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NWO Open Competition grant awarded to Anne Ruth Mackor for research 'Preventing Miscarriages of Justice'

19 July 2022

The board of the NWO Division for Social Sciences and Humanities has awarded funding to researchers Prof. A.R. Mackor (UG), Prof. C.Dahlman (LundU) and Prof. D.A. Lagnado (UCL) in the Open Competition - SSH round 2021. This funding gives them the opportunity to do research on a topic of their own choice, without thematic prerequisites.

Prof. Anne Ruth Mackor
Prof. Anne Ruth Mackor
Prof. Christian Dahlman
Prof. Christian Dahlman
Prof. Dave Lagnado
Prof. Dave Lagnado

Over the last 20 years, wrongful convictions, such as Lucia de Berk (the Netherlands), Sally Clark (the United Kingdom) and Thomas Quick (Sweden), have raised serious concerns about errors that judges make in the evaluation of evidence. This has fuelled academic and societal debate on how judges and other legal factfinders can learn to reason more rationally about evidence in criminal cases.

Currently, the two main theoretical approaches to rational reasoning about legal evidence are the Bayesian probabilistic approach and the causal-explanatory approach. The Bayesian probabilistic approach is formal and offers a precise standard to evaluate evidence, but is difficult for lawyers to understand and apply correctly. The causal explanatory approach is easier to understand and to apply, but is informal and less precise. This project will investigate how the two approaches can be integrated into a method that is both rigorous and practically feasible.

Preventing Miscarriages of Justice aims to improve judicial evidential decision-making by:

  1. offering a theoretical analysis of how the two approaches can be integrated;
  2. developing an integrated training method for judges, with an open access handbook, tutorials and case studies; and
  3. empirically testing whether this training method helps judges to reason more rationally about evidence.

About the Open Competition SSH

The aim of the Open Competition – SSH is to facilitate excellent, non-programmed, curiosity-driven research that primarily addresses a social sciences or humanities research question and research problem. Researchers can apply for funding for different types of research: small or large research projects, and for individual projects or for research groups. Research can have a disciplinary, interdisciplinary or cross-domain character. The research can be aimed at international collaboration between researchers and/or research groups.

The next calls will close on 8 September (Open Competition XS) and 1 November 2022 (Open Competition M). A webinar on these programmes will take place on 23 August from 10:00-12:00.


This article was published by the Faculty of Law.

Last modified:20 July 2022 10.46 a.m.
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