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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
make recommendations for maximizing the use of forensic technologies and techniques to solve crimes, investigate deaths, and protect the public;
identify potential scientific advances that may assist law enforcement in using forensic technologies and techniques to protect the public;
make recommendations for programs that will increase the number of qualified forensic scientists and medical examiners available to work in public crime laboratories;
disseminate best practices and guidelines concerning the collection and analysis of forensic evidence to help ensure quality and consistency in the use of forensic technologies and techniques to solve crimes, investigate deaths, and protect the public;
examine the role of the forensic community in the homeland security mission;
[examine] interoperability of Automated Fingerprint Information Systems [AFIS]; and
examine additional issues pertaining to forensic science as determined by the Committee.4
In the fall of 2006, a committee was established by the National Academy of Sciences to implement this congressional charge. As recommended in the Senate Report, the persons selected to serve included members of the forensic science community, members of the legal community, and a diverse group of scientists. Operating under the project title “Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Science Community,” the committee met on eight occasions: January 25-26, April 23-24, June 5-6, September 20-21, and December 6-7, 2007, and March 24-25, June 23-24, and November 14-15, 2008. During these meetings, the committee heard expert testimony and deliberated over the information it heard and received. Between meetings, committee members reviewed numerous published materials, studies, and reports related to the forensic science disciplines, engaged in independent research on the subject, and worked on drafts of the final report.
Experts who provided testimony included federal agency officials; academics and research scholars; private consultants; federal, state, and local law enforcement officials; scientists; medical examiners; a coroner; crime laboratory officials from the public and private sectors; independent investigators; defense attorneys; forensic science practitioners; and leadership of professional and standard setting organizations (see the Acknowledgments and Appendix B for a complete listing of presenters).