Formal Tools for Handling Evidence

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Formal Tools for Handling Evidence

This project arises out of a long-standing collaboration between Philip Dawid and William Twining on issues relating to the logical analysis and interpretation of evidence in courts of law. Probabilistic analyses have been developed to expose and clarify numerous paradoxes and subtleties attending the interpretation of forensic evidence, and given as testimony in court; and formal analyses and decision aids have been developed to solve complex problems of DNA identification. Although focused on legal applications, these analyses embody generic principles for representing and manipulating evidence. The aim of this particular project is to identify such generic aspects, to develop formal methods for expressing and manipulating them, and to explore their applications -- to legal, forensic and intelligence problems, but also more widely to the variety of problem areas being studied across the overall programme on “Evidence, Inference and Enquiry".

The Need

Modern technology allows for the collection of vast quantities of data of many different kinds, but the technology for combining, comparing, linking and interpreting all this information --- so turning it from information to evidence --- is almost non-existent.

Different disciplines conceive of and use evidence in different ways, but usually with little intellectual examination, and no conception that there might be an underlying generally applicable rational foundation. Unintelligent use of evidence is widespread and damaging. Even in the face of terrorist threats, training and practice in intelligence analysis largely ignore fundamental principles. In law enforcement there is scant appreciation of the import of missing evidence, while new evidence is sought to try and firm up a currently favoured theory, rather than to discriminate between credible alternatives. In forensic science, distinct types of evidence such as DNA, fingerprints, fibres, etc. are typically handled by different teams using different specialist methods. Similar inadequacies pervade decision-making in politics, medicine, public health, and commerce.
Understanding the nature and impact of evidence is a non-trivial and often counter-intuitive task. Evidence does not speak for itself, but has to be interpreted through the filters of models, assumptions and analyses. Generic attributes of evidence, that have to be accounted for by any comprehensive theory, include such aspects as accuracy, credibility, objectivity, relevance, provenance and weight. One item of evidence may corroborate another, or conflict with it, or explain away its apparent message. Items of evidence and hypotheses can form complex interrelated chains or webs, outstripping unaided human comprehension --- but the relevance and weight of any specific piece evidence can only be assessed in the light of its relation to the other evidence.

Although interpretation of evidence is as fundamental to all human enquiry as Aristotelian logic, and just as ancient, there has been little remarkably little attention paid to its fundamental structures and principles. Our aim is to begin to put this to rights, and to develop a general “substance- and subject-blind” approach to evidential reasoning.

Date Title First Author
Publication Type
01/04/2005 BOOLEAN FUNCTIONS AND SOME ISSUES IN DISCOVERY AND INVENTION David Schum
Evidence Research report
04/02/2005
A WIGMOREAN INTERPRETATION OF THE EVALUATION OF A COMPLICATED PATTERN OF EVIDENCE
David Schum
Evidence Research report
04/05/2004
CAPTURING AN INTERESTING SUBTLETY INVOLVING A SOURCE OF TESTIMONIAL EVIDENCE
David Schum
Evidence Research report
01/03/2006
Formal tools for handling evidence
Valentina Leucari
Working paper
01/12/2007
Mountains of forensic evidence? No problem!
Amanda Hepler
Published paper / book
01/02/2008
Bayesian networks for paternity cases with allelic dependencies
Amanda Hepler
Published paper / book
01/05/2008
Statistics and the Law
Philip Dawid
Article/chapter/pages in book
01/08/2005
Probability and Proof
Philip Dawid
Article/chapter/pages in book
01/04/2006
Representing and solving complex DNA identification cases using Bayesian networks
Philip Dawid
Article/chapter/pages in conference proceedings
01/01/2005
Probability and statistics in the law
Philip Dawid
Article/chapter/pages in conference proceedings
01/01/2007
Object-oriented Bayesian networks for complex forensic DNA profiling problems
Philip Dawid
Article in Journal
01/01/2005
Statistics on trial
Philip Dawid
Article in Journal
28/02/2007
Object-Oriented Graphical Representations of Complex Patterns of Evidence
Amanda Hepler
Article in Journal
01/01/2008
Probability and evidence
Julia Mortera
Article in Journal
07/04/2007
ASSESSING THE COMPETENCE AND CREDIBILITY OF HUMAN SOURCES OF INTELLIGENCE EVIDENCE: CONTRIBUTIONS FROM LAW AND PROBABILITY
David Schum
Article in Journal
01/01/2004
A statistical treatment of biases affecting the estimation of mutation rates
Paola Vicard
Article in Journal
01/01/2008
Estimating mutation rates from paternity casework
Paola Vicard
Article in Journal
02/11/2005
Remarks on: "Paternity analysis in special fatherless cases without direct testing of alleged father''
Paola Vicard
Article in Journal
29/09/2007
The case of Lucia de B
Philip Dawid
Media article/interview
17/10/2006
Lucky Numbers
Philip Dawid
Media article/interview
01/08/2005
Analysis of Evidence (Second Edition)
Terence Anderson
Book
01/06/2006
Rethinking Evidence (2nd Edn.)
William Twining
Book
06/09/2005
Object-oriented Bayesian networks for complex forensic DNA profiling problems
Philip Dawid
Technical report
23/03/2006
Probability and Evidence
Julia Mortera
Technical report
06/12/2004
Estimation of mutation rates from paternity cases using a Bayesian network
Paola Vicard
Technical report

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