So you are saying that laypersons (as much as I hate that term I'm adopting it's use) cannot understand it and therefore should count on the scientist to tell them whether his or her own research is beneficial? That seems to me a horrible system. Further, it seems to me you are objecting to the idea of the courts interpreting such things, and I disagree with that. Scientists should not get special exceptions from the rules. As to the ability to comprehend the research, the court system makes extensive use of experts.
No, but when the law needs to understand something - have it explained to a jury, for example - they turn to the experts. But first, a small digression:
Instead of 'layperson', I can use whatever term you prefer, but to define it right away, I'm going to put forth that by 'layperson' or 'non-scientist', I mean a person who has had a very basic education in science. I'm defining it for my purposes as someone who has had only a high school or college (for non-science majors) education in the sciences. This is the amount of science your run-of-the-mill (or even State DA-level) lawyer has; most of the lawyers I know of have had an undergrad education in history or political science and then they have a law degree. All of these degrees specialize in being able to research massive amounts of information and collate it; sometimes, understanding of the larger picture does not come until all the facts are collated. In this last portion, lawyers and scientists work very much alike... the difference between the two is that lawyers (and historians, and political scientists) are usually trained to try
to get a feel for the larger picture before they quite reach their conclusions, whereas scientists are rigorously trained against this. In theory. This is to elucidate my understanding.
Anyway, this is what I know of lawyers and legal personnel. Pulling back from that digression to my point, the lawyer is doing what he is trained to do, which is gather information (and, apparently, headlines). What he will not be able to do is understand the information he is gathering, and for that he will pull in an expert. The pool of experts in a field can seem extremely large, but when it comes down to it, the world of scientific specialists can get very, very small. This means that it's likely that the same professionals that will be pulled in by the legal professionals will probably be the same people who did the peer review of this research in the first place.
Regardless of how you feel about the field of academia, that somewhat makes this at best a serious waste of time. At worst, it's what Alice described: an attempt by this guy - who can be taken as a representative of the government, I think, with some safety in that assumption - to send a clear message to scientists: "You'll find what we pay you to find, or we're going to do our best to drag your name through the mud." That's not really fair to any professional.
I disagree that the peer system is superior to any lay analysis and that the worst enemies are within the system. Furthermore, I feel this statement is acting as if I have no insight into the world of academia nor personal experience and need to be instructed on it. I will assume that it was not intended to be talking down to me.
Hopefully the above doesn't come across as such; I don't know any of your experience with academia. I'm not asking your credentials or anything silly like that, I'm just pointing out that the safest way to explain is to explain as if you know nothing unless given information that indicates otherwise. ^^
Anyway, my personal view is that a non-scientist's analysis of the usefulness of the data is repetitive and inferior. Not because they are a non-scientist, because scientists start out as non-scientists, but because they do not have the education to make things make sense. Again, unless they trust the other experts - who are, again, probably the same peer reviewers - to explain it to them. It has more to do with background than intelligence. Unfortunately for those of us who have to deal with ditzy people in our laboratories.