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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
panel, and that any proficiency test that is not successfully completed be immediately reported to ASCLD/LAB along with a corrective action plan. To retain accredited status for a full five-year term, a laboratory must continue to meet the standards under which it was accredited. One of the means by which ASCLD/LAB monitors compliance is by reviewing proficiency testing reports submitted by approved test providers.
According to the 2002 BJS census,33 274 of the 351 publicly funded laboratories were engaged in proficiency testing. Proficiency testing was slightly less common among smaller laboratories and those serving municipal jurisdictions (8 laboratories did not engage in such testing, and 69 did not answer the survey question). Among the laboratories engaged in proficiency testing, almost all use declared tests. Slightly more than half engaged in proficiency testing use random case reanalysis. Twenty-six percent of the laboratories engaged in proficiency testing use blind tests. In addition, the BJS survey reported that almost all laboratories engaged in proficiency testing used tests that were generated externally (thus allowing comparative analysis). In addition to external tests, 74 percent of laboratories engaged in proficiency testing also used internally generated tests. Data on proficiency testing were not collected for the 2005 census.
The certification of individuals complements the accreditation of laboratories for a total quality assurance program. In other realms of science and technology, professionals, including nurses, physicians, professional engineers, and some laboratorians, typically must be certified before they can practice.34 The same should be true for forensic scientists who practice and testify. Although the accreditation process primarily addresses the management system, technical methods, and quality of the work of a laboratory (which includes the education and training of staff), certification is a process specifically designed to ensure the competency of the individual examiner.
The American Bar Association has recommended that certification standards be required of examiners, including “demanding written examinations, proficiency testing, continuing education, recertification procedures,
Peterson and Hickman, op. cit.
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