Law & Engineering

The current literature approaches the law-science problem in several ways.  One of these frames the disconnect in terms of the desired result.  Scientists pursue idealistic goals–to advance the state of the art; to make the next discovery, only considering cost and time inasmuch as it might affect the funding of their research.  By contrast, lawyers work toward practical solutions–to serve the best interests of their clients, working within the confines of their clients’ budgets and the courts’ timelines.

But what of engineers or other applied scientists?  They work with technical information, but they are looking for a best-fit, cost-effective solution.  Generally, engineers only look to advance the state of the art when such advancement is required to solve a particular problem.  Outside of academia, they are not interested in developing new technologies that have no practical use.  Engineers’ goals–to develop specific solutions to specific problems using practical methods at a reasonable price–are very similar to those of lawyers.  So does the law-science disconnect still exist when the “science” is an applied science?

One article I came across argues that it does, considering the question in the context of administrative law.  The author suggests that the law-science problem is opposite when one considers regulator-engineers and legislator-lawyers.  The goal of regulator-engineers is to develop practical solutions to real problems at reasonable cost; the goal of legislator-lawyers is to “advance” the state of the body politic (good, bad, or indifferent).  Practical solutions to real-world problems may be politically undesirable.  Legislatures may draft laws that require unnecessary engineering “solutions” to nonproblems.  The author uses examples from the NHTSA to illustrate this conflict.  As a regulator myself, though in a different industry, I can certainly see his point.

The article I reference is available here: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol66/iss4/5/

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