How many different ways can data and evidence be analysed?

Imagine my interest on learning that there are at least four different ways of analysing data and evidence. A former police officer told me this. That was his job before he retired and he traveled extensively doing it.

He was excited telling me this. It was obvious that he enjoyed his job, and did it well. I was excited too, and concerned that I didn’t even know there were four ways. But, cut me a little slack till I learn what’s involved in these four methods in the event there is a basic process and it’s reflected in what I do.

I analyse data collected during a forensic engineering investigation to determine the cause of an accident or a failure in the built or natural environment. I look at each piece of data and see if it indicates the cause of the incident. I then see if there is agreement among the different data as to cause, and the extent of the agreement.

My examination of each piece of data is based on observation. Also science, math and physic’s principles applicable to the design and construction of the accident or failure scene.

You will see a process in my forensic reports that looks like this:

  • What task did I do?
  • What data did I get from the task?
  • What cause was indicated by each piece of data?
  • What agreement is evident among the data as to cause?

A forensic engineering investigation will consist of a number of tasks, data from each and, often, a single cause.

But not always a single cause – sometimes more than one presents as worthy of consideration. In cases and claims like this, civil procedure rules, like Rule 55 in Nova Scotia, require a statement of analysis and reasoning as to why one cause was selected and each of the others rejected.

Now I’m on a hunt to learn about these four ways of analysing data and evidence reported by the retired police officer. That surprised me at the time. I’ve wondered since, are we really talking about four types of evidence and just one method of analysis?

(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer and Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, March 28, 2024