Joseph E. Bonadiman, PhD, PE, writes on Experience versus education in forensic engineering:
So, what is more important, experience or education, when choosing an expert witness? When considering a bridge failure, for instance, is it more beneficial to know the modulus of elasticity of steel and vector dynamics or why a similar bridge failed 10 years ago under similar conditions? Who is informed? Who would go in the right direction in an investigation? Who would provide the most appropriate testimony for the client?…
A purely academic expert, one whose accomplishments in a discipline are represented by reports in journals or a doctoral dissertation is, on the surface, a good choice for an expert witness. This expert may be a professor at a university supplementing his or her income with expert work. He or she would be highly familiar with state-of-the-art procedures in the field and would be very competent at conveying this information to an audience like a class, jury, or judge. He or she may appear, and rightly so, highly knowledgeable and capable, but is a Professor Jones on campus equivalent to an Indiana Jones in the field?
Excerpted from The Forensic Examiner, Winter, 2007