CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE FORENSIC SCIENCE EDUCATION

The overarching challenges facing forensic science education, since its inception, have been inconsistent quality and insufficient funding. Commentators have noted repeatedly the deficiencies of forensic science education programs.25 Because, until recently, no nationally recognized, mandated standards existed for forensic science degree programs at any level, consistent quality cannot be achieved. Peterson et al. note that while “the primary objective of all degree programs is similar, the capabilities of graduates from the respective institutions are not uniform. Laboratories are forced to evaluate each graduate student individually to determine his suitability for a given position.”26

Unevenness in the quality of these programs has caused problems for students and future employers. The Council of Forensic Science Educators stated that, “Students completing these lesser programs expect to find employment in crime labs but are surprised to learn that lab management is not impressed by the curriculum.”27

Additionally, the lack of applicants with a science or forensic background means that crime laboratories have to spend precious time and resources in the training of new scientists.28 If forensic science education programs had sufficient rigor in science, law, and forensics, crime laboratories would have to spend less time and money for training,29 thereby shortening as well the apprenticeship time needed. Forensic science methods should be taught in the framework of common scientific practice (see Chapters 4 through 6). Even if a student graduates with a science degree, he or she often lacks education in issues that are critical to the functioning of crime laboratories, including quality assurance and control, ethics, and expert testimony. Peterson et al. found that, “The faculty surveyed believes their students to be well prepared for entry into the field. This is not totally consistent with the feedback from some laboratories which have been less than satisfied with newly graduated recruits.”30 They continue to recommend that, “Measures should be taken to improve feedback from the laboratories to the schools to insure that the curriculum is not only comprehensive

25

See, e.g., Peterson et al., op. cit; L.W. Bradford. 1980. Barriers to quality achievement in crime laboratory operations. Journal of Forensic Sciences 25(4):902-907; Stoney, op. cit.; NIJ, op. cit.

26

Peterson et al., op. cit., p. 31.

27

See www.criminology.fsu.edu/COFSE/default.htm.

28

Stoney, op. cit.

29

NIJ, 2007, op. cit.

30

Peterson et al., op cit., p. 32.



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