Owen Jones has been named to the Glenn M. Weaver, M.D., and Mary Ellen Weaver Chair in Law, Brain, and Behavior. Jones was honored at a ceremony April 30 recognizing recipients of newly endowed chairs held by Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan Wente.
The new chair was endowed by the Glenn M. Weaver Foundation in honor of Dr. Weaver, who practiced clinical psychology in Cincinnati for 55 years, and his wife, Mary Ellen Weaver. Dr. Weaver was certified by both the American Board of Psychiatry and neurology and the American Board of Forensic Psychiatry and directed the psychiatry department at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati for 25 years. He taught courses as a member of the adjunct faculties of the University of Cincinnati Colleges of Medicine and of Law.
Jones is one of the authors of the pioneering textbook Law and Neuroscience, the second edition of which is expected in 2020. His research focuses on the intersection of law and brain science. He has published more than 50 scholarly articles, book chapters, and essays in such legal venues as the Columbia, Chicago, California, NYU, Northwestern, Cornell, Vanderbilt, and Michigan law reviews, and in such leading scientific journals as Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, the Journal of Neuroscience, Current Biology, Evolution and Human Behavior, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has also directed or co-directed more than 50 interdisciplinary academic conferences around the country.
With four grants from the MacArthur Foundation, totaling over $7.6 million, Jones designed, created and directs the national Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. The Network partners selected legal scholars and brain scientists at leading universities, including Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Virginia, Cornell, Northwestern, and the University of Pennsylvania, among others, to explore systematically both the promise and the limitations of using new neuroscientific techniques to improve criminal justice. Since 2011, this Network team has published more than 75 brain-scanning and conceptual works, including numerous discoveries in the domains of mental states, memories, punishment decisions, and adolescent brain development.
In one set of projects examining decision making related to punishment, Jones and colleagues discovered the brain activities involved when jurors distinguish knowing and reckless states of mind; the interactions of rational and emotional brain regions when individuals are determining whether to punish someone, and if so, how much; and the brain activities that separately correlate with assessing harms, discerning mental states, integrating those two, and choosing punishment amounts.
Jones earned his law degree at Yale Law School and his B.A. at Amherst College. Before joining the legal academy, he was a law clerk for Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and practiced law with the D.C. law firm Covington & Burling. He was named to the New York Alumni Chancellor’s Chair in Law in 2010. In 2014, he received the 2014 Joe. B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor Award, which annually honors one member of the Vanderbilt University faculty for accomplishments that bridge multiple academic disciplines and yield significant new knowledge from research. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2015.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the Glenn M. Weaver Foundation for funding a chair specific to the important field of law and brain science,” said Chris Guthrie, Dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law. “Owen Jones is a pioneer in the study of law and neuroscience and a co-author of the first textbook in the field. The Glenn M. Weaver, M.D., and Mary Ellen Weaver Chair in Law, Brain, and Behavior is a fitting recognition for his career accomplishments in this evolving field of study.”