Science Capital and Communication between non-scientists and scientists of the Criminal Justice System of the UK

  • Océane Morgane Alexandra Laisney

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The way decision-makers in the Criminal Justice System engage with scientific evidence is critical since it has the potential to impact the investigative process and criminal trials, convictions and sentencing. Using science education research and theories, the Science Capital tool was adapted to gain a better understanding of the relationship that non-science decision-makers have with science. Decision-making styles and competences were also assessed in order to examine how the relationship scene examiners, police officers and lawyers have with science may affect the decisions they make during a criminal investigation and judicial process. The results of this study have demonstrated significant differences in Science Capital between scene examiners, police officers and lawyers. In addition, regression analyses suggested variations in the extent to which Science Capital impact the professionals’ decision-making competence.

These findings lead to further research on the potential operative and interactive differences found in the communication process between non-science decision-makers and forensic scientists during the course of an investigation. The thematic analysis of the data collected through semi-structured interviews uncovered six themes: Network, Education, Interactions, Collaboration, Remote Communication and Experience. The analysis has also allowed the identification of communication channels, enablers and barriers to communication and has given insight into the nature of their interactions and the networking opportunities presented to scene examiners, police investigators, prosecutors and defence lawyers. This study uncovered systemic barriers to communication between defence lawyers and forensic scientists, which may hinder defence lawyers' understanding of scientific findings. These findings suggest that the communication processes in place do not allow for the optimal delivery of justice. The implications include the need for explicit recognition of the value of communication and networking as efficient components of the forensic process.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLucina Hackman (Supervisor) & Heather Doran (Supervisor)

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