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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
ized science courses (e.g., microbiology, genetics, biochemistry); forensic science courses—which cover courtroom testimony; introduction to law; quality assurance; ethics; professional practice; evidence identification, collection and processing; a survey of the forensic science disciplines; and additional courses in the student’s area of specialization. Laboratory work must be complemented with hands-on training that closely mimics the experiences of the crime laboratory. At the graduate level, students should take core forensic science topics, such as physical evidence concepts and ethics and professional responsibilities; courses in specialized areas; and a graduate seminar—all aimed at developing skills for conducting independent research.
FEPAC began a pilot accreditation program in the fall of 2003, accrediting five programs,34 and the number of accredited programs has continued to grow (see Table 8-3). As of January 2008, 16 programs have met FEPAC’s rigorous standards and accordingly have been accredited by FEPAC.
Accredited forensic science programs are listed on the AAFS Web site. Accreditation is seen as providing a “seal of quality to an institution;” helping faculty to improve their curricula; creating a standard for measuring the quality of forensic science programs; and benefiting laboratories by reducing the need for in-house training.35 Accreditation should become the norm. The committee believes that, to encourage accreditation, a mechanism could be developed whereby only accredited programs would be eligible to receive certain federal grants and/or scholarships for its students. If the forensic science disciplines are to grow in stature and be recognized for their scientific rigor and high standards of quality, their research base must be broadened and strengthened. This will occur only if significant federal research funds are made available to universities by scientific granting agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Crime laboratories would be the beneficiaries of a wave of well-educated workers who would elevate the scientific standards of the field. The forensic science degree programs that are not sufficiently rigorous eventually would disappear, because their graduates would not be competitive in the employment arena. Consequently, employers would be more confident in the capabilities of graduates of forensic science programs and hence would be more inclined to hire them.
Cedar Crest College (Allentown, Pennsylvania), Eastern Kentucky University (Richmond, Kentucky), Florida International University (Miami, Florida), Metropolitan State College of Denver (Denver, Colorado), and Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan).