released third edition of the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, a publication of the National Academies of Science (NAS). Rodricks also recommended and authored a new chapter on exposure science.

A critical work for anyone involved in litigation, the Manual sets forth the legal and scientific bases for admission of expert testimony.  It is intended to assist judges with the management of cases involving complex scientific and technical evidence. The Manual elucidates the criteria for admission of expert testimony in different areas of science, medicine and engineering, which should be understood by all who are asked to offer such testimony.

This greatly revised and expanded 3rd edition was a joint effort of the NAS and the Federal Judiciary Center, which produced the previous editions. The three-year effort was guided by a panel of five federal judges and five scientists/engineers/physicians appointed by NAS.  The panelists selected topics and authors, and guided the production of all the chapters. The entire work was put through a six-month NAS peer-review process. The NAS involvement lends greater scientific standing to the third edition than was accorded the previous two.

The panel asked Rodricks to author the exposure science chapter that he recommended for this edition. According to Rodricks, “Because exposure science is not yet a clearly recognized academic discipline, the panel judges were at first reluctant to include this subject in the work.”  He believes that personal experience may have turned the tide. Several judges on the panel had encountered difficult courtroom situations involving exposure assessment, in cases in which disease causation or regulatory risk assessments were at issue. “Ultimately, they recognized its critical importance in tort litigation and agreed to its inclusion in the final volume,” relates Rodricks. 

Entitled Reference Guide on Exposure Science, the Chapter is written for non-experts. It begins with an exposition of the many ways exposure assessments figure into litigation, including the need for “reconstruction” in tort litigation. The chapter deals, first in a purely descriptive way, with the basic elements of exposure assessment, and then moves to the quantitative. It deals with exposure up to the level of body burden, which marks the interface between exposure science and the disciplines of medicine, epidemiology and toxicology (each covered in other chapters). The concluding sections are guides to judges on what they should be thinking about as they evaluate the admissibility of expert testimony on exposure.

The 1000+-page Manual is available as a free pdf download or for purchase from the National Academies Press.