Welcome to PULSE, the Program on Understanding Law, Science, and Evidence at the UCLA School of Law.
PULSE (Program on Understanding Law, Science, and Evidence) explores the many connections between law and science, technology and evidence. Founded in 2009 by Professors Jennifer Mnookin and Jerry Kang, PULSE engages in interdisciplinary research, discussion, and programming to examine how basic “facts” about our world, provided through science and credited as evidence, influence various venues of law and policy making.
Often, we think of the law as struggling principally with hard moral and normative questions about right and wrong, ethical and legal responsibility, and competing conceptions of welfare and justice. But just as often, the basic empirical understandings of a particular case, controversy, or policy turn out to be fiercely contested as well.
For instance, it is clearly a “values” decision to pronounce that ten guilty defendants should go free so as to avoid one innocent person being convicted. But establishing whether a pharmaceutical product has caused a would-be plaintiff’s medical condition, or determining the appropriate probative value of a fingerprint identification, or deciding whether a chemical is actually teratogenic, are all species of ‘fact’ questions, which turn on scientific knowledge. And when the facts are contested either among scientists, or between scientists and those who see the world through different lenses, the law must make hard choices about what counts as knowledge and about whose knowledge counts.  And of course, the very line between “fact” and “values” can itself be a subject for critique and disagreement.
PULSE seeks to investigate how we think about those choices in various contexts, such as:
  • Expert evidence, Daubert, and adversarial legal culture;
  • Forensic science and the problems of validation, research, and knowledge production;
  • Implicit bias and legal knowledge of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination;
  • The difficulties involved in translating expert information for lay factfinders and judges;
  • The potential and limitations of expert training of legal actors, including judges;
  • The relationship between epistemology and legal admissibility;
  • Surveillance technologies and the knowledge they produce;
  • The use of science by administrative agencies and in regulatory processes;
  • The consequences for legal processes and for legal categories stemming from new scientific developments in genetics, neuroscience and other fields;
  • The use of statistical and scientific knowledge in court;
  • Issues surronding the visual representation of knowledge – visual displays, computer animations, graphical depictions.