Accreditation and Proficiency Testing
Accreditation is a process by which a third party verifies compliance with established standards. In forensic science, accreditation standards include criteria for laboratories performing specific types of testing and/or examination, measurement, or calibration activities. Additionally, the implementation of a robust and standardized proficiency testing program, used in conjunction with or independent of accreditation, is a key element of an effective quality management system. The Accreditation and Proficiency Testing Subcommittee will consider the role of accreditation and proficiency test programs as part of a quality management system and explore issues such as consistency of existing standards, application to technological innovations and challenges associated with implementation.
Human Factors is a multidisciplinary field that examines ways in which human performance (e.g., the judgments of experts) can be influenced by cognitive, perceptual, organizational, social and cultural factors, and other human tendencies. The Human Factors Subcommittee will examine factors that influence the performance of forensic scientists as they draw conclusions from physical evidence and communicate their findings in the legal system and recommend policies and procedures to improve the performance of forensic laboratories and their personnel in the various roles they perform. Specific areas of focus will include minimizing cognitive bias, reducing the risk of human error, testing and evaluating human performance, and improving communication of scientific findings.
There are many factors that can improve the quality of forensic science such as research, accreditation, and standards implementation. Independent of these long-term initiatives, there are a number of interim improvements that can be accomplished that further enhance scientific practices, and support quality assurance measures for forensic service providers and stakeholders who rely on their work. The Interim Solutions Subcommittee will develop near-term recommendations that are consistent with fundamental forensic science examination, scientific practice, and quality management principles, which may include reporting requirements for all work performed, root cause analysis, defining terminology, and language for expressing the limitations of results of analyses.
Medicolegal Death Investigation
In the United States, the medicolegal death investigation profession is generally comprised of three major personnel categories: medicolegal death investigators, coroners, and medical examiners. The Medicolegal Death Investigation Subcommittee will examine ways to enhance services being provided by this array of practitioners and develop solutions that ensure that our nation is provided the highest quality services related to the determination of cause and manner of death.
Reporting and Testimony
Results of forensic analyses have a wide audience: law enforcement officers, lawyers, judges, juries, and victims. Significant variability exists as to the scope, contents, and disclosure of forensic science reports and the accompanying standards and terminology used by the author-experts to describe their results and conclusions in their reports and in their testimony. The Reporting and Testimony Subcommittee will consider ways to address current inconsistencies and insufficiencies and to enhance adequacy, accuracy, and uniformity in such reports and testimony, as well as in the underlying documentation and processes.
Scientific Inquiry and Research
There is considerable debate regarding the strength of the foundational science underpinning some forensic science disciplines. Additionally, fragmentation of research efforts hinders the development and deployment of advanced technologies for forensic science. The Subcommittee on Scientific Inquiry and Research will consider ways to examine existing foundational research and recommend research priorities for technological investments that can improve the quality and timeliness of forensic analyses.
Training on Science and Law
There are limited uniform national programs for educating lawyers and judges on forensic science, and educating forensic scientists on relevant laws. The Training on Science and Law Subcommittee will explore mechanisms for judges, lawyers, and forensic scientists to engage in collaborative training to ensure that legal professionals understand the probative value and limitations of forensic science and forensic practitioners understand legal procedure and issues associated with the presentation of scientific evidence in court.